Harvest Time!

October and November are the buzzing months of the year. Throughout the valley you hear a hum of machines and see the colourful nets that cover the ground  like autumn leaves. All the work, noise, nets and effort are for one purpose – the almighty olive!

hand with olives

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After watching the amount of back breaking labour needed to create oil, I will never take for granted whenever I pour from a bottle. The whole process is intense! First come the nets. The nets are tied to the bottom of the trees and are wide enough to capture every wayward piece of fruit. (Yes, olives are fruit!)

olive branch

 

Next, the olives are “helped” to the ground. This is either done by hand or by shaking a branch with a specialised portable machine. The machine is like a long vibrating arm and during the harvest you can hear them flare up across the countryside. The sound is everywhere and the valley sounds like a giant bee hive! From the first light of morning to the red glow of sunset there is a constant buzz!

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Once the olives have been gathered in the nets, the cargo is then taken to the “frantoio” or pressing plant. Timing is vital! Every passing hour is working against you! Why is this so important to olive oil producers?  Because as time passes the water content evaporates and increases the acidity level in the fruit.  The longer they sit the higher the acidity level and the more bitter the oil. This is critical and timing very important! A high acidic level means the quality of the oil changes and the “extra virgin” category is lost!

olives in the net

While olives are can be plentiful, the oil produced from them is not. Oil is a precious gift but a reluctant one.  Every olive counts!

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house autumn 2017

oil in the tree

Casa Sorelle extra virgin olive oil is born here!

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A picture of love!

When we bought our Italian property we knew it had been in the Paradiso family for a very long time. During our trip to sign the purchase papers, we met some of the children that grew up in the house. Buying a long time family home is emotional and we knew that our new family memories would be built on the foundations of those that came before us. We viewed it as a positive! From our perspective, instead of one heart, now the house has two family hearts, beating in common for the love of the land, the trees and that breathtaking view!

Earlier this summer, we were contacted by Robert Paradiso who shared his happy news about getting married. He wanted to give out something special as a bomboniere (wedding favour) that would be high quality and also have emotional ties to the guests. Since our olive oil is from his family’s former land, what could have more impact than to give a taste of the past, a taste of memories and lots of love!

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Awwww…it has made us so proud to bring all that together in a bottle.  And judging by the number of emails that we have received after the wedding saying how much the oil meant to them, it has made us even more determined to make our olive oil brand a success!

 

The photographer did our oil proud too! At this point, we don’t have their contact info but as soon as Robert gets back from his honeymoon I will link the information to this post. The images are great and I would recommend their talents any time!

Once again, congratulations to Robert and Samantha! We think you are the picture of love!

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sam and rob oil with glass

 

 

 

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Another debut!

It has been another busy week with yet another debut! After having a chat with our friend Jennifer about our olive oil, we arranged a last minute home demonstration for her  long standing wine club. It was a spur of the moment decision and what a great time!

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It would be the first time Steffanie and I spoke together telling our story to strangers. This project has been so much a part of our lives that trying to condense our story was a challenge! My friends know I love to talk and it is easy to forget to breathe!

It turned out to be a perfect evening! We got to meet a lively crowd of interesting people. Jennifer was a generous and informative host and we all got to learn something! I am willing to admit I know next to nothing about wine. Other than it comes in white, pink and red! Honestly, the first white wine we tasted is now my benchmark going forward in my life. Quite simply the best wine I have ever had in a glass (including pitchers, bottles and boxes).

We also had the opportunity to bring the spirit of taste testing to the evening by comparing our olive oil with the olive oil Jennifer had purchased on her last family holiday to Italy. She was assured by a trusted, personal source that the olive oil was of good quality. I am bias of course that our olive oil is great but I would be a liar if I said comparisons do not make me nervous.

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To my relief there wasn’t much of a competition. Steffanie and I have spent quite a bit of our time doing taste tests at home. And we have basically educated ourselves about olive oil in about as “hands on” as you can get.  It is hard to avoid emotions and keep a dispassionate point of view when it comes to our product. We love our oil! Other olive oils just do not pass the taste test. Our oil tastes smooth and almost buttery. It is not bitter nor does it have any sort of sour after taste.

It was a sweet beginning and we look forward to doing more! Many thanks to Jennifer and the new friends we made at her fabulous wine club!

