Jan 292014
 
I hope I get a good grade cuz I want to wear this great hat.

I hope I get a good grade cuz I want to wear this great hat.

Ever since returning from San Francisco where I attended the Italian National Olive Oil Tasting School (O.N.A.O.O.) mini-class I’ve been looking into different published sources on sensory and chemical evaluation of olive oil. Articles are abundant, but I’ve never before stumbled upon a U.S. student paper on the subject (more on the paper in a few paragraphs).

Olive oil quality and the health benefits of olive oil are definitely top issues these days. Not only do professionals disagree on many aspects surrounding what determines quality and health value, but the testing of quality and content are major battlegrounds. This lack of agreement and coordination, which is due to territoriality and money-making, causes confusion in the general population. Most certainly the losers in all this are the consumers of olive oil since they are being bombarded with a plethora of inaccurate, biased and sensational information ranging from ‘what constitutes extra virgin olive oil’ to ‘the higher the phenolic content the better the olive oil.’

A great example of the quality-confusion messaging comes from the New York Times in a slideshow entitled “Extra Virgin Suicide.” While the infographics are kind of cool they are also dangerously simplistic, using inaccurate and incorrect data to support the activities depicted in the final few slides.

Yes, some olive oil is adulterated (mixed with non-olive oils). Yes, olive oil from other countries is milled and then bottled in Italy. Yes, some extra virgin olive oils are mixed with inferior olive oils. No, the Italian police do not regularly raid refineries. No, the price of olive oil has little to do with any of the actions described in the slides, but is part of a complicated bigger picture.

There IS a problem with quality but there is a worse problem with correctly educating consumers and the general public. Why? Because you get the paper below, an example of what will pass into the world of publications to be found on the internet as facts regarding the health benefits of phenolic compounds in olive oil.

Yes, the phenols found in virgin olive oils provide health benefits in humans, but the only strong evidence involves eating unrefined olive oil in combination with certain foods, hence The Mediterranean Diet. The evidence that higher concentrations of phenolic compounds in olive oil are better for people does not exist (if there is such a study, I invite you to send it to me). What I found most interesting about this paper is the assumption that higher phenolic content equals greater sensory appeal and by default better health value.

Here is where I present the paper mentioned in the title. It is called Quality of Olive Oils Available Locally: Chemical, Sensory and Market Investigations and is by Madeleine M. Gould, a B.S. Nutrition student at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Abstract link

Paper link

After reading this paper I found that I could not fault the student for her assumptions since there is so much incorrect information out there. However, I do place blame elsewhere. I place it squarely on the shoulders of the scientists who fudge the data that places their ‘miracle’ food on grocery shelves. I blame the olive oil producer that sends tons of rotted fruit through the mill and instead of refining it and selling it as ordinary olive oil adds coloring agents. I blame the ambitious naifs whose conceit and greed leads them to blindly blunder about altering political and economic landscapes just enough to allow all those who wish ill to shove a foot in the door. I blame those who by action or inaction promote olive oil fraud.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Sep 112012
 

I was at the local “big box” store purchasing school supplies for my youngest son. While traversing the aisles I passed an angry man arguing with a sales clerk. “I want what I bought, damn it” he hollered. I feel your pain buddy, I thought.

Was this man’s sentiment reasonable? I didn’t know, yet without knowing the circumstances surrounding his complaint, I was immediately sympathetic. Why? Because this is how I feel each time I place an item in my shopping cart. I too want what I bought – damn it!

This morning I read an article from the National Journal entitled Why a Lobbying Fight Broke Out Over Olive Oil. It evoked in me that visceral acrimony most of us feel when we or those we care about are wronged. I felt cheated – again, by those same folks who are perpetually cheating us purchasers of olive oil.

Here’s the bulletized back story to the article from the National Journal.

