How the heck does one choose? We currently have 15 pure cultivars to choose from. In lay man's language, liken it to going in to a wine boutique, or coffee/Barista, and trying to choose one or two.
Cultivars are types of olives, and yes, they are all different. With more than 750+ known and cataloged cultivars, it can be overwhelming, and sometimes intimidating. This we understand. I go into a wine specialty store like Bishops, Harvest, or Premium, and have no problem asking the staff for recommendations. Knowledgeable staff are happy to help me make my choice. I have no understanding, however, of what to ask for in a coffee Barista, but know what I like. I buy, like and dislike, and discuss with my husband what I think are specific characteristics, about the beans we have purchased. We still don't know what to buy, if I do not remember what we have tried before. This is where experienced, knowledgeable staff come in handy, not to mention customer purchase tracking. If you are in our system, we can track what you have purchased in the past, and when we change seasons and cultivars, we can make recommendations based on what you like. Challenge your pallate, challenge our staff. We are up for it.
Over the course of the past few months, many new and regular customers are asking, "so now what do I do with it?" As it is not a part of our North American culture, most of us have not experienced fresh olive oil.
When customers come in, taste, fall in love with this beautiful elixir, they are amazed. But they are also a little unsure of just what to do with it. Fresh oil can be used in almost any application where butter or vegetable oil is used. (I will include the butter to EVOO chart at the end of this article)
We use EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) for two reasons, taste and health. Fresh oil has many 'tastes'. A little like wine tasting, tasting oils conjures up palette pleasing notes such as "fruity, grassy, peppery,bitter, nutty, with notes of apple, artichoke, or cucumber. Types of olives or cultivars, are as different as grapes that make wine. Some are mild, some medium and some will sit you down and take your shoes off. In these categories, they will range from creamy and buttery to clean and fresh. If we think of our oil as a spice, we start to pair them with the foods we are preparing. As we become more comfortable with using our fresh oils, we will find more of them in our pantries.
When using EVOO in food applications, there are a couple of things to consider. Without getting too technical, bigger more robust oils have higher poly phenols or antioxidents, while milder, softer oils have less. When we heat EVOO, some of the phenols dissipate. If using the oil for high heat, you might want to consider a more robust oil, and save the softer ones for cold applications such as salads, dipping and finishing. Keep in mind, fresh olive oil has a relatively high smoke point, some up to about 420F. Mediterraneans have been using good quality EVOO for all cooking, for generations. Since the heating of the oil removes the fruity character, a mixture of 'the good stuff' and safflower oil (one high in monounsaturated fats), might be a good alternative. Some chefs use a virgin oil, or olive oil instead. But here goes the problem of finding them fresh.
So relax, and start drizzling, sauteing, dipping and frying your way to a healthier, tastier way of food preparation.
Butter Olive Oil
1 tsp 3/4 tsp
1 tbsp 1 tbsp
2 tbsp 1 1/2 tbsp
1/4 c 3 tbsp
1/3 c 1/4 c
1/2 c 1/4 c + 2 tbsp
2/3 c 1/2 c
3/4 c 1/2 c + 1 tbsp
1 c 3/4 c
Welcome to 2012!
I am reading a 'fresh off the printing press" copy of Tom Mueller's "Extra Virginity". Tom has a way of melding history, facts, myths and story telling, into a real page turner. As I turn those pages, I find my self saying "who knew?" again and again.
If the Keshen Goodman does not have a copy, I will donate one to them. We do carry the book at our store in Halifax, and will have them in soon at the Charlottetown Store, for those of you who want one of your own.
In the summer of 2007, Tom Mueller, an American journalist living in Italy, published an article in The New Yorker that showed how the world’s most ubiquitous luxury food didn’t only fail to meet the “extra virgin” standard, but in many cases wasn’t made from olives at all. Rogue chemists had learned to disguise tanker ships full of low-grade soybean oil and even lamp fuel so that it could pass for the highest grade of olive oil, Mr. Mueller revealed. Even such multinationals as Unilever, Nestlé and Bertolli sold “extra virgin” olive oil that was anything but.
Mr. Mueller’s follow-up, called Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, was released this week. The book is part history (olive oil fraud goes back at least as far as the ancient Romans, although they had stronger regulations than exist today), part indictment (much of the framework surrounding Italy’s olive oil industry makes it nearly impossible for quality producers to compete) and part travelogue (Australia and California have begun producing some of the world’s best oils). Thankfully, it’s also a consumer guide of sorts, a handbook to buying great oil without getting ripped off – something that is surprisingly easier in Canada, Mr. Mueller says, than most other places on earth. The Globe and Mail reached him at his home in Genoa, Italy, this week.
