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Olive oil bubble variations

Photo courtesy of fdecomite(CC Attribution)

     Though there are many “connoisseurs” who are only interested in Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO), what really makes the industry impressive and ‘modern’ is the now wide range of flavored oils that increase the potential in the kitchen virtually infinitely. Today, you can taste flavors all across the board from the rather conventional Sorrento lemon olive oil going up to Smoky Bacon (only in America). 

     Now the question many ask, to keep in line with knowledge and health, is how do these products get their rich and distinct flavors? Is it safe? Are there chemicals involved? Anything artificial?

 Is it natural? 

     We are glad to say that you can consume flavor infused oils and vinegars knowing that everything that went into the production process is naturally based and these methods have been used for a very long time. (though, maybe not the bacon)

     Again, taking away a trailblazing medal from the 21st century, infusing olive oil has been a practice that Greeks have been doing for much longer. The resulting prize, in addition to flavoring the oil, was to preserve the herbs in the process. 

    The premium method of infusing olive oil used today is called ‘Agrumato’ which is Italian for ‘crushed’. This method was originally developed in the Abruzzo region of Italy and was primarily done with citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons. 

“Farmers of the Abruzzo region would create a limited amount of very special Agrumato oil that they would give as gifts to family and friends. The process is tedious and more expensive than just producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and recipients would cherish this truly remarkable gift. To make Agrumato oil, they must gather the best handpicked olives along with locally grown and perfectly ripe fresh citrus fruit, and then crush and press them simultaneously in their “Frantoio”/mill to produce oils with flavor profiles that perfectly match the source fruit, herb or bulb. For the best Agrumato oils, it would not be unusual to find that 20% by weight of the total crush was citrus fruit. The exact ratios will vary based on the plant product being used, the degree of ripeness, as well as varietal and seasonal factors.”

    

The Olive Orchard by Vincent van Gogh

Photo courtesy of cliff1066™(CC Attribution)

     The process involves crushing both the added fruits with the oils, as much as 20% by weight of the desired flavor, and simultaneously extracting the essential oils of both at once leaving the rind and seeds to be discarded with the pomace of the oil. 

    The other popular method that produces intense flavors and agreeable results is a natural additive blend, where an oleoresin or essential oil extract is blended with the olive oil. Oleoresin is a heavier but still viscous compound similar to what an essential oil is. 

   The final method is classified as ‘Infusion’, and is the least desirable method that often involves using heat to extract flavors from the plant and the resulting product has a much less concentrated flavor. 

    The first  two methods produce the most consistent flavors and results. One key takeaway is to be aware that

Once you infuse an oil with a flavor, it is no longer and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

     Even though, it is no longer qualified as an extra virgin olive oil, the quality of both the oil and the condiment (fruit, orange, basil, etc.) will reflect the merit of the final product. 

    What are you thinking now? Oven-roasted Rosemary olive oil potatoes? Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce? Carolina Kale Greens with Sweet Potatoes and Bacon Dressing (wink, wink, this one!)

     A simple google search or a Pinterest regarding whatever flavor you’re curious about will bear ideas and launching points for all dishes and cuisines. May you now have a little more insight into how flavors are added to the oil and we always encourage experimentation to find out what are the best combinations and new dishes to discover.  

Take Care, and Enjoy

Reference Links

Greeks Infusing Oil

Uses of Gourmet Olive Oil and Vinegar

Agrumato Style Oils

Infusing Extra Virgin Olive Oils

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