  • Scientific evidence and sensory evaluation proved that both adulterated (fake) olive oil and low-quality olive oil are posing as extra virgin (an actual legal designation) and are currently residing on your grocery shelf.
  • This stuff, which is not what you or I paid for, is being sold around the world to unsuspecting consumers.
  • The sellers of this stuff are major companies who know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and don’t care.
  • These major companies exercise control by making up the voting and decision-making membership on most European regulatory, standards, and trade organizations.
  • They laugh at us while smoking their big cigars and sipping their grappa. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
  • United States olive growers and extra virgin olive oil producers got mad and decided to take action against this organized mob by developing a set of voluntary standards for themselves. This set of standards is called a marketing order and it only applies to olive oil producers from the United States – no one else.
  • Who could object to a US industry’s desire to self-regulate for the benefit of consumers? The same creeps that are controlling the non-regulation, non-standards, non-enforcement in Europe, that’s who.
  • In the United States the “creeps” operate through the North American Olive Oil Association, a trade association for olive oil importers. Not all olive oil importers are bad guys, but Olive Crazy is throwing the baby out with the bath water. They know what their colleagues are up to.
  • When the US olive growers and olive oil producers decided to regulate themselves, the membership of the NAOOA launched an attack campaign and created another fakery. They set up a group called the Alliance for Olive Oil Quality Standards. A rose by any other name … Now substitute for ‘rose’ a word depicting the smelly product of digestive elimination … Yup, that’s what I mean.
  • The Alliance for Olive Oil Quality Standards spent $80,000.00 to hire a powerful, Washington DC lobbying firm to coerce, with dinners and campaign contributions, the members of the United States Congress to kill the US olive growers and olive oil producers attempt to regulate their own industry. Why?
  • They don’t want us to get what we bought.
  • Damn it!!!!!!!

If you are sick of not getting what you bought then please take the advice of this lowly olive and olive oil enthusiast/champion of consumers everywhere/champion of all producers of great olive oil, and buy your olive oil from olive oil producers in your own country. Folks that you have learned to know and trust. Here are three of my current favorites in the United States:

The Olive Press (California)

California Olive Ranch (California)

Georgia Olive Farms (Georgia). Please note, they have a small grove and are sold out, but will have more evoo available later this fall or in the early winter. It’s great and it goes fast.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Georgia Discusses Proposed Olive Oil Marketing Order This Week in Tifton, GA

 Farming & Gardening, Georgia, Marketing, Olive Oil Standards, Seminars, USDA  Comments Off on Georgia Discusses Proposed Olive Oil Marketing Order This Week in Tifton, GA
Apr 072012
 

I want to pass on another great bit of information about an olive business event in Georgia that is happening THIS WEEK.

Members of the fledgling US east coast olive growing and olive oil producing industries have the chance to participate in a “business-changing” event with global implications. If you are already involved or even thinking about becoming involved in growing olives for olive oil production or are interested in just the olive oil production side of the business you must attend the presentation and discussion of the proposed federal olive oil marketing order.

This important presentation and discussion will be held on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the University of Georgia’s, National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory (NESPAL) Building, 2356 Rainwater Road, Tifton, GA 31793.

If you plan to attend, please contact  Beth Oleson, Executive Director of the Georgia Olive Growers Association, by email at georgiaolivegrowers@asginfo.net or by phone at (706) 845-9085.

There is supposed to be a Google Map to the location just beneath these words but I noticed that sometimes I need to refresh my webpage to see the map. In case the map doesn’t show up or refresh doesn’t work, I added a link to the map in the address just above.


View Larger Map

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Olive Crazy Is Still Flogging the Subject of Olive Oil Tasting

 Cooking & Eating, Sensory Evaluation, Taste Test  Comments Off on Olive Crazy Is Still Flogging the Subject of Olive Oil Tasting
Feb 272012
 

Years ago I was part of a small group of Georgia Legislators invited to attend a few scotch tastings hosted by adult beverage giant Diageo. I have been a fan of good scotch since I was allowed, at age eighteen (legal age in Georgia in the 70’s) to sample some of my Dad’s scotch collection.

At these scotch tastings I learned that I had a gift for detecting and identifying the flavors that made up each scotch. Of course I was at that time, and still am, untrained so I had to associate some flavors and smells with things I recognized. My favorite association was what I named ‘old Bandaid’. Some levels of peat smoke actually smell like the Bandaid brand adhesives from my childhood. Bandaids don’t have that distinctive odor any longer, but I was with a group of people who were my age or older and they understood what I meant.

Both of my parents were very sensory oriented. You could often find Mom sticking her nose up to a fresh cut pine board or Dad running his hands across the stones of a rock wall. After a childhood of watching them do this and feeling embarrassed by their naked admiration for the physical world, I turned into them.

Even though I won’t be becoming a professional olive oil taster, for reasons explained in my article yesterday, at home I carefully taste each bottle of extra virgin olive oil I open. I run through a mental checklist of what I am tasting and if it’s not defective I decide how I might use the oil in my cooking. As I explained in an article from last week, if the oil is defective, it goes straight into the trash bin. Why buy food that is fresh and increasingly more expensive and ruin it with a nasty oil? There is no compellingly reason to do that.

