Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Extra Virgin JUICE!

“THEY JUST SELL FAT,” cried Manfredi Barbera as we cruised through the winding turns to his mill located 45 minutes outside of Palermo, Sicily. Barbera, the producer of Frantoia Extra Virgin olive oil, was referring to the bulk, industrial olive oil companies and other seed oils on the shelves of large supermarkets. He explained further, “These oils have no antioxidants, carotenes and other health benefits that consumers expect from Extra Virgin olive oil. ”

Sadly, many of these companies are blending older or adulterated oil with fresher oil to improve the chemistry and slapping an Extra Virgin label on the bottle and shipping it to the U.S. There is some good news. On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, the USDA finally published federal standards for Extra Virgin olive oil, including enforcement against these fraudulent activities. The standards will take effect October 24,2010.

In contrast to these inferior oils, high quality Extra Virgin olive oil is a FAT (monounsaturated-good fat)... and a JUICE! It’s the JUICE that contains the polypenol antioxidants, vitamin E (nature’s longevity drug) and other other healthy compounds. There is an undisputable wide gap between the quality of estate grown and most mass-produced olive oils. Inexpensive industrial olive oils, on the other hand, are just fat, and possibly defective.

This point was echoed repeatedly during my recent 26 nights and 19-bed tour of great olive oil regions of the Mediterranean. Top Extra Virgin olive oil producers in Tunisia, Italy, France, and Spain expressed uniformly their displeasure and frustration at the flood of fraudulent defective olive oils on the market. To illustrate the JUICE factor, the clever brother and sister team of Francisco and Rosa Vañó (photo) in Jaen, Spain manage the family company called Castello de Canena Olive JUICE SL. They clearly know what they're growing.

How can you, the consumer, ensure that you are buying Extra Virgin olive oil, which is a JUICE and not just a fat?

First, know your source. Know from whom you are buying. Do these folks know anything about olive oil? Most large retailers have little knowledge of olive oil, particularly the importance of proper storage. Here’s a tip. Never buy a bottle of olive oil from the top shelf. Always grab a bottle from the darker center of the shelf. Light, heat and air are the major enemies of olive oil.

How can you detect if a bottle of olive oil is defective. The reason Fresh is Best is my primary mantra about olive oil is because, like all JUICEs, olive oil oxidizes, eventually reaching a nasty state of rancidity. Here’s a test. Remove the cap from your bottle of olive oil and take a series of short, rapid whiffs (like a dog). Do you detect aromas of nail polish, nail polish remover or paint thinner? If so, the oil is rancid. There are two other primary defects. Fusty is the smell of fermenting fruit, likely resulting from taking too long to process the fruit after picking. Another severe defect is winey, which is evidenced by a vinegar aroma.

Within a few days of an olive oil demonstration, I will often purchase a bulk Extra Virgin olive oil from a major supermarket. Participants smell this oil first giving context for the fresher, high quality Extra Virgin JUICE. This never fails to be an enlightening. You can safely try this at home with your kids.

Why is the JUICE factor important in using olive oil? Cooking with any oil, olive or otherwise, which is merely a fat is not harmful, just inadequate. The JUICE element with its higher polypenols offers a higher smoke point for cooking purposes. Moreover, most of the healthy stuff is lost during cooking. Greater healthy benefits from the JUICE are garnered from drizzling over your food after being removed from the heat, immediately before serving. Not only are you adding the health benefits of Extra Virgin JUICE, but flavor and freshness too. Chefs always talk about layering in flavoring with seasoning. You, the home cook, can layer by drizzling Extra Virgin JUICE.

Remember—all Extra Virgin olive oils are not the same. Go for the JUICE!


Roger Fillion said...


Nice post! Did you visit any olive oil producers in Puglia? Planning to go there this summer.


Bill Sanders said...

Roger, I stayed at the Marinia Colonna estate in Molise for two days, which just north of Pugia. I attended what could be called the Puglia Fancy Food show. There were several olive producers there, including Cericola (Pietro Leone). Send me an email and I will do what I can hook you up if interested. There's also one on my FB Crush and Press page. I'll have to look it the name.

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,

I am the owner of the Azienda Agricola Cannarozzi - extra vergin olive oil producer in Gargano, Puglia. My website is www.oliocannarozzi.com
Take a look a us and if of your interest, it would be nice to meet you at my estate!
Ciao from Puglia
Francesco Cannarozzi
You can email me at: francescoitaly2001@yahoo.it

Bill Sanders said...

Roger, Francesco is one of the producers that I was going to suggest visiting in Puglia. I didn't get a chance to visit him there recently because I was in Molise primarily and my stay was too brief. I would recommend seeing Francesco.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Bill, hope we can meet each other some time at my estate!
Francesco Cannarozzi