Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 08:24 AM PST
Pressing olive oil is apparently a very expensive proposition – the cheapest unit I could find cost around $3,000. It’s not as simple as pressing cider – to make olive oil, you have to get ripe olives, but not completely ripe. The olives are crushed with the pits (which provides a natural preservative) into a mash – the best is done with a stone grinding wheel, and the easiest with a hammer mill. Once the olives are completely mashed, they are spread on thin mats ( originally hemp, but now it’s mostly polypropylene), stacked one atop the other, then pressed. You have to be very careful to make sure the mats are totally clean because it will turn rancid very quickly. Collect the pressings in bowls, and then the oil needs to be purified – the best way is through a centrifuge. The last step is allowing the oil to heal (also called “knitting”) before bottling.
If you live where you can grow olive trees and want to set up a small olive oil business (a profitable side hobby – and a good barterable skill after an apocalypse if you’re inclined to think that way), then this is a decent olive oil press to start with.
Sunflower, soy, and peanut oils are the cheapest and easiest vegetable cooking oils to make at home yourself.
A simple press, available for around $150, will press most oily seeds into oil. It works very easily on safflower, peanut, niger seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, hemp, beechnuts, hazel nuts, almonds, soybeans, rapeseed, linseed, coprah (from coconuts) and oil palm kernels. Here’s a YouTube about using the Piteba oil expeller.
Make a week or a month’s worth of oil at a time – the fresher the oil is the tastier it is.
Of course, the best cooking oil is lard. Rendering lard is really much easier than many people think. I grew up on a farm, herding geese, beheading chickens, castrating pigs, butchering, making sausages – and rendering lard. I still have my huge lard rendering cauldron. I used to also use it as a soup kettle for massive camping trips, and to bathe my children when they were toddlers – a giant cauldron has so many uses! Back to cooking oils, though.
Still, you don’t need the huge cauldron I have. What you do need is a large heavy pot like a Dutch oven, a wooden spoon, some water, and some mason jars – and fat – pig fat is best. The leaf lard (fat from the abdominal cavity and surrounding the kidneys, also called “soft fat”) makes for better pastries and the fat back (the layer of fat under the skin of the back, may or may not include the skin – the skin and any streaks of meat in the fat is what makes cracklins – also called “hard fat”) makes excellent frying oil. A pound of fat makes about a pint of lard.
Chop the lard into small pieces (chill it first, it cuts easier and doesn’t stick to things as much). Open a window in the kitchen if you think the smell might bother you. I like the way it smells, it reminds me of being a child again, but you might not care for it. It can get rather porky smelling.
Pour ½ cup of water per pound of fat into the Dutch oven and then the fat. Heat it over a low to medium low heat, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
After about an hour, it will start popping and crackling. This makes the little pieces of cracklin’s that you can snack on later (fresh cracklin’s are mighty fine!). Once the popping starts, you’ll need to stir more often, but carefully because you don’t want the hot liquid spattering and burning you. The cracklin’s will float to the top at first. When they sink, the fat’s been rendered.
Cool the renderings and pour through a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth. I usually strain it into a bowl with a pour spout on one end so I can then pour it into wide-mouthed half pint jars easier. The cracklin’s left behind in the colander are tasty as is, with salt added or chili powder, or sprinkled over a salad.
The lard will be yellowish in the jars – this is the way it should look. Screw on the lids, set the jars in the refrigerator, and tomorrow, the lard will be white.
It will keep at 35- 40ºF for a year; in the freezer for 2 years; opened and stored in the refrigerator for about 3 months.
And there’s always butter, one of my favorite cooking fats. For the best butter, you need to be able to get unpasteurized cream, but as long as it’s not ultra-pastuerized or has additives, then pasteurized whipping cream will also work. It just won’t taste quite as well. Thirty two ounces of whipping cream or raw whole cream will make 14 ounces each of sweet buttermilk and sweet butter. If you prefer stronger flavored butter and acidic buttermilk, use soured cream to make your butter. Not sour cream, soured cream, there’s a difference. Soured cream sets up into butter faster – a serious consideration when hand churning. You can mimic soured cream by adding a tablespoon of cultured buttermilk to each cup of cream and let it stand at room temperature for 12 hours before making into butter.
If you use a stand mixer and whisk attachment, it goes fairly quickly. Pour the cream into the bowl of the mixer and start at a slow speed so the cream doesn’t spatter. When it thickens, you can increase the speed of the mixer.
When it reaches soft peaks, you can use the cream for folding into the batters of baked goods. Keep mixing, and it will form stiff peaks, this is the point where you want to use the whipped cream as a topping.
Because the cream will then move into the clotted cream phase very quickly, most people will stop the mixer at the soft peak stage and hand whisk to the stiff peak stage. Since we want to make butter, we keep mixing. At the clotted cream stage, the cream starts to turn a soft golden color.
If you meant to make whipped cream, and you got to the clotted cream stage, you can retrieve it by adding more cream and whisking lightly.
But we want to make butter, and that will happen very quickly once you reach the clotted cream stage, because the next step is butter and buttermilk. This is a clotted cream stage, not real clotted cream – the flavor is a bit sweeter than true clotted cream, which is made by heating the cream and skimming the thickened yellow cream off the top – clotted cream is a delicious product, but we’re after butter here.
The next step is when the fat clumps together and the liquid pours out. Slow down the mixer to keep it from splattering everywhere. Pour off the buttermilk and save it. It won’t be acidic or tart like cultured buttermilk, but sweeter. You can use it for baking like regular milk. The solid remaining matter is butter; mix it a bit longer to firm it up some more.
Before you can finish the butter, you need to wash it. If you don’t the buttermilk left in it, it will turn the butter rancid very fast. To wash it, put the butter in a bowl of cold water and knead the butter. When the water turns cloudy or discolors, pour it off and add fresh. Repeat until the water no longer discolors.
Weigh the butter. You should have about 14 ounces.
At this point you can shape the butter and freeze it for later use, or you can flavor it with herbs and spices. Return the butter to the mixer and keep beating, to whip the butter and make it lighter. To make salted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt for every 4 ounces of butter. For herbed butter, use 2 tablespoons of dried herbs for every 4 ounces of butter, For garlic butter, use 1 clove of minced garlic for every 4 ounces of butter.
The butter can be shaped into 4 ounce logs (standard size of a stick of butter), or you can press it into butter molds and unmold and freeze for later use.
So, when cooking oil gets expensive, you now know how to make your own – and probably have a new respect for olive oil!