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Casa Sorelle olive oil demonstrations are now available, please get in touch via Facebook or via the “Contact Us” link on this site!

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The Sisters and a farmer’s market debut

Casa Sorelle made our farmer’s market debut!

Laura behind the cart

After a chance meeting through a colleague we signed up for seven weeks selling our family olive oil at a new space in the financial district of Toronto.  It was a bit of a snap decision having never sold our product at a market before. There was a mad scramble to condense everything we have accomplished in a 183 cm (6′) space.  There was a lot to do and we went into “craftiness” overdrive. We only had a week to get ourselves organised and had to address a whole flood of design questions. For example if we are going to get signs printed, what should they say?, what font do we use?, what colours? If we were to offer samples – do we offer bread? if so what kind of bread? How do we cart everything to and from market?

Laura at cart

Luckily, Steffanie has a super power. Want to move something? Feeling disorganised? She is your gal. We had our boxes of oil sorted, photos of our Italian paradise ordered and hand soap, hand napkins, tooth picks and cutting board bagged and ready to go. As for me, I booked time off as vacation from my office and we were both crowing with excitement about finally going “live.”

oil and sign

The early morning start was a bit jarring but even with a set up time of 6:00 am nothing could dampen the sense of being on a mission. We were “on it” although bleary eyed.  One of our crafty, last minute solutions was figuring out what to hold the signs up with.  As a long time addict to Pintrest, I searched DIY card holders and after looking around my apartment found my version of a crafty solution.  For one holder I used a rock and the other an old tile sample both bound with a few strands of copper wire. As any television addict from a certain era would say I “Macgyvered” it!

oil and bread

 

The opening day was a success, we got a lot of support from friends who took the time to drop by the stall. This gave us a public setting and a public reminder to remember we have a lot to be proud of! Admittedly, there have been moments in the past two years when we thought we were stuck on hold however, seeing the enthusiastic faces on strangers gave us a true sense of accomplishment! Sometimes it is hard to see the distance we have traveled and how much our outlook and lives have changed since we took on this project. It has been a bumpy, life changing journey. While we still have our city lives in Toronto, our destination and our path is leading towards the shores of Tyrrhenian sea and a lush mountains of Calabria.

oil and plate

 

 

 

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A relaunch and our farmer’s market premier!

It would be too much of an emotional trip to detail the last few years without a lot of personal sharing that is a bit more private than this blog is meant for. The trials and tribulations within our family including the loss of loved ones are not my focus; however, I would like to say that there is always a light at the end of even the darkest tunnel.

The relaunch of the Casa Sorelle label and our updated design have given us a renewed sense of purpose and drive. We love the changes and are very excited about the new look! Our positive news doesn’t end there! A chance meeting led to a new opportunity showcasing our olive oil at our first ever farmer’s market! We have a dedicated space every Wednesday for the rest of the summer at Scotia Plaza – located in downtown Toronto at the Adelaide St and Bay St entrance.  This is a great location for our premier and being able to sell it directly is a dream come true!

At last Casa Sorelle olive oil is on the market! Our lucky break and hard work have paid off! We are ready for our next challenge!  Our website via shopify is in the final stages. Fingers crossed we can go live in the next couple of weeks.

Almost there folks and thank you for all of your support!

 

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Italy update: Introducing our label!

It has been a while since we posted something but we have been keeping busy plus we had some life drama to deal with.

Unfortunately, our mother suffered a broken leg the same day she was released from the hospital following knee-replacement surgery. That resulted in another operation and a long stay at the hospital. Making sure she was as comfortable as possible and visiting her on a daily basis took up a lot of our spare time. We happily report all is now well and she is back home!

In between our daily hospital visits, we have been focusing on details regarding our Italian escape. Having an amazing resource like mature olive trees is a treasure. Flip through any history book and witness how the past of Calabria is riddled with military exploits to control this fertile land.  Why not cultivate what the ancients fought over! Our dream has expanded beyond just escaping – it has evolved into a new reality. We aren’t just visiting, we have planted ourselves. Bringing our oil to market is part of that and we are quite literally watching our “baby” bloom.

