Tuesday, April 27, 2010

some notes on calabrian olive oil.

at the Porta del Parco di Bagaldi, we had an olive oil lecture with Giuseppe Battaglia - more of a Q&A really - and learned about the ways to describe and what to look for when tasting olive oils. we tasted three different samples. a little too greasy for me. but here are some notes: 

  • three types: extra virgin (made with the freshest olives of the best quality which is determined by how they are picked and the time from when they are picked to pressed - the faster the better) virgin (can be mixed with extra virgin olive oil as well as chemically processed olive oils. can be used for cooking because it has a less strong flavor whereas extra virgin olive oil often passes the flavor onto the food) and lampante (used for industrial purposes and lighting). each of these are from the first press and from a mechanical process - the old way was stone ground which involved different presses and different heats which affected the oil.
  • a blend of too spicy and too bitter olive oils can be blended together and sold as mixed extra virgin olive oil. 
  • most people think that the color of the oil determines the quality, where greener is better/more natural so that is why olive oils are often sold in green/blue bottles. 
  • when tasting olive oil, you're supposed to warm the cup in your palm, take a big whiff, sip the olive oil and place between your lips and teeth and then slurp/breathe it into the back of your throat with a big goofy closed-teeth, wide-mouthed grin. 
  •  calabria is the fourth largest producer of italian olive oil and an important producer to mainly germany, the us, japan, canada, belguim and the UK. the olive oil here only comes from calabrian olives that were grown here whereas many olive oils may also include greek or spanish olives. 
  • olives don’t travel, the pressed oil does. 
  • there are a lot more negative attributes when describing olive oil (riscaldo, muffa-umidita, morchia, avvinato-inacetito, metallico, rancido, as well as cotto/stracotto, fieno-legno, grossolano, lubrificanti, acqua di vegetazione, salamoia, sparto, terra, verme, cetriolo) than there are positive (fruttato, amaro, piccante).
  • calabria has a lot of small producers that often do it as a hobby. there are a lot of costs involved which are reflected in the high costs of the calabrian olive oil but this is also refelected in the high quality. there is no consorzio but there’s an agricultural union, and even though there may be a lot of olive trees in the area, it doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of production - they are just keeping the soil in place because the terrain is so hilly. 
  • it's easy to have a general consensus on the favorite olive oil out of three when one is sunflower oil made with a small blended amount of olive oil, one is overcooked just "olive oil" that was refined and modified in a factory, and the other one is the owner's extra virgin olive oil made from calabrian calolea olives. 

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