madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking

good olive oil

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This post is dedicated to my friend Morgana who lost her house in Melbourne’s fires last Saturday. Coraggio Morgana!

our baby production of wonderful Extra Virgin Umbrian olive oil

our baby production of wonderful Extra Virgin Umbrian olive oil

The definition of what is a good olive oil has changed a lot over the last decades in Italy.

In the past, the majority of Italians were poor farmers and lived on a simple diet of grains, pulses and vegetables.  In the Center and South of Italy, people used as much olive oil as they could afford to increase the  caloric content of their food. Therefore,  they preferred their oil to be rather bland and cooked it for a long time or at high temperatures so that none of its flavor was left.

To date, most of the big-brand olive oils that are  sold in the world are designed to have a bland taste. This is expected to please those users who are not acquainted with the relatively strong flavor of olive oil. Even though these oils are sold as extra virgin, they are obtained by mixing mass produced oils of various origins, especially from Spain and Greece. The label “imported from Italy” or “bottled in Italy” does not mean you are buying a high quality Italian extra virgin oil.

Olive oils that are not virgin – e.g. light olive oil or pure olive oil – are obtained by mixing virgin oils and chemically refined oils. As the refinement process involves the use of solvents like hexane, I really cannot find any good reasons for using these oils in cooking. Of course, there should be no residues of solvents, but I’d rather buy a product obtained with mechanical means such as the extra virgin.

I mean, I do not have to buy olive oil, because we produce it. However, until we produce enough to be able to actually sell it, I promise I will tell you how to buy a good extra virgin. Soon.

Update: from November 2011 we’ll actually be able to sell our wonderful oil, drop me a line if you are interested!

Author: madonnadelpiatto

Former scientist, I now run B&B and cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy, together with my husband Ruurd, daughter Tea and truffle dog Google. We love good food and wine, travel, beautiful handicrafts like textiles and pottery. We feel fortunate to be able to share our magical mountain with many friends from all over the world.

4 thoughts on “good olive oil

  1. Thankyou for your dedication and kind words. Sometimes in times of great tragedy and loss, we reach out to strangers across the world as a source of comfort and relief. Your site a reminder of the joys of simple things that sustain life- the joy of olive growing and cooking with the best olive oil, and the sustenance provided by cooking with good ingredients. Our olive trees in Saint Andrews may come back with the seasons- we will see. I look forward to your future stories very much.

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  2. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s loss — the fires in Australia are absolutely horrible, devestating. I hope Morgana will be alright.

    This is a very interesting post, Letizia. I’ve learned a lot from you (and your classes!) about telling good olio from ordinary or simply bad! In fact, I’m planning to take my own olive oil when I visit my family in Alberta later this month because I’d like to cook for them and I know I won’t be able to find good oil in their area. (just bottles and bottles of cheap, bland knock-offs.)

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  3. Ciao Sandra, thanks again for the wonderful stories about Umbria! May be in Alberta someone does sell good olive oil. Hopefully, after you family has tried the good stuff, they will go out and search for that magic bottle.

    Morgana, in Italy they say that olive trees never die. Their roots are so deep in the soil, that even upon damage to the aerial part, the plants re-vegetate after a while. A real symbol of hope.

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  4. Pingback: extra virgin, “Italian” is not enough « madonna del piatto

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