We’re Not Quite Done With The Olives Yet

Here’s an example of one of the things I really love about blogging. A couple of days ago I wrote about olives and olive oil and not only did  I get great olive-related comments, but I also got excellent recipes, reminders of dishes I haven’t had in a long time, AND, the following comment (reproduced in its entirety)  from a bona fida olive oil producer – Nancy, co-owner of the Temecula Olive Oil Company

(Why does this name remind me of the Abbott and Costello Susquehanna Hat Company sketch?)

Anyway, Nancy’s comment was so interesting and informative that I thought it  worth reproducing here for all the olive oil lovers.

nice post but i would like to set the record straight on olive oil labeling. The IOOC or International Olive Oil Council is the governing body that certifies olive oils in the European countries but not the united states. Since the united States does not recognize the IOOC certification ANY item shipped to the US whether from Italy, Greece, Spain etc can and DOES label its olive oils as Extra Virgin without meeting the standards. The term is strictly used as a marketing term for the gullible American consumers. Additionally, the labeling laws only require that the producers put on the label the origin of bottling so many oils that say Italy or Spain on the front are only bottled there. the olives dont actually come from that country. As an example if you look at a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from two popular store brands “Carapelli and Bertoli” you will see both say Italy on the front label and on the back in VERY small print you will find that they are actually a blend of oils from several different countries such as Spain, Egypt, Tunisia bottled in Italy. Additionally there is wide spread corruption with producers blending in Mineral, Safflower and nut oils to extend the volume and increase profits. Anyone interested in the corruption of this industry should spend a little time researching. Also go to the New Yorker magazine site and search “Olive Oil the slippery business” or visit http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller

You mentioned to stay away from California products when in actuality if you know your grower you are safer to buy from us then an importer when you have no idea what you are receiving. We are a CA olive oil grower and use only sustainable practices in our groves. We are hand crafted from tree to table and are the only people in the country with our custom made mill and press. We have taken the old world method of the stone mill and fiber mats and made them 100% stainless steel. My husband sits on the taste panel for the California Olive Oil Council and does all of the olive oil trainings for the Chef students for the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) from Hyde Park New York.

We operate three tasting rooms where we offer olive oil education and cooking classes and all of our oils exceed the standards of the IOOC.

The real thing to remember when buying Olive Oil is to know your grower, make sure that you are allowed to taste it for freshness and make sure that it is harvest dated. It is fruit juice and does not get better with age. You should always know when it was harvested or the grower may have something to hide. either the product is old or refined. thank you for allowing me to add some clarification. May Olive Your Dreams Come True! Nancy Curry Co-Owner, Temecula Olive Oil Company 

Thanks, Nancy.  I don’t think I’ve seen Temecula Oil in Canada, but please correct me if I’m wrong because it’s the very next olive oil I want to try.

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11 responses to “We’re Not Quite Done With The Olives Yet

  1. Hmmmm, now I just want to know which kind to buy here in the regular grocery store that is good quality and not ruinously expensive. Do you know of any brands?

    Good luck tonight at Blog Out Loud! I’ll be thinking of you as I sit swatting mosquitoes at Leah’s soccer practice and as I vacuum the evil swamp/swimming pool. I wish I could be there. Will there be a podcast available of the event?

  2. I always learn stuff over here. I ran in there to read my olive oil bottle. I decided to console myself with the fact that I like the way it tastes. And thanks to your previous post on olives, I remembered them the next time I went to the store and had a delicious olive salad with dinner last night and am going to make an olive spread to have for lunch today. I should go put that together. Yummmmmm.

  3. Amazing that she took the time to educate you so thoroughly. Thanks for sharing her comments; they were interesting and informative. I’ll be a little more wary about buying my olive oil from now on.

  4. I just returned from the store where I splurged on olive oil for tonight’s supper based on the last post. Argh! Since we’re so gullible, I’ve already jumped on the train and ordered a bottle of Nancy’s Olive Oil. I’m taking the one I purchased today back and will use my old tasty stuff until the new one gets here. Is it whacko of me to ask that growers and producers of anything simply tell us the truth about their product to begin with? There’s no telling what poisons I’m brewing in my body. [end rant}

  5. Jazz – I know. I’m learning a hell of a lot, too. I seem to have a blog example for almost every conversation these days. I wonder if people are tired of me saying, “Hey, I blogged about that a while ago…did you know…”

    Alison – For grocery store brand, Colavita seems pretty good. It has a nice flavour and the label says it’s from 100% Italian olives and it has a “Certified Authentic” thing on the label and it’s reasonably priced. And according to the New Yorker article, Leonardo Colavita is the president of ASSITOL, the olive-oil trade association and owner of the Colavita company. Of course it could still be mixed with motor oil or something. How do we know? Nancy’s olive oil seems reasonably priced, too — though I don’t know what it comes to after shipping. I’m going to check around and see if anyone has it on the shelf. Grace in the Kitchen on Bank Street has an amazing collection of oils, for instance — but they’re not cheap.

