Jun 132013

Thanks to climate change growing olives for olive oil is spreading quickly. Along with the commercial growing of olives is the need for trained millers.

If you want your olives to have a fighting chance to be bottled and sold as extra virgin olive oil you have less than 24 hours to mill your olives. Of course, there are many other factors to this simplistic formula, BUT I know where you can go to learn all about milling olive oil properly and well.

The University of California at Davis is conducting its 2013 Master Milling Short Course October 3rd through 5th. The instructor is a fantastic miller, Leandro Ravetti.

Leandro is among the world’s top experts in olive oil production.   He is the technical director of Australia’s Boundary Bend Limited whose success is guided by thorough economic, chemical and sensory analysis to maximize production efficiency and oil quality. Leandro’s expertise guides Boundary Bend to top awards at international olive oil competitions.

Here is the link to the course. Don’t forget to sign up early so you can take advantage of the discount.

Also, check out the new UC Davis “Survey of Consumer Attitudes on Olive Oil.” The information is great.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Nov 132012

The International Olive Council awarded a perfect score to the olive oil taste testers (sensory panel) at the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

This is quite a big deal. People who ‘taste’ olive oil for a living must be able to make very subtle distinctions among the flavors and sensations present in olive oil, and this is very difficult to do.

This past July I attended the introduction to olive oil tasting and the master-level sensory evaluation courses at the University of California at Davis. The auditorium full of students, including me, spent days listening to lectures, taking notes, and tasting many olive oils. The lectures were in Italian and were translated by Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers Fine Wine and Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store in Sacramento, California.

Until I took these courses, I had no idea how tough it is to correctly evaluate olive oils. The main things that a sensory panel are looking for are defects in the oils. The defects are a very specific list. Here are some of the more common defects and a link to the list from the Olive Oil Times: Fusty, Musty, Muddy Sediment, Winey-Vinegary, Metallic, and Rancid. There are other defects which are less common but problematic none-the-less.

So why is it that defects are what a sensory panel is really looking for? As our Italian teachers told us, if there is a defect then there is no point in continuing a sensory evaluation. The oil can never be designated as a virgin olive oil and must be sent for refining to be used as a lower grade oil know as lampante (lamp oil) or tossed out.

While you are looking at the link above provided by the Olive Oil Times, take note of the positive attributes. Maybe you have noticed some of these when you taste your extra virgin olive oil. If you haven’t, give it a try, and don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t distinguish the flavors because it is very difficult to do. People who taste-test olive oil professionally take continuous courses to stay on track. I was only moderately good at this and will never sit on a sensory panel. One thing I can do, is tell that there is a defect present, I’m just not good at identifying the defect.

Many congratulations to the Wagga Wagga sensory panel on a perfect score. You have Olive Crazy’s deep admiration.

Wagga sensory panel obtains perfect score in olive oil test | Southern Cross

May the sun shine through your branches.


Oct 112012
Frantoio Grove extra virgin olive oil from November 2011 harvest.

Last week I was given a bottle of olive oil by one of my classmates, Jeff Martin. Jeff is the owner of Frantoio Grove in Gilroy, California and was also attending the two milling courses held at UC Davis taught by Pablo Canamasas of Australia’s Boundary Bend. I met Jeff during a class break in front of the Alfa Laval table. Alfa Laval sells olive milling and other heat transfer equipment.

The Alfa Laval rep, who I had met this past summer at the UC Davis olive oil tasting courses I attended, remembered that the oil from the Frantoio cultivar/variety of olives is my favorite. Yada yada. I had a bottle of Frantoio Grove to bubble wrap and check through on my flight from Sacramento to Atlanta.

There was no expectation on Jeff’s part that I would like the oil or even write about it. I have tasted lots of oils and have had nothing to say about them.

Two days after I got home I invited my friend Eva over to sample the oil with me. I grabbed a couple of little plastic cups and poured some for each of us. I gave Eva a little lesson in olive oil tasting. We placed the cups in the palm of one hand and then covered the top of the cup with the other. We warmed the oil with our hands while gently circulating the oil in the cup.

We stuck our noses in the cups and sniffed. Both of us making sounds of delight. The scents were herbaceous and floral. Herbaceous usually indicates an early harvest and floral a later harvest, but both scents were definitely there. We each took a sip. I tried to do the strippaggio, which is a special tooth-sucking action that adds some oxygen to the oil while coating part of the mouth and enhances any attributes or defects in the oil. I’m not good at strippaggioing and made Eva laugh. She tried it too and did much better than me.

The oil was mellow with a little bit of a sting at the back of the throat. The sting is a good thing.

Jeff’s Frantoio Grove single cultivar extra virgin olive oil is an oil that is easy to use. I have enjoyed it on everything from the morning eggs and biscuits to the evening rice, pork chops and green beans. It’s a versatile olive oil. It adds character to a meal, but doesn’t overpower it.

Here is a link to Jeff’s online store. As usual, here is my disclaimer – nope, I’m not making any money from your purchase of Jeff’s olive oil.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Oct 102012

Last week Olive Crazy went back to California. This time for two olive milling and olive oil production courses taught by Pablo Canamasas at the University of California at Davis. Pablo is the oil production technical manager at Boundary Bend Limited, which is Australia’s largest olive oil producer. Boundary Bend is owned by Cobram Estate and has many grove locations in the country.

I enjoyed the introductory course, but was very pleased with the detail in the advanced milling course. Pablo is a wonderful teacher.

The Olive Center at the University made available to the students the Olive to Bottle mobile mill as a process and equipment viewing aid. I took a short video for you and edited out the sound since the mill was in partial action and was loud. This is my virgin upload to YouTube. There is room for improvement but I’m not unhappy with the result.

The main thing missing in the video is the oil coming out at the end. The olive paste was still very dry and the oil had not yet been released. When you see the open metal grid with the auger churning, that is the dry olive paste. The millers are adding enzymes (brown liquid in the plastic cup) to break down the pectins and water (the hose) as processing aids. The stuff bubbling in the tube at the end into the yellow bins is some of the separated water. It was stinky.

The coffin-like piece of equipment is the decanter. It is a centrifuge which separates the oil from the water and the paste. It is a fascinating device made even more fascinating because you can’t actually see what’s going on inside. The miller must use his or her experience to intuit all that’s happening in there.

The olives that are being milled are early harvest Arbequinas. The smell coming off the bin was rich and inviting. I can still remember the scent.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Sep 132012

The University of California at Davis is hosting two olive oil milling courses this October and I have signed up. The first course, Introduction to Olive Oil Milling, will be held on October 4, 2012. The second course, Advanced Olive Oil Milling, will be held on October 5 and 6, 2012. Both will be taught at the UC Davis Conference Center.

The instructor is Pablo Canamasas, the oil production technical manager at Boundary Bend Limited, which is Australia’s largest olive oil producer. Boundary Bend is owned by Cobram Estate.

Here is the link to registration and the agenda for each day. I hope to see you there.

May the sun shine through your branches.