This month, the annual extra-virgin olive oil expo (Olio Capitale) took place in Trieste, Italy. Visitors and professionals met with producers and tasted hundreds of oils. As this season’s batch come to market, we wanted to take a moment to focus on this delicious and versatile product.
Each variety of olives have their own maturation cycle and of course, the seasons and weather can change the harvesting period from year to year. Mid-October thru December is the usual harvest period in Italy and the best olive oil is always made from olives that are picked by hand.
The larger producers use machines to shake the trees free of their fruit and the olives can get crushed and/or begin to oxidize faster when obtained thru this method.
The olives are transported in small crates with good ventilation so that mold does not form - but after 5 hours, the olives start to oxidize so it is crucial that the time between picking and pressing the olives is 4-5 hours.
The olives should be gently crushed and the paste softly pressed – the more the olives are pressed, the more acidity comes out which is why extra-virgin oil is always obtained from the 1st press of oil. At this point, the oil can either be filtered or not, depending on the producer's preference.
Olive oil is an extremely important export of Italy and they are the biggest consumer of the product in the world. But there is a crisis going on in the world of olive oil.
Much of the oil imported from Italy does not actually come from Italy, but from other countries like Tunisia and Syria. Some of the oil is sold “as is” but some is cut with cheaper oil to save costs, while others are mixed with vegetable oils to change the color or the flavor. The oil is sold in the United States (and other countries) with the label “Imported from Italy,” confusing the consumer and degrading the product.
These fraudulent practices have caused a drop in olive oil prices, which in turn is forcing some of the honest producers in Italy out of business. It is a major cause for concern in Italy, but also here in America – where it has become increasingly important to us to know where our food comes from and what is in it.
Never has it been more necessary to know where your olive oil is coming from than now. With many oils being blended with lesser grade product, we strongly recommend purchasing extra-virgin olive oil whose specific point of production is clearly known. Look at the label and check (with Italian oils) for a “D.O.P.” mark, which shows it came from Italy. Also, look for the location of the origin of the olives and not just “packaged in.”
Last year, I received my 'Master Certification in Olive Oil' in order that D.O.P. Kitchen would be qualified to choose only the best oils for our customers & catering clients. Order one of our gift boxes today and try some of our favorite picks!