Monday, July 21, 2008

My Town Monday: Ontario, CALIFORNIA

I spent most of the weekend at a water polo tournament in and around ONTARIO, CALIFORNIA. Which was named after ONTARIO, CANADA by the two Canadian engineers (George and William Chaffey) who helped develop the area.

In NINE days, I'm heading to ONTARIO, CANADA.

Ontario, California is obviously calling to me as a My Town Monday post. Obviously.

So, early Sunday morning, while our water polo players slept in, Child #4 and I snuck out from the hotel room for a very interesting visit to...

The Graber Olive House

The Graber Olive House is famous for its gourmet olives. Crossing the threshold of the Graber Olive House is like taking a step back in time. Graber olives have been cured and canned here since 1894. The operation is still very much hands-on. To the point that government health inspectors always think they've arrived at a museum and not the actual canning facility!

Spanish missionaries planted the first olive trees in 1769 at the Mission San Diego de Alcala. The Franciscans then traveled north to establish more missions and they planted olive groves along the way. The Graber olive ranch is located about 250 miles north of Ontario, in Lindsay, at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas.

So, what makes a Graber olive special? Well, these olives aren't picked until they're cherry-red ripe. A tree might be visited 7 or 8 times before all its olives are removed. This ripeness factor results in a meatier, nutty-flavored olive. VERY delicious!

Here's the process:

This is the grading line where women stand at the conveyer belt, on the lookout for olives with bruises, lumps, broken skin. Olives that remain on the conveyer belt are sorted according to size. #16 is the largest Graber olive. At times, there's a waiting list for cans of #16 Graber olives. The grader was built in 1932.



550 concrete vats in the Vat Room soak the olives for 3 weeks in a secret brine. The brine is changed daily.




Women hand-scoop the olives from the rotating filling wheel into cans. There's a can under each hole. The women fill about 45 cans per hour. If the Graber Olive House switched to machines, they could fill about 1500 cans per hour. There are no plans to switch.



Olives are packed in 200-degree-Fahrenheit water. The Panema Paddle Packers slap on the lids. No photo. Sorry. I guess I forgot to take one. I am so not a reliable photographer. Neither was my mother. It's genetic. In fact, when my mother took a picture of me on my first day going to university, she inadvertently chopped off my head. Not a prophetic shot, as it turns out.



Child #4 is examining the label machine. A label is applied to each can. The labeling machine is from the 1940s. It's only operated during after-school hours. When the local high-schoolers are available to work.



The cans of olives are sterilized in here at a high heat (I forget how high) for 62 (I think) minutes. Child #4 was beginning to wane at this point in the tour. Which means I wasn't as focused as I could be.

Here's the Graber Olive House info:
315 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA
1-800-996-5483

If you want to see the grading and canning process in action, call ahead to find out which week in October the plant will be running. It all depends on when the olives ripen. Besides the "plant" (now located in the NEW building which was built in 1921 and has one original wall from 1894!), the grounds include a one-room museum, a couple of gift shops, a picnic area, a video of the olive canning process, some very nice people AND OLIVE TASTE TESTING.

In addition to producing world-famous olives, the Graber Olive House doubles as a halfway house for abused animals. This is, after all, California with all her idiosyncrasies.

AND if you comment on this post between now and Wednesday, July 23 @ midnight Pacific Time, I'll send you a can of Graber olives. For real. I bought an extra one. Just for you bloggy people. I'd post a picture, but blogger is way slow and lazy tonight.

Thank you once again to Travis Erwin for spearheading My Town Monday. We're glad he's back in his leadership role this week. And that he'd didn't lose the family fortune in Vegas last week. Click here for Travis' post on Amarillo, TX and for links to the other My Town Monday participants.

24 comments:

Sue said...

Thanks, Barrie. I really enjoyed going on the tour with you. I love olives! I have an olive tree but it porduced just the one olive last year, probably size 0 - though considering this is in the UK, I found that pretty impressive! Mmmmmm, size 16 olives!

Beth said...

I knew about Ontario, California but never knew the origins of the name. Thanks for that tidbit!
And the weather here in Ontario, Canada has been lovely and warm. Hope it stays that way for your visit.

As for leaving a comment and possibly receiving a can of olives - it was fascinating to read about the process but I "don't care for" (trying to be polite) olives. That effectively takes me out of the running...

laughingwolf said...

good stuff, barrie

too many folk confuse 'ontario, canada' as a city, whereas it's a province, and bigger than the state of texas....

Beth said...

My aunt used to live in Ontario California! Very nice place.

and this olive stuff is facinating!! I LOVE olives, and how cool that they still do everything by hand. Nice.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Have a wonderful trip.

And thanks for this post. Who knew all about olives? Not me!

Terrie

preTzel said...

I loved the tour Barrie. We visited a cheese factory last year and it was interesting to learn how hard commodities are made for consumers.

I love how they stay non - modern so that they keep their employees and allow the high school students to work by delaying their work hours.

Thanks for the tour. :D

Charles Gramlich said...

I love me some olives.

Larramie said...

The olives aren't picked until they're cherry red ripe, but they're not cherry red...are they?!

Bina said...

Holy Crap! Child #4 looks EXACTLY like my little girl from behind! I swear! Same size, hair, color, etc. Freaks me out.

Wow. I just never knew that about olives, and I wonder if I'm one of the only people in America who doesn't like them! LOL

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some similarities between the two Ontarios. Both have crops, just not the same kinds.

Maureen McGowan said...

Interesting...

And I always wondered why that part of California was called Ontario... Can't wait to see you in the real -- I mean original -- one.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm not an olive fan but you've almost got me convinced to try these. Almost.

beckylevine said...

I had no clue about the factory in Ontario--it just became an item on my list for the next time I'm down in So. Cal!

I HAVE driven by the orchards in Lindsay--olive trees are really beautiful.

barb said...

And I thought I just missed water polo games this weekend. I am just not as seasoned a traveler as you. I think you know more about California and San Diego than I do. See you soon.

debra said...

Holy Olives, Batman! Do these olives have a unique taste, Barrie? This was fascinating.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I love a good foodie tour! We tour the Bluebell Ice Cream Factory in Brenham, TX every year. Yum!

Chantal said...

hmm i LOVE olives. Very interesting tour, thanks!

~Virginia~ said...

love the tour! alas...me no likey the olives. never realy grew on me for some reason. :)

Linda McLaughlin said...

Very interesting post, Barrie. My folks lived in Ontario on and off over the years, but I never knew about the Graber Olive House. Sounds like it's worth a visit. I looove olives.

Have fun in the other Ontario!

Linda

Bee said...

I am very appreciative of olives -- thanks for this informative post.

About place names: I am in New England at the moment -- a place not well-known to me. It amuses me that so many of the town names were borrowed directly from the "Olde" England. Did you know there was a Bath, Maine:

TJ Brown said...

What a great time! I love olives, all kinds of olives, so that would have been fun for me!
Teri

Angela said...

I love these posts You make the towns so interesting.

Interesting olive info

Barrie said...

Larramie, no, the olives are a tan+hint of green color. I'm guessing it's because of the brine...

Annie said...

Cool tour dude. But where be ya? It's Friday??