Author Archives: Ann Sievers



There are always so many questions about milling olives, and making extra virgin olive oil.

Here is the simplified synopsis:  good fruit, meaning good olives, makes good oil!


The process

  1. Olives are delivered to the mill the same day they are harvested



2. Olives are inspected and photographed and the temperature is documented



3. Olives are weighed (olives minus bin = weight of fruit)


4. Olives are washed, very lightly



5. Olives (including pit, skin and tissue) are crushed in the hammer mill crusher



6. Olives are malaxed (mixing and warming)



7. Centrifuge Number 1, the Decanter, separates material (pit, skin and tissue) from the oil



8. Centrifuge Number 2, the Valente, clarifying the oil



9. Storage 62° F, cold, dark and under an inert gas


10. Decanting is important and should happen in 6-10 weeks after milling


You can make good oil with good olives and good machinery. We learn new techniques every year and experience is valuable. With climate change, and general warming, we at IL Fiorello, have made significant changes to our methods and internal temperatures during milling.


The result is great oil.








An interesting question is when to harvest olives. This seems to be an easy decision. The answer; when they are ripe. But the real answer is actually much more complicated.

Before you plant an olive tree, you should understand what kind of olive oil you want to produce and what flavor do you want to present at your table.  Begin with the variety characteristics as each variety of olive has its own profile, such as green fruit, ripe fruit, robust, mild, buttery, pungent, and aromatic.




To begin, you should know each of your varieties and their ripening process. Remember all olives start out green and all olives ripen to black. They ripen from the outside in so you may have a fully black olive but the inside is brilliant green and not even close to being ready.

Each variety ripens at a different time and different rate. You really have to know your olives, the climate, the mill you will be working with and whether you want a robust oil or a mellow oil. So the decision is to harvest early, or harvest late. Harvest early and you will have a greener tasting oil, much more robust with higher levels of polyphenols and antioxidants. Harvest later and you will have a more mellow oil with a shorter shelf life and lower polyphenols.  

Other questions are equally important.  Who is going to harvest your olives and what are the costs of harvesting? We estimate that cost to be the most expensive part of making oil. If you intend to rely on friends and family or crowd sourcing you can save money but you may not get all the olives harvested.  Harvesting is hard work. We recommend that olives are milled within 12 to 24 hours of picking. Hopefully it will be cool enough to store them properly before transport to your milling site. Keep your olives in the shade. Keep them cool, to prevent decay of the fruit.




Decisions continue throughout the actual milling process so talk to your miller about your preferences. Talk early and often so that both sides know the process and the goals.

After milling the decisions about caring for the oil after milling, decanting, storage, storage temperature, and bottling will be the topic of another blog.

So many decisions! But knowing your olives, having good fruit, and engaging in discussions with your miller make the whole process much better. And much more fun.

Enjoy the harvest season.








Yield: approximately 1 to 1½ Gallons


10 large yellow tomatoes, cut into halves
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 jalapeno, stem removed and chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt
Juice and zest of 1 orange
½ cup dry sherry
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups chicken stock or water


  • In a baking dish, coat the tomatoes with the garlic, 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 Teaspoon of salt. Roast them at 450°F for 40-45 minutes until they begin to caramelize on top.
  • Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the onions and jalapenos until soft.
  • Add the orange juice and zest, sherry, cumin and remaining salt.
  • Bring to a boil, add the chicken stock and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Using a blender, puree the soup base.
  • Strain and chill before adding the vegetable garnish.
  • Re-season after chilling by adjusting salt and lime juice as necessary.

gazpacho for mailchimp



cherry tommies


It is tomato time, as all you gardeners well know. The gardens are overflowing with beautiful fruit.
There are tomato festivals everywhere, and so many different kinds of tomatoes to eat.
Red, green, striped, cherry, pear, yellow and even a purple one.

The bigger question is, what to do with this bounty? Here are some of our suggestions:


  • Sun-dried tomatoes to freeze and use all winter, in soups, stews, polenta and on pizzas. We have a small dehydrator and it only takes about 24 hours on low temperature to have a finished product. We will be serving dried tomatoes with goat cheese as snacks.
  • Yellow tomato gazpacho for a cooling refreshment. We will be serving this at our Suisun Valley Harvest festival August 28. The finishing touch will be avocado crema and a hint of something hot for the adventurous taster.
  • Red gazpacho for the more traditional look and taste, combined with cucumbers, peppers and lots of salt and olive oil this is a classic Spanish dish. Serve with toasted bread for the perfect evening meal. This is a make ahead and let it sit overnight to make the flavors better. Serve with sliced avocado as a topping.
  • A simple composed salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella cheese and olives.
  • Tomato sauce cooked down to a beautiful thick paste and then frozen for use the entire year.
  • Tomato tart, a luscious tart with a pastry crust, fresh ricotta, and layers of lovely tomatoes. Baked early in the morning and served at dinner tonight.
  • Pure delicious tomatoes with salt just warm from the garden. Better yet take the salt and a knife and go to the garden and eat a tomato while you admire your bounty.
  • Sandwiches of thick tomato slices, garlic, cucumbers homemade bread and homemade mayonnaise.


