I’ve been in the olive oil business for more than 25 years, so I’ve got olive oil in my blood. And one of the many things I enjoy about my job is teaching people about extra virgin olive oil - and how to taste the oil. An important factor that influences taste is the particular olive used to make the oil. That’s the topic I’ll focus on in coming posts.
To begin, it’s worth remembering that extra virgin olive oil is similar to wine in key ways. Like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, which are named for their grape varietals, our Arbequina and Arbosana extra virgin olive oils are named for the olives we crush to make the oils.
Hundreds of different olive varietals grow around the world. Different olives - like different wine grapes - have different flavor profiles. And like wine grapes, the land - or soil conditions - can play a key role in the flavor and complexity of the finished product. Finally, just like some wines are a blend of grapes, our Miller’s Blend oil is a combination of Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki olives.
Today I’ll focus on the Arbequina olive. It’s our largest olive variety and accounts for 80 percent of the olives we grow. The Arbequina olive hails originally from Catalonia, in Spain. It produces more delicate, fruity oil than the more robust Arbosana and Koroneiki olives.
The trees are relatively small, but produce plenty of beautiful olives. It has weeping branches when full of fruit. Also, the hearty Arbequina olive resists frost well.
Our own Arbequina olives from last fall’s harvest were excellent. The harvest season was a complete success, and the farming operations team did an incredible job of getting the freshest fruit possible to the mill. Our Arbequina oil from the 2012 harvest is very complex with a medium nose, medium floral and fruit profile on the tongue, followed by a slight hint of pepper at the finish. (The oil, by the way, won a silver at this year's California Olive Oil Council competition.)
Arbequina goes well drizzled over meats to bring out their intense flavors. It’s great in salad dressings and pesto. (Click here to see blog post about pairing delicate oils like Arbequina with different foods.)
We also recommend using Arbequina for baking, particularly when substituting olive oil for butter in baked goods. We like it in brownies and in pound cake.
And we’ve used it to make fabulous ice cream. For a really easy treat: Drizzle it on good French vanilla ice cream along with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. You won’t be disappointed!