Fresher does not mean closer

Yes, title seems to be quite obvious but some seems to play with this simple meaning.

Extra virgin olive oils is an alive product without expiry date but with a best by one. It’s a fruit juice that does not need to be chilled to preserve it’s flavor and aroma (but if you do it they will remain longer). There are different factors telling us how long the olive oil would last in the bottle, but in general terms would be for one year at least or, as I like to say, harvest to harvest.

It does not matter if any given extra virgin is coming for your country or not, is the time of the harvest. In the northern hemisphere harvest takes place in winter and spring time almost summer (for northern people) in south part of the globe. So if you live in the States you will enjoy great fresh extra virgins from December on and if you live in Australia will be exactly the same, you might have great olive oils down there but your harvest will not be as fresh as northern oils. Change dates and hemispheres and will be exactly the same.

Transport is making great extra virgin oils available in the market no more than 1,5 month later even if you need to go all over the Earth, some producers place their oils by plane making them available a couple of weeks after production. Having a closer olive oil producer is not making the extra virgin better, is the extra virgin olive oil itself the one making the difference, not the distance to the farm.

Fresher is definitely better, but fresher does not mean closer. Think by yourselves and consider that half true is a true lie. Remember, biggest olive oil competitor is ignorance.

Enjoy!

Alfonso J Fernandez

Emotional extra virginity

I’ve been thinking lately in the emotional side of the extra virgin olive oil. Brands usually work it out, but I have not found any other fat with such a powerful appeal.

When we’re consuming extra virgin olive oil we’re not only having the healthiest fat, we’re having a piece of the country where is produced, of the region where is coming from, it can take you to South Spain in a sunny day or to the places where you’ve tasted that great recipe you’ve discovered and love. Thanks that extra virgin olive oil is the one and only fat with such a large different records in taste it can stick in your memory. But it’s not only about that, it’s also about culture and people.

Extra virgin olive oil is a cultural way to approach to food, it’s in the food culture of Mediterranean people. 90 or 95% of the Mediterranean countries has the same basic ingredients, pasta or pizza are primarily signed to italians, but just as an example, in Spain we have fideuá (pasta paella), cocas (long&thin squared pizzas in Catalonia) etc. But common point is always extra virgin olive oil and olives among some other ingredients. They are basic to build the recipes that shapes our food culture. Food culture developed for centuries thanks to slow food, to popular dishes made with on-hand ingredients, humble people ingredients.

It’s also about the way is produced. Life of the people in production areas turn around harvests, pruning and culture of the trees. On small groves, parents and sons works on the weekends to harvest their few trees. Only relevant days as Christmas day or 1st of January olive mills are closed. Whole villages are waiting for rain to stop to keep on going with the harvest. If olives where atoms during that time of the year we could create energy due to molecules movement.

When you consume olive oil you’re getting a piece of the farmer and the producer, the result of a whole year work to place it on your bottle, olive by olive, with dedication and patience, as their ancestors did before, with trees lasting more then 150 years, sometimes measured in centuries.

You can add people, memories, culture, countrysides, landscapes and culture to that pour of extra virgin olive oil that makes your recipe brighter.

Enjoy!

Alfonso J Fernandez

 

 

Extra virgin olive oil for French fries, Yes!! by Fran Gage

From my old post published on March, 12th, 2011

I’ve met Fran and his husband Sidney in a great restaurant in San Francisco last January, Zuni Cafe . She’s indeed a food lover, great writer and cocinera (cooker). We share the passion for good extra virgin olive oil and I’ve loved when read her article about frying french fries with extra virgin olive oil, something has been done in my family for generations and the only way I can imagine frying french fries or anything else.

It’s worthy to read it, give it a look, enjoy and please put in practice!

http://www.frangage.com/EVOOFrenchFries.html

Alfonso J Fernandez

Acidity and flavor in extra virgin olive oil

Published on my old post on March, 7th 2011

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“So, what’s the acidity of this olive oil?”

