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Museu do Azeite

Submitted by on January 3, 2010 – 4:52 pmOne Comment

(Photo by Susan McKee)

(Photo by Susan McKee)

By Susan McKee
The Road Trips Foodie

Museu do Azeite? That’s Olive Oil Museum, for those of you not fluent in Portuguese! In the town of Belmonte in northeast central Portugal, small producers would bring their olives to the municipal press in order to get olive oil. This press, first in operation in the 1800s, continued in use until 1995. Now it’s a museum to show not only how olive oil is produced, but to delineate its importance to the local economy.

I’ve enjoyed olive oil for years, but I’d never seen how it was produced. Olives are placed in a drum (big enough for about 880 to 1100 pounds of the fruit). Then, a grinder (connected to a steam engine, such as the one pictured) churns them into a pulp that’s mixed with water and heated by a boiler. After churning, the pulp is layered between round wicker mats called seiras and pressed. The liquid is collected, then transferred to a vertical drum that spins at high speed, separating the olive oil, water and impurities by centrifugal force.

It’s a small museum with a shop selling local produce (including artisanal olive oil), but definitely worth a stop. Between mid-September and mid-June, it’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (you remember that the Portuguese like to close for lunch, right?). Between mid-June and mid-September, it’s open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

The town of Belmonte received its charter in 1199. It’s located on the slopes of Monte da Esperança. When I visited, I stayed at the Pousada Convento de Belmonte, which was built as Nossa Senhora da Esperança Convent. Now completely rebuilt and (of course) modernized, it’s a magnificent small hotel with WiFi and a swimming pool.

There’s more information about traveling in Portugal online.

One response to “Museu do Azeite”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Road Trips 4 Foodies, Road Trips 4 Foodies. Road Trips 4 Foodies said: Portugal's Museo do Azeite walks you through the steps to make olive oil. That's my kind of industrial museum! See: […]

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