Many moons ago, I had the privilege of sitting under the shade of an enormous and ancient olive tree, near the banks of the Gardon River in the south of France. It was here that I started making mental notes on all the attributes of this wonderful plant.
Throughout the centuries, the humble olive has provided us with fruit, and a multitude of uses for olive oil both for cooking and cosmetic use,not to mention the benefits of olive leaf extract. Olive wood it both beautiful and practical, and olive trees have featured in many-an-art-work from artists like Van Gough and Dali.
Lately, we have seen a barrage of headlines regarding the distribution of non-authentic olive oil around the world. It seems that when you buy olive oil in the shops, the odds of getting what’s on the label, aren’t so great…especially if that oil is coming from the EU.
Although our Aussie producers need to conform with tight standards and regulations, the EU is not so rigorous in making sure that everything is above board. Imported oils are being sold as Extra Virgin, but are found to be adulterated with canola or sunflower oil, or olive seeds. And if you read the headlines, it seems that producers are becoming more creative with the list of cheap additives to olive oil.
So what can you do about it? Well firstly, try and buy local. It may seem to be a little more expensive, but at least you know you are getting what you paid for..and you’re supporting local farmers. At H&T Kitchen, we like to use oil from Kewstoke Olive Estate. It is a small, family-run olive farm, about 200km north of Melbourne. If you have an opportunity to sit down and speak with Charlie (the owner) he is more than happy to detail the rigorous lengths he goes to to gain certification for his Extra Virgin olive oil.
Secondly, if you have any doubts about the origins of your Extra Virgin olive oil, place a small jar of it in the fridge, pure olive oil will turn grainy.
Here, I have taken a photo of my Chilli Olive Oil. Initially, the beads of solidified oil were quite small, such that the oil appeared cloudy. With time, the beads of oil have grown and the oil has become quite lumpy.
NOTE: this process does not affect the flavour of the oil. It will return normal when left at room temperature.