First we imported a fifty litre drum of oil and offered it to friends.  We wanted objective opinions because its hard to be dispassionate when its your passion! We bottled it ourselves and that torturous endeavor required cool heads and steady hands. Steff is more of a Zen-master label applier and I was mostly banished to a more “supervisory” role. We all have our strengths hahaha!  The response has been amazing and we have now taken the formal step of setting up our label to meet government standards for retail sale.

After looking at thousands (no joke) of photos of olives and spending many hours strolling around shops and supermarkets in Toronto we drafted an idea for a label. We knew what sort of “look” we were going for and hired a local designer Kait Bos to help us with the finishing touches. Kait was great to work with and definitely helped us create a label we both love. The sisters proudly present:

Drum roll please ……da da dah dahhhh!

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CASA SORELLE EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!

 Coming to a store near you!!

 

 

 

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The re-education of the sisters: Holiday special

Over the holidays we had the pleasure of staying with Mary and Anna in Swinford, County Mayo (Ireland) for our second round of “life on the farm” lessons. Our mother accompanied us and jumped on board to push herself beyond urban retirement and learn something new. Given that our mum is booked for knee replacement surgery in the coming weeks she was a trooper and an inspiration! Who says a dog of a certain age can’t learn new tricks! False! and we have photographic evidence to prove it!

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Turkeys taking an indoor stroll

Our flight out of Toronto to Dublin missed a massive ice storm by a matter of hours and weather avoidance was the re-occurring theme of our trip.  We were tucked in by the fire in Mary’s living room having a festive cocktail (another re-occurring theme) when we received a number of texts from friends in Toronto worried we were stuck in a travel vortex that only Heathrow can provide. Not the case this time and we were well on our way to another life changing trip. We also missed massive flooding in Galway when we spent the afternoon shopping for amazing hand knit sweaters. A couple of hours after we left the city limits, the area was flooded with sea water while once again we were enjoying a drink by the fire. Luck of the Irish definitely!

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The cliffs of Moher

As we were staying on the farm close to the holidays, we were geared up to help “harvest” Christmas dinner.  Knowing that Mary and Anna raise turkeys specifically for this time of year we really wanted to push ourselves to make sure we were up to scratch. Turkeys are surprisingly big when they are upright, never mind that they look like the cross between a lizard and a duvet. They are so much bigger than chickens and I don’t think Steff nor I had ever stood beside one up close. Maybe once on a school trip or when visiting the Royal Winter Fair but nothing in recent memory. They are not pretty but they are very gentle, lovely (and tasty) creatures and before anyone gets upset reading that they were also taking their last walk – they had an awesome, healthy, and well-fed life.

Mum plucking a turkey

Mum plucking a turkey

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Steffanie and Anna working hard!

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Laura a proud, newly skilled feather plucker !

It was another link completed in our quest. We dealt with the turkeys from start to finish, we dispatched them, plucked them, cleaned them and we cooked one for our festive dinner. The remarkable thing was the taste and quality. There was a layer of natural fat that kept the breast meat succulent beyond anything I had ever eaten before. Mary also showed us an amazing cooking tip and de-boned the legs. By doing this it avoids the dry-as-sawdust breast meat. By removing the legs then roasting the chest and de-boned leg meat in separate pieces, it balances out the cooking time. This way everything stays moist and delicious!  Will definitely do that at home from now on!

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Mary’s centre piece of local flowers and holly. Multi-talented lady!

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Yum! Great carving job Steff!

Willing to say, it was a challenge to deal with an animal that is at least 14 kilos but Mary and Anna showed us a very quick and effective way to get them table ready. Sparing the gory details, the first one was a big step and we both had a long pause before the deed was done. While I can’t speak for my sister, my thoughts were wanting to make sure it was done properly and how I wanted to make sure that its sacrifice was not wasted.  I have never hunted in my life and until last year the only thing I killed was a house plant or two.  Now I think I have more insight when I hear hunters talking about the relationship and connection that they project when they track their target.

It was another life changing trip filled with new knowledge, confidence gained, reuniting with friends and mentors. Even better our mum was with us every step of the way and as we discovered was a naturally talented plucker of feathers – who knew! Guess those chin hairs were great practice!

tee-hee (going to get a smack for publishing that one!)

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Green fields of Ireland

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Mum looking more glamorous and out celebrating

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