I used to teach at the community college and one of the projects I assigned was to examine the local food supply and imagine providing everything in your diet from local or homegrown sources. Inevitably, the students came up short in regards to cooking oil. Now, there is a tool available for home production of oil. I bought my Piteba oil press from Lehman’s Hardware, but it’s also available from Bountiful Gardens. This press is great, but as with any tool, it’s best to take time to learn to use it properly. Some tips I’d like to pass on to you are:
- Beware that the press cake may get blocked in the large cap on the end and can become rock hard very quickly. Soaking it in water will soften it enough for cleaning.
- Only have the wick showing the smallest bit to keep the flame from being too high. If it needs corrected DO NOT touch the metal disk that the holds the wick until you are sure it has cooled.
- Clean everything immediately after using.
With the Piteba you could press only as much oil as you need in the near future, so your supply is always fresh. The nuts and seeds can store just fine in their shells until pressing. I grow peanuts, hazelnuts and black walnuts that can be used for oil. I also have 'Peredovik' sunflowers, a black oilseed variety from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, in the ground this year. If you are producing oil from homegrown supplies, besides learning about the press, you need to learn how to grow, store and process each crop.
Leading up to Y2K I remember meeting people who were stocking up on lots of food, tools and seeds that they planned to use if the present systems shut down. They didn’t seem to be making these things a part of their current life, expecting to put everything into action when it was needed. When someone showed me the inexpensive grain mill they had bought, and put away for hard times to come, I remember thinking that family would surely starve trying to grind enough flour with that thing. Don’t buy an oil press and put it away for times to come. Use it regularly, even if it is with store-bought seeds until you can grow your own. You could begin using your newly pressed oil over roasted vegetables and in salad dressings.
As you ease your way into a diet of homegrown and local foods, everything begins to change. You discover new foods and new ways of preparing your old tried-and-true ones. Home pressed oil can be part of that change. I haven’t tried this, but someone is using the Piteba to press sorghum for syrup. You can watch him do that here. Stay open to the possibilities that await you in your own kitchen. Find more information about using the Piteba, particularly with homegrown peanuts and hazelnuts at Homeplace Earth. Enjoy the adventure!