Love at First Taste

Posted on October 06, 2013 by Rebecca Ponzi

Last year, I put my little tasting cup under this cascading waterfall of olive oil that was pouring out after the centrifuge separated the oil from water.  My first taste of fresh, off the press, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil was a bit mystifying.  The texture was buttery and thick, with bright fruity flavors of olives and then the bite in the back of my throat assured me this was not my supermarket olive oil.  It made all the olive oils I tried and used before, well, boring. How will I ever go back?  I know I am ruined. Being in the food and wine business, I've eaten a lot of great food and have indulged in my fair share of spectacular wines. I even thought the extra virgin olive oil I was buying wholesale in America was top of the line, but since living in Italy, I have discovered that it's a large company and maybe not so "special".  It's a little tricky explaining the problems that lie in the olive oil industry without sounding like an alarmist.  I see articles popping up, creating fear in the consumer.  From what I can tell from all the various organizations, there is a certain amount of hanky panky going on.  But before pointing fingers at large companies, I believe the more we can educate you, the consumer, about olive oil, the harder it will be to "pull the wool over your eyes."   With the lack of international regulation, my radar is up and I now look at ALL olive oil critically, from the little guys to the big guns.  For the past year I have been happily buying extra virgin olive oil from my neighbors, our local farmers, but not everyone has the fortune of picking and pressing their own olive oil.

It's only once a year you can experience the taste of immediate olive juicing and if you are lucky enough to be near an olive mill.  Casal Cristiana Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is processed naturally, unfiltered, utilizing artisanal methods.  Without filters, sediment settles naturally since it's heavier than the oil, then the oil is bottle, leaving the large pieces of sediment behind.  Letting gravity do its job allows the delicate olive oil to be handled less, which we think is good.  Too much processing can strip away flavor and health benefits.  Olive oil is alive just like wine, and things start happening immediately.  The more you learn about olive oil you may think, why bother, the stuff is going to go rancid in a couple of months anyway.  Not true, but to continue the wine comparison ... exposed to heat, light and air, it will oxidize rapidly.  To prevent premature aging and degradation, proper care in production, handling and storage is critical for taste and health benefits.  I think this applies to human beings as well, if we expose ourselves to toxic substances, we too will degrade, age and die early.  The other reason to make sure you really are getting what you pay for .... extra virgin olive oil, non adulterated with other oils.

For me, the experience of tasting the real deal, fresh off the press, extra virgin olive oil was love at first taste and there was no turning back.  The health benefits are an added bonus.  As more information begins to surface about extra virgin olive oil, here are few things to help you navigate through your buying decisions. 

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), it's the olive oil that is the highest grade and only classification with all those special health benefits (see our health benefits page on our website), NOT pure olive oil, light olive oil, etc.  EVOO has food, science and medical writers and researchers coining it as nature's medicine although it's very tasty food!
  •  EVOO is always first pressed, cold pressed olives.  Since we use an old method of the granite wheel grinding the olives with pressure, they are crushed at a pace that will not add heat to the olives but not expose the fruit for long periods of time to the external environment.
  •  EVOO must pass an acidity test of .08 and below.  If it is above that level, it is not considered extra virgin olive oil.  This is an important note:  Because olive oil is alive and starts changing immediately after press, the acidity level naturally rises with age without any outside intervention.  This is nature's life cycle.  So, after the olives are pressed, sediment has settled and then bottled, it has to pass this test.  But after about a year, because of nature's life cycle, the acidic levels will rise and most likely be above the approved acidity level to be considered extra virgin.  This why it's important to know the harvest date.
  • Harvest dates:  For European and American harvests, those are in late October, November and December.  So if you are buying extra virgin olive oil from Spain, Italy, Greece, California in September, October and November from the previous year's harvest, most likely the acidity levels have already risen to be on the verge of failing the acidity test for extra virgin olive oil.  Here we are in mid-October, but I continue to buy my olive oil from a trusted source.  I know the olive oil has not been adulterated, is 100% first pressed, cold pressed olive oil, and has been stored properly for minimum disturbance.  If nature has taken it a bit above the acidity level, then so be it, I only have a few more weeks to wait for the fresh, bite in the back of the throat, off the press EVOO.

Our advice to you as a consumer is:

  • Taste different types of olive oil to train your palate for true extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Look at the harvest dates on every bottle. 
  • Make sure the container is dark glass or a tin, NOT clear glass or plastic. 
  • The label must say Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not any other classification. 
  • After purchase, store it in a cool, dark place and always keep the lid on.
  • Do not use those cork pour spouts because the cork becomes rancid quickly, tainting the olive oil when poured and also allows air to enter the bottle.
  • Buy from a trusted source.  Our olive oil is pressed in a location that is clear from any animals and industry.  It is important to know where your olive oil is processed because olive oil absorbs what ever is in its environment.  (Do the garlic test, leave some olive oil out in a bowl, place it next to some garlic ..... the olive oil will taste like garlic.)

None of this is rocket science, but hopefully helpful.  Enjoy your food in confidence with the knowledge you own.  I hope this provides some insight as more information comes tumbling out of the media organizations, political groups and food associations.  On that note, we are still taking orders, so if you want to sample Casal Cristiana Italian Olive Oil, place an order by joining Viva Verde, our exclusive membership club on our website!  If you don't think you could use six bottles, share your case with a friend or a bottle of premium extra virgin olive oil makes a great gift to food lovers in your business or personal circle.

Buon appetito e viva verde!

 

 

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