    Geewits – Didn’t your olive oil pass the Nancy test? Maybe when it runs out you can try another kind just to see? Maybe you can try Nancy’s? They must sell that in your neck of the woods. Mmmm olive spread. I wonder if they bastardize olives, too?

    Susan – I know, eh? That was very cool of her. We consume so much olive oil it would be nice to know we’re getting the good stuff. Like I mentioned before, I usually have a bottle around of premium oil and another bottle of everyday olive oil. I think I’ve chosen a good one (see my comment to Alison). I’m very suspicious of that President’s Choice olive oil, though. It looks fancy, but doesn’t taste like much.

    Elizabeth – OH, lucky, lucky you! I would love to own olive trees. What do you do with the fruit now?

    Lola – So the bottle you splurged on didn’t meet the standards outlined by Nancy? And ya, it would certainly be nice if people would just be honest and forthright in their business dealings instead of always trying to make a fast buck at all costs. But I’m so glad we got some expert input on this particular product. I feel much more confident buying olive oil now. Please let me know what you think of Nancy’s oil when you get a chance to taste it — do a review, on your blog, okay? I’ll link to it here, too.

  6. Thank you for being so kind and helping us to educate the public that when it comes to Extra Virgin Olive Oil it is truly “buyer beware”. We do not sell our product in stores only in our tasting rooms or from our website as we like to ensure the quality of the product. Once you start putting it in the hands of wholesalers you lose control of shelf life etc. Our goal is for every bottle purchased to always be the current harvest. If we have any oil left at the end of a season we use it in our farm equipment as bio diesel.
    If you are ever plan on being in the Temecula area please let me know. I will give you a tour of our grove.
    Kind regards,
    Nancy Curry- Temecula Olive Oil Company

  7. after my rant, I took a look at the bottle I purchased and it’s okay. I cooked for Dad & Brenda, my brother and my step siblings (as is my usual Tuesday) and it was very good. I’m hoping Nancy’s is over the top delicious! I’ll let you know in a post. Tonight we used olive oil for

    squash from a friend’s garden sliced, sparingly rubbed with olive oil, then baked flat with kosher salt, pepper, parmisan on top. 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so. I made a mountain of it and it was so good nothing was left.

    Also grape tomatoes cut in half tossed with olive oil, chives, bleu cheese, lemon, salt and pepper on boston lettuce.

    and the ye olde red potatoes sliced in chunks tossed with olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh rosemary. mmmmmhhh

    We also had italian black olives.

    We might be olived out, if that were possible…but it’s not.

  8. Ohh, I have to look into this. But the whole thing sounds like a commercial or marketing battle.
    In Spain things are pretty strict regarding olive oil labeling, production and processing and I very much doubt you’d get a bottle of Aceite extra virgen that hasn’t been processed the way it should be.
    Italy has been known to bottle Spanish olive oil and trying to pass it on as its own – there was a lot of noise about this because of European subsidies to olive growers. Apparently Italy was lying as to the number of olive groves, etc.
    Something similar happens with wine around here. When the grape harvest isn’t good enough in France, they mix their product with Spanish wine and vice versa. And it’s still sold as French wine or Spanish or Italian or whatever.
    So I guess there’s a lot of monkey business going on.
    Five star restaurants here now bring out an “olive oil tray” where you can try, savor and make your pick.
    I’d go for Spanish extra virgen olive oil all the way.

  9. I’d like to echo the comments about the artisanal olive oil producers in CA. Yes, we have our share of “big boys” with oils that end up in Trader Joes’s, but many of us are actually small producers that use old-world and sustainable methods, selling oil that is made from our own olives. Our company, Stella Cadente, is one of the older producers, and when we were founded, there were less than two dozen CA specialty oil producers, now there are over 350. We certify through the COOC (California Olive Oil Council) tasting panel, as well as with independent lab analysis to IOOC standards. We choose not to vertify USDA Organic as it is virtually impossible to pass this cost on to our consumers.

    As was noted earlier, knowing your producer is the best method to assure quality, be it vegetables, meats, dairy or olive oil. As a local Slow Food USA chapter leader and localization advocate, I recommend sourcing as locally as possible, while using the internet to search out true artisans for products not available in your local area. I would recommend sites such as Foodzie.com and American Feast.com. Their foragers seek out artisan producers and tell the story as well as selling the products.

    Thanks for raising these important issues for the consumer!

    Julia Conway
    Partner, Stella Cadente Olive Oil
    http://www.stellacadente.com