Harvest Time for Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fall is upon us, harvest time. While for many, this time of year conjures up the scents of burning leaves, apple pie, and pumpkin spice everything, for me it invokes that very distinct smell of grapes fermenting into wine (freshly stomped and pressed right in my parents’ garage, while bees and fruit flies swarm), the smell of wet earth and the fruity, aromatic scent of fresh olives being pressed into the pure liquid gold that is extra virgin olive oil.
I often get asked, which olive oil is best for this versus that. Funnily enough, growing up first generation Italian-American, there was no question. You simply used what you had in the house. And you only had one thing in the house — extra virgin olive oil. You’re making a cake? Extra virgin olive oil. Frying peppers? Extra virgin olive oil. Making Sunday sauce and need to braise the meat? Extra virgin olive oil. You need to preserve and jar veggies? Extra virgin olive oil.
I vividly remember being about five years old, as my mom cooked dinner she would send me down into the basement with a long fork and plate to get a little something we could munch as an antipasto. As I went down the basement stairs, to the right was a long, dark curtain, behind it was a treasure trove of goodies. Glass jars lined up like soldiers in all different colors filled with pickled or preserved veggies: red tomatoes, yellow & green zucchini, purple eggplant. Among all the glass though, there was one, gigantic, terracotta pot with a precariously placed stainless steel pot lid on top. Inside was about 4 gallons of extra virgin olive oil and several inches below the oil was a plethora of dry-cured, delicious ‘sauizziza’ and sopressata (Calabrian sausages). The sausages used to hang above our heads in the garage, during the curing process, but now they resided in this beautiful pot of liquid gold that preserved all their dry-cured goodness indefinitely or until my mother sent me to get some.
So when asked the question, “Which kind of oil?’, you guessed it, the answer is always extra virgin. I’m well aware that about a thousand different professionals and chefs would argue about smoking points and flavor profiles and what you should use when, but this was just my experience growing up, and because of it, I crave the fruity, intense and often times peppery taste of extra virgin olive oil. I also appreciate and understand my family’s method of ‘choosing the right oil’ wasn’t based on running into the local market to pick up a bottle of the shelf, rather when they procured their olive oil, they did so at harvest time via their very own olive trees, or via their local small agricultural co-op, or a friend who had olive trees, or a friend of a friend who had olive trees who in turn picked and took them to the “frantoio” to be pressed. That’s the good stuff. This ensures quality far superior that the mass-produced type.
I’m so proud and grateful to be able to do what I do, to be able to procure a 100% ITALIAN UNFLITERED EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL that was cold-pressed from fruit that was grown and harvested about 20 minutes from where our hometown of Altomonte, Calabria (Italy) and to be able to import it into the USA to share and educate and most importantly let you TASTE it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I love sharing my heritage and passion for slow food with you all, thanks for reading, I hope to find you in my store soon ripping into a loaf of our crusty Italian bread and savoring it with our Calabrian Olive Oil. Salute e Cent’anni!