Author Archives: Ann Sievers

What’s the Buzz at Il Fiorello!

 

QUEEN BEES AT IL Fiorello

Rick Schubert of Bee Happy Apiaries and Ms. Brittany Dye, Ms. Queen Bee, have honored us with Queens. We should all be wearing crowns in honor of our most royal guests.
bees01

We have 1144 queens in 286 nuc boxes, meaning the Queens are in their own boxes four to a box with their colony surrounding them. The bee hives are all different colors for identification of who owns the bees, what size is the box, and light colors for heat reflection. Some bee keepers paint their hives with letters and pictures for fun and to help the bees identify their home, like little different landing pads. Brittany tells me these bees’ ancestors are originally from Iran, named Carnolian bees. They are known to be gentle and produce tasty honey. These bees are here for Queen propagation, not honey. But lots of honey is coming in the next stage.

This is just an amazing opportunity to see nature at work. It is so fun to watch the dance of the bees.

Come on over and taste olive oils, wines, and see the bees. What an extraordinary experience. We will be having bee classes when all the buzzing settles down. Brittany will teach us all about bees, and Sue Langstaff, Applied Sensory Co. will buzz us through the UC Davis Honey wheel and a sweet honey taste extravaganza.

bees04HOLY BEES KNEES!

Watch for updates on our Facebook page for the latest buzz. We will be posting pictures as the bees grow and the Queens become royal members at IL Fiorello.

 

 

 

 

 

TO PRUNE OR NOT TO PRUNE OR HOW TO PRUNE

Pruning olive trees is an art, an acquired and learned art.  Each and every person who prunes trees has their own best way, and of course it works for them. Consult an expert to help you get started or have them prune your whole grove with you. But here is some basic guidance on pruning.

Prune in the spring after the danger of frost is over, or we hope it is over.

An Italian saying is that “you should prune an olive tree so that a swallow can fly through without touching its wings”.  The inside of the tree must have sun and air to prevent the branches from harboring mold and scale.

Prune from the top down or the bottom up. Either way, prune so there are no branches touching the ground, and prune so that you can reach the top without using extra high ladders.  Prune so that you can reach the top of the tree while spraying for olive fly. If you have a 30 foot tree and spray from the ground for olive fly you will not reach the top olives and your spraying will be ineffective.

Remember that every branch that produced olives this year will not produce again. So protect the offshoots that will bear olives for the coming year.  An off shoot is the perpendicular sprout from a main branch.  A few other tips:

  • Only prune less than 1/3 of any tree each year.
  • Cut out the wispy inside branches that are counterproductive to fruit production. Clear the inside of the tree so light and wind reaches the center of the tree.
  • Prune the crossing branches so as to prevent rubbing and injury to the branch. Your goal is to have three to five main branches from the main trunk.
  • Keep your shears clean especially if you have any olive knot on older trees. This prevents contamination to other trees in the grove.
  • Keep your shears clean and lubricated to help protect your hand function. Carpel tunnel syndrome or just plain aching hands is not fun.
  • Feed the trees in the spring after pruning.

If you are unsure, always consult an expert, someone who has years of experience and is willing to teach you their art and craft.

before and after pruning

The Health Blog

HEALTH AND OLIVE OIL

Recently two articles have garnered the intense interest of the public. A dietary recommendations article and an article on cancer. Both having to do in part with olive oil. First and foremost, human nutrition is very complicated, and it is a very difficult research to undertake. Let me briefly tell you about each article and its potential impact on health. Following my 35 year career in health care and oncology, I find these publications of particular interest in the business I am now running, producing really good olive oil and utilizing sustainable agriculture.

avo

FATS

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

This group has recently published a document about the amount and type of fats each person should eat. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee with the Health and Human Services Department have changed some of the fat requirement amounts that are allowed. In discussions with a dietician colleague, she says to remember that “fat is your friend”.   Although fat often gets a bad rap, it is one of the essential elements in the human diet dedicated to providing energy  and fuel for the body.

Here are my comments:
Comment number 1: They are still saying total fat should be lower. Unsaturated fats, in our case Olive Oil, is still preferential to saturated fats (animal fat).

Comment number 2: They are still saying that processed,precooked, and packaged foods are BAD. They are much too high in saturated fats (bad fats), salt, and sugars.

Comment number 3: Cook good food and eat food with color such as dark green, bright orange, and yellow; NOT just white food.

Comment number 4: Eat more vegetables and fruits than meats and seafood.

