The magic of sun dried olives! – Organic Mission Sun Dried Olives from Yolo Press, Winters, California
If you have lived in the Sacramento area for a season or two then you already know or have heard of Yolo Press. Yolo Press has been present at the local farmer’s markets for decades. Yolo Press is a family owned farm in Winters, California owned by Dianne and Mike Madison. They decided to farm after Mike realized he didn’t much like going to an office everyday. They started out growing cut flowers, but soon wanted to diversify. Turns out growing flowers is quite a lot of work! They planted their first olive trees in 1991 and now have 1700 trees, and 14 varieties.
Their small batch olive oil is prized by locals and chefs. And understandably so, they are a certified organic farm and they harvest all of their olives by hand. They brought in one of the first olive mills in the area 2006 and now are able to mill their olives within hours of picking them. The fruit is handled gently and it doesn’t have to travel, which keeps it balanced and fresh. The pomace, or pulpy residue after crushing, is gathered and immediately put back in the orchards to decompose and fertilize naturally.
My husband and I visited the farm and met Mike and Dianne, on a pleasantly cool morning in July. It was lovely to walk around the orchards, and fruit trees, minus the mosquitos! Mike and Dianne were laid back and gracious with their time. We could have stayed all day hearing stories about their early years farming or about the Italian mill they purchased that gets annual visits from the makers.
Yolo Press is a family operation, and they literally do all the work themselves, other than hiring out for big jobs. Dianne also makes soaps and skin care products and has a line of jams with her daughters called D. Madison and Daughters. The farm is an oasis at the end of a beautiful tree lined dirt road in Winters, and runs along Putah Creek. They have a natural riparian corridor along the creek that contributes to the natural biodiversity of the area. Riparian corridors consist of vegetation growing near a body of water, which protect stream banks from erosion, provide habitat for fish and wildlife and reduce stream bank erosion. Mike and Dianne’s philosophy has long been to work sustainably. In addition to being organic, there is no plastic in their operation at all, they use glass or stainless steel only. They also grow a variety of fruit trees and other plants to attract beneficial insect, contribute to biodiversity and keep the soil healthy.
While their olive oils are delicious and award winning, they make one product that is a little gem. We were so excited when we found out about their sun dried olives, we included them in our August Farm to Fork in a Box. The purity of a sun dried olive is magical. These little nuggets are simply Mission variety olives dried in the sun with a hint of salt. They look like large dried raisins and they have pits. They make a great crunchy, and strangely filling, snack as is. But the real magic happens when you rehydrate them. After soaking and draining them you can get creative. They are good as is, savory and chewy and similar to a black cured olive. But take the extra step and put them in a jar with olive oil and let your culinary nerd come out by adding garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, lemon zest or whatever you like. These truly are such a unique and simple treat. Click here to see full instructions on how to soak these beauties and create an addition to your next charcuterie plate.
If you would like to meet Mike and Dianne and see the farm and learn more about their farming practices watch our video below.