Museo del Aceite Andaluz

Vélez de Benaudalla is a very well kept secret, especially now that the motorway is open and we don’t go through the Los Vados gorge on our way to Granada.

The village has the most delightful Moorish garden, dating from the time of the Alhambra.

But even less known is the Museo del Aceite Andaluz, in the Almazara San Antonio, on the old N323. Almazara derives from the Arabic and means Olive Mill/Press.

In the museum we find an olive press dating from 1927. It is totally mechanical, very modern in its time. Previously, they always used animal traction, and you can still see some of the old implements from that era.

It seems that it was the Phoenicians who introduced the olive tree in Spain about 3,000 years ago. In the ancient world both the Phoenicians and the Greeks used olive oil to produce ointments for massage and as a purifier in religious ceremonies, as well as for cooking.

If you visit the museum, Carolina, the young lady in charge, will show you how the process of olive pressing works. In season (November to January) you can see the press working.

>The olives are tipped into a large funnel, or atroje, and carried on a belt to the mill, where they are mixed with some water. This is necessary to create a paste as the fruits are pressed. This paste is then beaten in a large mixer. The longer it is beaten, the more oil will be extracted.

There was a time when they put this paste between mats that were made of esparto grass. Then it was pressed until all the oil poured out. These days they use centrifugal machines.

The left-over pulp is used as compost, fuel and orujo; a low-quality oil used for cosmetics and industrial purposes.

Olive oil is the most natural oil you can find. It doesn’t need any chemical process or additives, therefore it’s the healthiest.

The Almazara San Antonio is not very big, they press about 400,000 kg of olives per year, compared to 1-million kg in Durcal. This is due to the small amount of olive farms in the area, where mostly subtropical fruits and vegetables are grown.

Be sure to visit this little gem. They cater for groups as well as individual visitors and you can taste oil as well as wine and the shop is well stocked with these products and foods, especially locally made sweets of Moorish tradition.

(News/Culture: Velez Benaudalla, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalucia)

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