Before my son, James, went off to Army Basic Training yesterday he helped me conduct Olive Crazy’s first non-professional extra virgin olive oil taste test. Like true non-professionals we made up our own rules and had fun with it.
First we read over the lists of positive olive oil attributes and negative attributes aka defects that we gleaned from The Olive Oil Times. Then we decided to make up our own tasting terminology and to keep it simple – either it was a keeper or it was headed for the trash bin. If it was a keeper we distinguished the oils by the way we used them, and since James and I are the big olive oil users in the house we got to pick the words that best suited our needs, likes, and dislikes.
The keeper category was divided into three sub-categories based on how we cook and consume, not which we thought was better. We found some colored star stickers in a drawer and decided to use the colors to help us remember which oil was in which category.
A gold star was given for the stronger flavored oils that James and I tend to prefer. A silver star for those that were milder in flavor but had a lot of character. A blue star was given to the oils that we would use in everday cooking for ourselves and the other members of the Olive Crazy household. We put the stars on the bottles to help guide us whenever we prepared a dish. We usually have a lot of different types of extra virgin olive oils around the house so we definitely needed some sort of system.
The ‘destined for the trash bin’ category was not subdivided. If it didn’t smell or taste of fresh olives it didn’t deserve further acknowledgement.
Our extra virgin test subjects were the seven olive oils I just purchased from the California Olive Ranch: Limited Reserve, Everyday California, Arbequina, Arbosana, Miller’s Blend, Oroville Ranch, and Artois Ranch. I had some little disposable plastic cups and a big glass of water for each of us at the ready.
We warmed the oil in our hands by cradling one cup in the palm of one hand while covering the top of the cup with the other hand. I’m not sure if we were supposed to swirl or not but we did a little bit. It seemed the natural thing to do. We then stuck our noses into the cups and took big, deep sniffs. I showed James how to do strippaggio by sucking in the air along with the olive oil as it travels from the front to the back of the tongue. I am over zealous when I am strippaggioing and always end up choking myself on the oil flying around my mouth. James got lots of laughs out of Mom coughing on the oil which went up the back of my nose combined with the coughing at the bright peppery tang of most of the oils as I swallowed. I swear all that coughing felt like exercise.
After about a half an hour and some re-tasting I am proud to say that none of the California Olive Ranch EVOOs were trash bin worthy. Each oil had a beautiful aroma of fresh olives and while each was different, each was also delicious. Here are our very non-professional findings.
Gold Star (Stronger Flavor)
- Miller’s Blend – This was our favorite. It had a rich olive scent that smelled like broiled New York Strip steak. It was buttery, grassy, with a strong pepper finish. James and I agreed we would use this oil in all our cooking.
- Arbequina – The initial aroma was clean and light. After the milder scent we were surprised at the robust flavors of fruit and artichokes. It had a nice peppery finish. Again we would use this one for everything.
- Oroville Ranch – This olive oil isn’t on the California Olive Ranch website anymore. It had a light olive scent with a powerful, bold flavor and a big pepper punch. Wonderful.
Silver Star (More Complex Flavors)
- Arbosana – A light, fresh olive smell. The flavor was very distinctive unlike any of the other oils. We tasted strong fruit, nuts, and green vegetables. There wasn’t much pepper at the end. It was a favorite.
- Limited Reserve – A rich olive aroma. Sharp with a mixed green vegetables flavor. Had a great chewy feel. Lots of bold pepper going down the throat. Amazing.
Blue Star (Mild and Less Complex)
- Everyday California – Buttery, slight fruit but almost sweet. Some surprising pepper. I do use this extra virgin every single day.
- Artois Ranch – Like the Oroville Ranch it isn’t on the website any longer. This was by far the mildest of all the oils. Light aroma, less viscosity, very little pepper. An excellent all around olive oil and great for evoo beginners.
As you may have guessed the color of the stars doesn’t have anything to do with how good the olive oil is but with flavor categories. I just happened to have an abundance of stars in these three colors.
Taste testing these California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oils was a fun and interesting activity for a Mom and her now soldier son. Hooah!!
May the sun shine through your branches.