During our trip to France, we visited the Rossignol mill. We were warmly welcomed by Mr. Giorgis Sr. and Mr. Giorgis Jr., the mill owners. In the mill, old and new machines combine perfectly. You can admire authentic presses from the 17th century, a hydraulic mill that has been reconstructed following the grandfather drawings, and a state-of-the-art centrifuge. In this historic place they shared with us how life used to be there, and they happily told us the secrets, anecdotes and stories of the hard job that everybody in their family has been doing for the last 4 generations.
The Giorgis’ job is to produce olive oil. A certain number of local producers, after harvesting their olives, bring them to the mill so there they can be transformed into olive oil. The fare is 55 euro cents per kg of olives. The mill owners use the expertise that they have acquired after many years of hard work to produce olive oil. The producers can take their freshly extracted olive oil home the day after they brought the olives to the mill.
Right until the 50s, the second hot press olive oil was used in the mill for the production of their own soap. After the 50s there were some new laws enforced that intended to protect the mill workers (they could get badly burned with the caustic soda). These laws forbade the production of soap in the mills. The second hot press (pomace) olive oil was then sent to Marseille, where the famous Marseille’s soap was produced.
During WWII, the Gestapo requisitioned not only the olive oil that was produce at the Rossignol mill, but surprisingly, also the olive pits! These crushed pits have been used, and are still used, as fuel. They have no nutritional value. The troops did not used these pits to stay warm… they ground them to make flour, that was them mixed with wheat flour… to eat it and feel satiated!
There was also a fatal winter that neither producers nor millers have forgotten to this date: winter 1956! There was a very severe frost that year in the region that killed all the olive trees. Many of the olive oil mills had to stop producing oil and closed their doors. The Rossignol mill owners had a vision, and the courage to hold on to what they had, waiting for the olive oil activity to start again in the region… and they were right!
This harvesting campaign (winter 2012-2013), the amount of olives that have been picked is much higher than what was expected. The mill has had longer operating hours, from 8 am until midnight, even until 3 am! Producing olive oil is a very hard job, but obtaining the liquid gold is such an amazing reward, after all!
The Giorgis’ also own olive trees, and they produce their own olive oil, as well as salted olives and… olive jam! We were lucky enough to get to taste it! It is delicious, and when it melts in your mouth, it really surprises your palate! It combines perfectly with foie gras, amongst other things. Yummy!
Thanks again for your warm welcome and for such an instructive visit to your mill!