Tasting olive oil is different from tasting alcohol-based beverages. The alcohol in scotch, wine, or other spirits seems to act more like a vehicle for the smells and flavors, transporting them to your senses. With olive oil the taster has to do the transporting him or her self by employing strippaggio. The flavors do not seem to ‘bloom’ well unless strippaggio is employed. The easy way to find this out is to place a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in your mouth and just swallow. What did you taste? Could you identify any flavors? Then place a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in your mouth and from the front of the tongue begin to suck in air as the oil coats your mouth all the way to the back of your tongue, then swallow. Ask yourself again – what did you taste and could you identify any flavors? The answer will be yes. By the way the air sucking thing you just did is strippaggio.

Thanks to writing about olives and olive oil, and to making my tasting opinions known to all and sundry, my friends and family have ordained me an olive oil tasting expert. If they have some olive oil in the cabinet, they will present me with it and ask me to taste it. If its not labelled extra virgin or already opened then I get to say no. If it is labelled extra virgin and unopened then I feel honor bound to give it a go.

This past weekend I was in Savannah and popped over to my friend, Carol’s, house with a bottle of wine. We drank and chatted and she invited me back for breakfast the next morning before I headed back home. After breakfast Carol said, “Oh. I almost forgot. Someone gave me a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and I want you to tell me if its any good.” I gave her a little speech about the things I might be able to detect and the things I might not. She thrust the bottle at me.

We carefully read the labelling on the front and back: EVOO – Rachel Ray – Product of Italy – Expiration date in 2013 – Colavita … I grabbed a tablespoon and poured. I cupped my hands around the spoon and waited until it had warmed some, smelled, then tasted. The smell was oily which didn’t bode well. Then I had a tasting experience that confused me. It confused me so much that I forgot until almost too late to chase it with a caramel or peppermint.

The oil was greasy and rancid, but had a lot of pepper in the back of the throat. What did that mean? I didn’t think it was possible for such defects as greasy and rancid to be present along with a positive attribute – pepper. If you know, please tell me.

I got a piece of candy in time to keep from getting sick and unceremoniously said, “Chuck it!” I chewed my caramel and hit the road. Goodbye Carol. Goodbye Savannah. Good riddance Rachel Ray EVOO.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Feb 262012
 

My engineer/chemist husband periodically goes for training to up his game and believes I should do the same. After all, the world of olives and olive oil is not just fun, it’s very technical. Since last year Mr. Olive Crazy has been trying to get me to go to an olive oil tasting class, and I have managed to come up with an excuse each time.

First there was the Olive Oil Sensory Class in Paso Robles, California last fall. I made up some lame excuse about it being out of the way, but then got really sick so I got out of that one.

Then there was the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva’s (ONAOO) Olive Oil Tasting Course in English which was held last November in Imperia, Italy. I had the week off from everything, including the kids, and Mr. Olive Crazy insisted I attend. I muttered something about laundry and being tired. There was no laundry and I wasn’t tired, but he bought it.

Now there’s the Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil Course on March 30th and 31st at the University of California, Davis campus. The only conceivable excuse I have is that the Georgia Legislature might be in Session on March 30th, but that’s not likely. I guess I must ‘fess up and reveal “My Dark Secret”.

I am terrified. I know that sounds crazy but bear with me here. Look closely at the description for the lecture and tasting that will take place at 10:45 am on March 30th. I even highlighted the thing that scares me.

Lecture: What is Olive Oil; How Olive Oil is Made; Effects of Processing on Oil Flavor; Classic Olive Oil Defects and Positive Attributes.Tasting: What Makes an Oil Extra Virgin (6 oils to taste).
Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties

I have a finely-honed gag reflex, and I know what will happen if I taste a nasty olive oil. Yup – that.

Thanks to those pregnancies two decades ago, I can now barf on command, and the command comes from my brain. Describe something nasty to me – barf! Point out the squashed animal in the road – barf! Make me taste and swallow something fusty, moldy, grubby, greasy, rancid, muddy, or metallic – barf!

I am a little sad that I can’t play with all the other folks who taste and judge numerous olive oils for fun and profit, but I most certainly will continue to carefully check the flavors of each extra virgin olive oil that I buy. I just won’t share with you my physical reaction to a bad olive oil other than I pitched it in the trash.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com