We went over to a local village named Puylagarde this morning to have a look at the Christmas fair which in past years has been very good. The fair was a disappointment, not as many stands as usual. BUT! Outside the entrance A lovely man & his wife (both in their 80's) were making walnut oil the old fashioned way. I went back home for my camera & here are the results.
M. & Mme didn't want their pictures taken so you only get to see the backside of him. Here he is just dismantling his unique press.
Note the large black cast iron pots. One sitting on a pile of sticks he uses for his fire. The walnuts are 'cooked' in these before going to the press.
To start at the beginning. First the walnuts are gathered in October, then thoroughly dried; they are then allowed to rest for a month or so before being shelled. They are now ready to start the oil making process.
First they are ground using a pretty standard meat grinder. The green bucket catches the walnut meat after the first grinding. Here's a picture of the work area.
Next the ground walnut meat is 'cooked' in one of the cast iron pots over the fire pictured below. The cooking goes on for about 30 minutes with nearly constant stirring using a wooden paddle.
The rusty 'lid' is only there to keep the heat in from the fire below. Normally the pot goes straight onto the fire. The chimney is new this year as the old one had given up after 35 years of use.
Next the hot walnut meat is placed in the press.
As you can see this is a strong metal stand which holds a hydraulic car jack in place. Below the jack is a pot which holds several iron blocks which are used to get the spacing right. Below this pot is the rectangular tray; which is about one inch deep, in which the walnuts are placed.
Lots of pressure is applied and you can clearly see the spout with bucket underneath. One good loading of the tray seems to produce about 8 ounces of oil. According Monsieur it takes about one kilo of unshelled walnuts to produce 50 cc of oil.
Finally, the oil is filtered through a fine muslin cloth before bottling.
Here's the final product.
Its very nice to see things done in the old way. I was lucky to be able to take these photographs and to be able to talk to this lovely old couple.
I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure the bottle of oil that I bought will be excellent.
And - what a tale I have to tell every time I use it!