Mum, where do oils come from?
Ok so I’m not your mother but this thought may have crossed your mind too and once sated you might have gone – well I now want my oils to be cold pressed, virgin, organic and so on and so forth. But do you REALLY know what all that means and can we REALLY appreciate all that goes on to bring that beautifully clear and pleasant oil to your cosmetic lab.
Well I wanted to take a closer look.
For Christmas I bought Realize Beauty an Oil press:
But first I had to learn how to use it.
As with all simple machines made by people who can’t believe anyone could be stupid enough to NOT GET IT the instructions were pretty simple and a little vague (in my opinion) – that said I hardly ever read instructions so I guess I’m just whinging on for nothing. Basically the big, important point is that your new oil press machine requires securing (and by securing I mean REALLY securing) to something like a benchtop BEFORE you attempt to use it. The equipment to do that (Wood, some DIY skills) were not supplied and as such I had to resort to my hubby to help me. Oh and the other bit that threw me is that dull metal bit on the end – that is nearly impossible to screw on unless you have big strong arms AND it is a good idea to wire wool it first too – I again had to wait for hubby to do that bit as I just couldn’t get the bloody thing to screw all the way in. By the end of all of this I felt less ‘strong independent woman’ and more ‘damn you red machine for being so hard’. Just thought I’d share that with you.
Anyway, once the machine was ready I started on my oil making journey.
First I tried walnuts from my sisters tree. I made a terrible mess, got no oil and wasted a good few Kg of nuts. They were too wet and green and I didn’t realise at the time but the pressure setting was all wrong. I’ll get back to that later.
Next I tried some Brazil nuts that I’d got from a health food store. Again this ended badly, no oil, wasted nuts and me feeling like this whole ‘oh what a simple machine’ thing was a big joke. Turns out I was the joke as Brazil nuts are not one of the nuts mentioned in the ‘how to process your nuts and seeds’ section of the Pitebar website. I realised that I should have started with something simple and preferably something listed on the website.
So I moved on to my sunflower seeds.
I’d bought these BEFORE reading the instructions so I’d got hulled seeds. The website says ‘press sunflowers with seed on’. Damn. I tried mine anyway.
First off I was getting oil out of the end bolt – because I hadn’t tightened it enough – I went and fixed that.
Then the oil looked a little cloudy so I checked back on the web page and yes, that is how it looks. I was reminded of why I wanted to do this in the first place – no, oil doesn’t just squeeze out of the fruit, nuts and seeds looking and smelling yummy and fresh, it needs cleaning!
And then I was given an arm-aching reminder of another reason why I wanted to do this.
20 minutes of grinding that arm in a clockwise motion and my right arm was burning with muscle fatigue. Oil pressing is physically hard, I like that, I can work with that, my students will learn much from that. Good.
In those 20 minutes of turning the handle I found myself drifting back to my breastfeeding days (sorry if that makes you want to spit out your latte)…… I was a sales rep at the time (with my first bub) and I used to take my pump with me and sit trying to fill a bottle before my sales meeting so that I wouldn’t end up leaking if the meeting dragged on. The pump to ml of milk ratio was sometimes great but often painfully bad with way more effort going in than milk coming out. My efforts here were echoing that experience.
In all I harvested around 65ml. More oil was produced but as it was still leaking out the end it was lost to the concrete and then licked up by the dog. After all that effort it was time for a cuppa and a write-up. I put the resulting sunflower cake out on the fence railing for the birds and brought the fruits of my labour in to look at as I write.
And here I am.
This machine excites me and has inspired so many thoughts relating to how we can learn to value our resources more, how we might press our own oils then turn them into a product, how we might experiment with different oils and then use them to explore different methods of purification.
But most of all this machine and this experience reminded me of why I continue to do this work and that’s because I LOVE it, I love to follow the trail back to the source, to FEEL what it is like to plant, grow, harvest, process and ultimately create with something. I do this because I also love to share all of that with people.
And on that note I’m going off into the lab to try out some oil refining.