This is one of the most common question I get when introducing a full flavor and fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Same question, same answer:

“Acidity has nothing to do with flavor”

Yes, ti’s a simple as this. Acidity is expressing free acid oleic acid in extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil needs to be below 0,8% (also shown as 0,8º). This is telling that olives are healthy and transport and production process of olives has been quick and clean.

Going further, acidity is a non used word in olive oil tasting vocabulary as there is no acid when olive oil is tasted, as a mater of fact only bitternes is really present, rest of attributes are aromatic or tactiles (as piquancy or astringency).

I would compare acidity to alcohol contain in wines, is a relevant parameter but it’s not telling nothing about flavor. Making this exagerated, I would like to ask you:

Would you classify your preferred wines based in alcohol contain?

I’m sure you would not. You most probably like them because fo the aroma, varieties, taste, food pairing, etc, Well extra virgin olive oil is exactly the same, you should choose based on aroma and flavor. Once again I would like to compare with wines some how: the more you taste, the more you will know.

Enjoy!

Alfonso J Fernandez

What I don’t like from New World olive oils

Please do not misunderstand the tittle I’m not nationalist of olive oil from Spain, there are great olive oils all the world, wherever a producer has the attitude to produce good extra virgin olive oil. Good olive oil has no nation. Said this let me go over my preference and the final sense of this is a matter of percentage, even more simple a matter of cultivation ways.

There are 3 ways to make an olive grove, traditional, intensive and super-intensive. Let me go through them following:

TRADITIONAL

  • Olives trees with few “patas” (trunks)
  • Slow growing process (8 to 10 years until 1st harvest)
  • Surface non optimized 90/100 olive trees/hectare(Ha) = 36/40 trees/acre
  • Small production per hectare 6 to 7.000 Kg/Ha = 2.400 to 2.800 Kg/acre
  • Slower harvest
  • More difficult soil culture
  • Long lasting trees
  • High olive oil yield per Kg of olives
  • Maximum yield year 15th-20th to 150th
  • Suitable for all varieties

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INTENSIVE

  • Single trunk trees
  • Fast growing period – 1st harvest on 3rd year (may vary in varieties)
  • Better land optimizing – 205 (7mx7m frame) to 312 (8mx4m frame) trees/Ha 84 and 125 in acres conversion
  • Almost complete mechanization
  • High production per hectare – Irrigated farms 15 to 16.000 Kg/Ha = 6 to 6.400 Kg/acre – Non irrigated farms 9 to 11.000 Kg/Ha = 3.6 to 4.400 Kg/acre
  • High olive oil yield per Kg
  • Maximum yield year 12th to 150th

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SUPER-INTENSIVE or SUPER HIGH DENSITY

  • Bush like plantation
  • Single trunk trees
  • Maximum land optimization – 1.800 to 2.000 bushes/Ha = 720 to 800 bushes/acre
  • Complete mechanization
  • High production per hectare – 16 to 20.000 Kgr/Ha
  • 10th year decreases
  • Low olive oil yield per Kg
  • Maximum yield year 3rd to 9th (maybe few more)
  • High investment in machinery / suitable only for few varieties, mainly arbequina (ESP), koreneiki (GR), arbosana (ESP)

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Let me estate that traditional is clearly non used in new plantations unless there is a lack of irrigation and no good raining ratio. We could say is not commonly used but for traditional production areas.

New world producers has mainly decided to go for high density plantations, there are many traditional countries using this one like new cultivation areas in Spain as Rioja, they claim higher quality as trees is harvested sooner, but what they don’t tell is that their main focused is on harvesting costs, lower thanks to machinery. 

Olive oil produced with this system is not fresher, can be harvested in shorter period of time. Olive oil produced with this plantation system is not better just because is used with system. It has a low yield not because the producer wants that, just because the plantation can’t give more. Producers claims this provides 100% extra virgin, not true, if they have a disease will not, if olives are iced, will not, that’s only for perfect conditions as any other plantation system. I have a friend with a traditional grove and produces 100% extra virgin olive oil too, he has only 50 trees.

