Friday, October 25, 2013

Olive Oil Fraud

You knew this post was coming....after spending 4 1/2 months here in Italy, I've become a crusader for pure extra virgin olive oil from Italy.  You may be buying what you think is extra virgin Italian olive oil, but in fact most of the big producers get their oil from all over the Mediterranean, and then process it here, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that to the mix to make it turn out (chemically) like extra virgin.
A great read on this story is the book Extra Virginity, chronicling the worst fraud that has been perpetrated on the cooking public for years.

Extra virgin olive oil should be the first cold press, then you need to read the label....many big producers are now announcing that their olive oil MAY have come from Tunisia, Spain, etc.  but many are not, and you are not getting what you pay for.  At the Colavita frantoia (where they press the olives) you can buy gallons for only E2---or about $3.50 a gallon.
Each oil in each region should receive a DOP or DOC seal on the bottle to let you know that a consortium in that region has certified that the oil is from that region and has passed stringent requirements to get that seal.  These are the oils you want to's going to cost you more, but the flavor, and the product itself is pure, and not a mixture of pomace oil (the lowest of the low) lamp oil that's been manipulated in centrifuges, or sunflower seed oil.  Don't kid yourself into thinking you are getting the best when you buy that bottle of Bertoli, or Berio.  Most bottles on your supermarket shelf are a mix of Mediterranean oils--you are not getting the true flavor of any region when you buy them, and you may see "product of Italy" on the label, but that only means that the oil has been bottled here, not pressed here.  Gigantic tankers pull up to ports in Pulia loaded with Spanish and Tunisian olive oil and then have them mixed to replicate the acidity, and ph that is needed to be called extra virgin, they are then bottled in Italy and assigned the label "product of Italy".
So where do you get the real deal? I order mine from Enoteca Properzio here in Spello--they have three different DOP oils that they sell. 

  The first is Cipolloni, from this area, a buttery oil that is used just for dressing food, drizzled over steak, tossed with vegetables in salad.  it is the only oil that 5 Star Michelin chef Alain Ducase will use in his cooking.  The second is Cuore Verde, from an organic farm 3km outside the walls here, recognized organic in the US and Europe.  This olive oil has a bit of spice to it and can be used for cooking, as well as dressing foods.  The third is Terre Rosse, from here in Spello, the oil is also organic, and can be used for cooking or dressing.  I love them all, and use them for different things.

If you are in a city where there is a Little Italy, find an Italian grocer and seek out DOP oils.   The difference is night and day between these and the Bertolli's of the world. 

Mona Lisa is my fave in San Diego

The olio nuovo  is coming in right now, it is dark green in color, cloudy and viscous, but oh so delicious!  Toasted bread drizzled with this oil is a religious experience! 

 I am going to another festival this weekend, the saffron festival--should be fun, and I will be writing about it this weekend if I have time.  Until then buon fine settimana.

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