It’s feels like on every 10th page of the book you’re taking a swig of olive oil – chugging it straight out of the bottle or slugging it out of a shot glass. Is the stuff you’re trying in Italy that much better than what we can get over here?
The short answer is yes. Part of it is thinking of olive oil as a fresh-squeezed fruit juice. It’s fresh produce: You squish the olive, you extract the juice and you use it quickly. This is fundamentally different from the average North American view of olive oil, where it’s just another long-shelf-life industrial fat that’s dumped into the bottom of a frying pan. It does seem a bit odd at first to sip olive oil, and it’s not the most natural way to use it. But it’s very good if it’s fresh: It’s got a lot of character.
You write that the best-before dates on olive oil are typically two years from bottling, but that mass-market oil will often sit around in storage before the clock even starts ticking. What does “fresh” mean to you?
Every day that goes by, olive oil decomposes. It loses not only its flavour characteristics, but also its healthful properties. Certain oils hold up better than others, just like certain wines age better than others. But basically you should try to eat it within the same 12-month period that it was picked and pressed. And you need a harvest date on the bottle to know when that is.
Should we be concerned about the quality of extra virgin oil at the grocery store?
It’s expensive to make really good olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil on the commodities market in Europe now, you can get it for 1.85 euros per litre. You cannot make real extra virgin olive oil for anything close to that price. And a producer of quality oil cannot begin to compete against that if consumers don’t know the difference. And yet if you walk into a store, you’re faced with a wall of labels, and they all say basically the same thing.
Go to a store where you can taste the oil before you buy it, and go to a store that has a good range of oils. I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but I know that Halifax, Waterloo, Ont., and Sudbury have first-rate olive oil stores (www.allthingsolive.ca; www.danashortt.ca; http://adorooilsandvinegars.ca). An awareness is beginning to grow that just like with great chocolate, great coffee or great wine, there’s a huge range of choice in olive oil too: There are big oils, medium oils, delicate oils, oils that are great for frying. There are 700 different kinds of olives, and each kind of olive can produce very different oil. Taste as much as you can. Ask them what to use it with – that’s another question that people don’t really think about. Are you going to drizzle it over sole, are you going to put it on your salad, are you going to deep-fat fry with it? Each oil has its ideal set of uses. And if you can’t go to a store where you can taste before you buy, go to a place that has high turnover and a wide range, and ask some questions. Ask them what “fresh” means in olive oil. If they talk about a harvest date, you’re on the right track.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Do you have olive oil sitting in your cupboard that is past it's prime. Here is on of many uses for it. (do not use rancid oil)
. Turn on your favorite music
. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 (depending on tub size) of extra virgin olive oil into very warm water
. Fill the tub as high as you are able (considering that two of you might be in the tub)
. Add several drops of lavender oil or other aromatic oil (or your favorite cologne or perfume)
. Light the candles
. Float fragrant flower petals
. Luxuriate in the experience
. Be careful not to slip
Thanks so much to Shelagh Duffett for her wonderful review that she posted to her highly entertaining blog recently. Amazing photo's as well. I suggest you make Shelagh's blog a regular stop, and don't forget to follow her on twitter @AliceinParis.
I adored the balsamic vinegars. One of my all time faves was the chocolate balsamic! Really! Remember I said you could mix? I tried blood orange olive oil with the chocolate balsamic, amazing! The vinegars almost taste like liqueurs.
To read the full article, and see her amazing photo's, here is the link to the entire article:
Because of its high degree of resistance to attack by oxygen free radicals, higher levels of oleic acid in an olive oil help keep it fresher for longer, by preventing the formation of peroxidized (rancid) fats. And because your body will absorb any peroxidized fats that you consume and incorporate them into your cells, oleic acid’s superior resistance to free radical attack also protects your cell membranes, proteins, and DNA from being damaged, even as it protects the oil from spoiling. Also, substituting oleic acid for saturated fatty acids in animal fats improves cholesterol balance, [i] and research also suggests that oleic acid may also have more specific health benefits, such as the ability to help regulate healthy blood pressure by altering cellular signaling. For these and other reasons, the US FDA has approved the health claim that “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.