Now we get into my dislike about this system, the lack of varieties that can be used for this system, mainly 3 as mentioned above. This makes that flavor profile of extra virgin olive oils are very standard, in olive oil there are not such a big differences in flavor as for wines in single varieties. There is a difference based on climate conditions, harvest moment, soil, etc but is not so evident as happens in wine. Let me place this way, if this plantation is extended as majority we would have same flavor profile in olive oil world. Super intensive growers claim their great olive quality but intensive producer can claim it too. You will be able to have your whole production in a month but everything will taste the same because they come only from 3 main varieties. Flavor will be good, a good standard, with no big notes of flavors differences. Give a look to olive oil contests winners, most of them have traditional or intensive plantation, less super high density.

That’s what I don’t like for super high density plantations, one of the main strength of this industry is flavor, no other fat has it and no other in such a diversity. We would loose lovely varieties as manzanilla cacereña, lucquet, cornezuelo, hojiblanca, picuda and many others from Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Israel, Turkey or Tunisian flavors.

If you’re a consumer take the olive oil you like in flavor. Making this simple here is the basis, the rest are marketing approaches.

And please, if you’re thinking about a new plantation consider intensive mentioned above if you have ROI in mind and if your thinking about flavor think all the possibilities and how you can be different from the competitors and unique in this great (and saturated market) of extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

Alfonso J Fernandez

 

 

 

 

Spain top “quan-lity” olive oil producer worldwide

From old blog entry, published Oct, 7th 2010

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There are few misunderstandings about olive oil production worldwide. Many people (and markets) believes olive oil is mainly produced in Italy or Greece. It’s an old “fight” of Spain to demonstrate how relevant olive oil production is in our country. Just to mention some numbers, Spain produced in 2009/2010 harvest 52% of worldwide production (1.395.000 MT Sp vs 2.660.000 MT ww) – updated figures for 2011/2012 harvest is ww production 3.200.000 MT, Spain produced 1.614.000 MT-Keeping it simple, this means 1 out of 2 bottles in the shelves are filled with olive oil from Spain exclusively, no mater which brand or origin is mentioned on the packaging.

But we have to be proud also about our top quality oils, we can see in every international contest how brands from Spain placed their wonderful oils on top of the prices. Trofeo Alma or L’Orcciolo D’Oro in Italy, Olive Oil Awards in Zurich,  etc. etc. We could name in last 10 years how many awards Spain got in every international contest and we could be surprised.

Our country with only 46 million people is full of contrast and climates, this provides different personalities even for same varieties. This heterogenous luxury makes our oils special, even more would say.

Numbers talk, both in quantity and quality and Spain has many things to tell in olive oil markets worldwide. 

Top quantity, top quality = TOP QUAN-LITY producer worldwide.

Cooking experiences with olive oil

From old blog published on Jan, 21st, 2011

roncero y chicote

It’s quite easy to cook with olive oil, even more if it’s a good one, but improving your recipes, that’s definitely easy.

I recommend to begin with recipes you already do with olive oil, buy some good olive oils if it used for finishing, be sure they have different character (different single varieties, pungency, bitterness, fruitiness intensity, even price…) and make a small sample in different plates, as many as oils you have. Drizzle them with different oils and let’s see what comes out of it.

If you do not have any special recipe, can slice oranges (or kiwis) and pour oils on it, try also with ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, etc).

This will show you how to use olive oil, little by little try to expand on more recipes, not only finishing but also baking, frying (different olive oil grades also welcome), etc.

Enjoy!

Alfonso J Fernandez

P.S. Above picture are Chefs Alberto Chicote and Paco Roncero, cooking olive oil pasta (pasta made with extra virgin olive oil instead of flour) Delicious!