Here is my recipe for homemade mayonnaise. Easy as pie to make and very delicious. Only 5-10 minutes to make this silky and luscious mayo. Leccino adds a lovely fragrance, and Mission will make it quite bold.
If at the end you add two stalks of cooked asparagus, it makes the mayo brilliant green.
Kids and adults will love the color. Fun with food is our motto!




1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon mustard Dijon is good but you can use any favorite mustard

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, Leccino or Mission Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon white pepper, finely ground



  • Whisk together the room temperature egg yolk, the mustard, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt, and combine well
  • Add about 1/4 cup oil very slowly, whisking constantly until mixture begins to thicken.
  • Whisk in the vinegar and the lemon juice
  • Add the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly until well blended
  • Continue vigorously whisking until smooth, and all the oil is incorporated
  • Whisk in salt and white pepper to taste.

This makes about a cup. This can also be made in a blender, but it is more fun to whisk this in a bowl.
The vinegar and the lemon juice add the balance and the acidity to the finished mayo. Eat tomatoes fresh from the garden. Healthy, delicious with super good olive oil- it is a perfect treat!


composed photo





At the Visitors Center at IL Fiorello, we present seasonal food pairings with our extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegar reductions. We are proud to source most of our food pairings directly from our organic vegetable and herb gardens.

Guests always ask what oils, what foods and what wines should be paired together. They always wonder why and how we do different pairings. There is no magic to pairing, usually if you like it together, that is the best pairing for you.

If you really look at the origin of food, wine and oil, you will recognize natural pairings.  The geographic origin of the food, wine, or oil tells an important historical story. Where food is grown, wine is grown, and olives are grown together. Climate, soil, weather, and people all impart their influences.

Consumers have, and should have, different preferences, so you should be eating food, drinking wine, and using olive oil that you love and enjoy. You all have different palates but some people have different levels of sensitivity and tolerances.  We often ask people if they enjoy coffee, and if so, most likely the expected bitterness of extra virgin olive oil will be a pleasant experience in the tasting room. The bitterness and pungency of extra virgin olive oil often astounds people but when the oils are paired with food, taste chemistry is at its best. The food and the oils shine.

Consider what food you will be serving at home and what that flavor profile means to you.

Here are some interesting food, wine and oil pairings that grow together. Something to consider that you might not have appreciated until now. We have tried to give examples of the cultural matching of food, wine and olive oil. The fun challenge is to find some of your own best matches.

Don’t allow people tell you how a wine or oil is “supposed” to taste. Taste it yourself, make a decision and then have a great discussion with your friends about your findings. Different people have different tastes and that is where the fun begins. Play with your food, that what we do every day at IL Fiorello.

This should be fun and enjoyable, and above all, the food, wine, and the olive oil should be delicious. Come and enjoy the experience of taste at IL Fiorello.



Taste & Pairing


Spring Food- Radishes 2016


Right out of the garden, nothing is better than a fresh radish.

radishes in the garden 2016 2

My Great Aunt, A Francophile and French teacher, taught me an old French method to serve beautiful fresh radishes. Slice the radish and serve with bread, the best butter and salt. Add a little olive oil of course, and you have the perfect afternoon snack. Try this as a first course or a simple hors d’oeuvre, appetizer in French.

Radish Insta

Simply delicious.

When you have too many radishes, as we do (10 different kinds!), we pickle them. A quick pickle and you have a marvelous snack to use right away! Great on salads, hamburgers, or just plain right out the jar. Here is how to make them:

Harvest and slice about 4 cups of fresh radishes.


Standard Pickling Liquid
2 cups White Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
10 Whole Black Peppercorns
Dill to taste
Combine all ingredients in a noncorrosive saucepan
Bring the liquid to a rolling boil
Stir to just dissolve the sugar and salt
Remove from heat, add radishes and allow mixture to cool
Cool & refrigerate
Use tonight or this weekend
If covered and refrigerated, will keep for 6-8 weeks

The vinegar will be red because of the radishes beautiful color. Delicious, tangy, with a little heat & lots of flavor. Enjoy Spring!



Pickled Insta











FDA Fights Fraud. Plans to Test Imported Olive Oils.


The House Agricultural Committee finally has taken steps to stop the fraud and adulteration of olive oil coming from big corporations predominately in Europe. As we in the industry know, much of the bulk olive oils coming to the United States from Europe contain a large percentage of seed oils.

This is blatant fraud and does present a potential health risk to consumers. Certified Extra Virgin Olive oil should be only olive oil and nothing else. Seed oils mixed with olive oil should be clearly labeled and not called extra virgin. The California Olive Oil Commission has set standards for oils produced in California. This has sent shock waves through the European big corporate olive oil industry.

Truthful producers from around the world welcome this forward step toward transparency. At IL Fiorello we are proud to certify our oils, share the results with our guests and freely discuss our farming and milling practices. Honesty and transparency in the market place is the center of our business.





Blossom Time

Frantoio BLOGThis is the expectant time of year where we watch for olive blossoms, blossom set and the resulting fruit set. Flower bud sprouting initiates the process of inflorescence. Average flowering used to be around May 10 but clearly with a change in climate we are seeing inflorescence now in mid-April. This year this is a full 4 weeks early. Temperature for the past two months have determined the time of flowering. Lower temperatures mean longer flowering periods, while high temperatures shorten flowering. Hail, frost, and very high winds may destroy flower buds. Water and nutrient stress between bud sprouting and six weeks before flowering reduce the number of flowers per inflorescence and increase the number of lost blossoms. So time will reveal what our actual crop will hold for us.


This is the first time that we as growers have a glimpse of what our crop may be in the fall.
And so far this looks like an amazing year at our groves. Some varieties will produce
heavily one yearZucchini BLOG and not the next, which is normal for olives. This year, as was last year, our Frantoio is productive & the Aglandau French variety has more blossoms than we have ever seen. It is during flowering that wind pollination occurs. A good book for reference is Olive Growing by Barranco, Fernandez-Escobar and Rallo, from the University of Cordoba, Barcelona, Spain, 2004.
As olives are wind pollinated, the winds of Suisun Valley are welcome. The word “Suisun” means “west wind”. Suisun Valley winds come in the afternoon from San Francisco and San Pablo Bay and bring cool temperatures. We would like to have the blossoms stay a little longer on the trees so as to have a really good fruit set. But in farming we do not have those choices, nature is fickle.

double BLOG

We do have bees on site for honey production and to help with the gardens and citrus pollination. Bees love the pollen and nectar in the olive grove but olives produce differently.

We use the Italian variety named Pendolino to help with pollination of all of our olives. This is a productive tree in its own right, and makes a beautiful green grassy tasting olive oil.

Bring on the Suisun wind to help pollinate our olives.

Here are blossoms from our Farm for you to enjoy.





Celebrate – It is Spring

Planter BoxesTime to think about digging in the dirt, planning and planting your garden, and eating fresh vegetables.

Today it is softly raining and we have not yet finished mowing the olive groves. Some of the flowering mustard is as tall as my tractor. Nick, our assistant miller and super helper, keeps the tractor working, filling it with gas, and then sending me back out to mow some more. It is perfect in the grove. The olives are just about to begin blooming. The red wing black birds follow the tractor to pick up worms and bugs. No cell phones. No calls. Just me and the trees and the tractor. Happiness.

Nick and Araldo, our super work guy, have finished the raised vegetable beds. These raised beds are a showcase in front of the olive mill, all 34 of them. Each bed is 4’ x 10’, with chicken wire in the bottom to deter the gophers. This week we spent time planting radishes, onions, beans, chayote, and LOTS more. We envision a profusion of vegetables for our cooking classes and for our olive family. Our Chef is delighted that we are planting the raised beds behind the Visitor Center for herbs, cilantro, parsley, thyme, basil and tiny cucumbers (because they are so cute).  We use Baker Creek Seeds because of their sustainability and their commitment to wonderful products. I get lost in their catalogue, beautiful pictures and planting suggestions (

Tours of the gardens will be great fun as we watch all things green grow and mature. The new green house is warm and tidy and little tiny sprouts of seeds are popping up.

With great delight, I have been talking to garden clubs, Rotary, Kiwanis, and Chambers of Commerce, in Northern California. I have presented our Olive Farm and how we grow olives and make olive oil. We have had some lively discussions about the problem of adulterated olive oils, and how to pair good food with certified extra virgin olive oil. I have met some wonderful people, whom I now consider my friends.

Nick and Araldo Planter BoxesMuch thanks to Nick and Araldo for all their hard work building the raised beds and moving dirt.

Come play in the dirt, and watch us grow.  The radishes are up and growing.





Weeds and Mushrooms


I want to pick your weeds!

A delightful lady walked into IL Fiorello’s visitor center asking if her mother could pick our weeds. My first response was, sure-we have lots! My more rational approach was “does she know what weeds are what” and will she be safe. Turns out she really knew her weeds.

Foragers are individuals who know and understand what grows, what is safe, and how to use the “weeds” that grow in the forest, in the groves, and on the side of the road. As Connie Green in her book The Wild Table, says “ the flavor of wild is sneaking back into our modern world”. What a shame, it should never have left.

When I was growing up in the Adirondack Mountains of really far upstate New York, my father’s friend would go out mushroom hunting. He would bring back 50 lbs of beautiful chanterelles. We would sauté them in butter, heap them on toasted fresh bread, eat like there was no tomorrow. All the rest we packed in containers for the freezer. He knew what he was doing both to find the mushrooms and only pick the safe one to eat. This was a truly memorable food experience. Mushrooms on toast are still my very favorite meal.

Not everyone can forage for mushrooms. Not everyone should forage for mushrooms. That is why we have a class on mushrooms, hosted with Mycopia mushrooms of Petaluma. We will all learn a lot from this class.

Maybe we should all learn about foraging for weeds also. Good weeds, tasty weeds, healthy weeds.

Be careful what you forage. Our organic garden will safely supply us with great vegetables and I am sure some good weeds.
Come visit




Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.



Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.


Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.


Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.



Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.


Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.