Comment number 5: It is all in the balance.  Th “Mediterranean diet” (or as I like to call it, a subsistence diet) is a plant based diet that is balanced with good lean protein in small amounts and real extra virgin olive oil.  This coupled with exercise creates a healthy balance.

Remember, human nutrition is very complicated.

 CANCER

In a recent article out of Australia by authors, LeGend, Breslin, and Fostera that was posted online Jan 2015, in the journal, Molecular and Cellular Oncology, the authors state that  oleocanthal, a chemical found in olive oil, will kill cancer cells. Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization. (LMP).

This is NOT a human nutrition research study. This is a study of human cancer cell lines in the lab. This is a bench lab study. But indeed, the results are very interesting and promising.

The take home message is not to take this interesting research out of context. Cancer research is very complicated and may take 5-10 years to even begin to do human studies.

The bottom line is:

Remember, cancer research is very complicated.

Remember, human nutrition is very complicated.

These articles stand on their own scientific merit, and science is always evolving, changing, and gathering more data.

Celebrate Citrus

Our citrus trees have finally made a wonderful comeback. They are producing large, no huge, quantities of fruit. Last year, the frost of December 7, 2103 destroyed the plants. I, in my way of trying to take care of everything, wanted to prune the dead branches right away. But I was persuaded to wait until mid-March 2014. Thank you to friends who are master gardeners who advised me to wait. Not pruning right away, the dead wood protected the remaining tree from further frost damage. We fed, weeded, watched, and hoped. And we were rewarded. This abundant harvest provided lemons and oranges for our co-milled oils. Delicious. We have more than enough fruit for a great citrus class on Saturday, March 14. We use the fruit in our flavored water. We eat oranges for snacks each day, we are all much healthier.citrus4

Celebrate citrus! Our trees are flowering right now, and the olives are right behind. Come look at our citrus grove and the 23 varieties. Sweet Meiwa (Hawaiian) kumquats, fingerling limes and Rangpur limes. Thanks also to Molly Chappallet, the owner of Chappallet Vineyards, for the addition of a huge bag of Rangpur limes so we can make lime marmalade. Our Kaffir lime, has a double leaf used in cooking Asian and Indian dishes, and delicious fruit. The Seville Sour Oranges make great English marmalade. The variegated lemons are pink on the inside, and make delicious lemonade. Our pomelo tree is just loaded with blossoms, all fuzzy and green. We are using the huge pomelo fruit in the tasting room for a palate cleanser. The menu at Yotam Ottolenghi’s new restaurant will feature pan-fried prawns with pomelo, pickled endive and garlic crisps and tamarind dressing. Get his books, Plenty and Plenty More, they are wonderful reads and super flavorful foods. Great fun.

Come over and have a look and learn about Citrus. We are very lucky to live in California.

Planting in the Garden

beeEverything seems early again this year. We are responding to Mother Nature’s calls of Spring even though it is only February. I feel sorry for my friends back East in all the cold and snow. I hope this blog gives them hope for planting.

Everyone has spring fever here at IL Fiorello. We are busy getting the garden going again and redoing the herb garden to supply our culinary classes. Pruning in the groves is ongoing and is the topic of a future blog.

The garden beds are being filled with rich compost and seeds are flying around as staff members  share planting ideas. So far we have in the ground: cabbage, radishes (both red and white), beets, lettuce (five kinds), leeks, carrots, turnips, chives, kale, mesculin, chard, fava beans, snap peas, broccoli, and cabbage. The rhubarb is starting to get full and raise its head. Nothing better than strawberry rhubarb pie in the Spring. I am sure we will continue to plant more varieties of vegetables. Nick, our assistant miller and gardener extraordinaire, says that there is nothing better than fresh vegetables right from the ground. We all agree. We are all “vegephiles”, people who love vegetables. Our Executive Chef is also looking forward to doing a class on vegetables from the garden.    photo

Joseph, our master gardener, has been busy replanting the lemon grass and dividing the heads. It is lovely and fragrant, and so delicious in soup and stews. We have also trimmed the lavender and are trying to root sprigs to plant some more.  We are considering an organic certification but still have to work out how to control the weeds especially in the new small trees. Watch for sunflowers to poke their heads and turn toward the sun this summer.

Recently, Elisabeth brought back garbanzo beans from Italy, and they are getting pre-soaked before being planted in the garden next to the Mill. She returns  to Italy tomorrow to live in Sicily and make wine at a natural winery on the slope of Mt. Etna. She will blog from there to keep us updated on how to grow Nerello Mascalese wine.

Plant and enjoy the benefits of living in California.  We are all very lucky to have this opportunity. Come see our garden grow.

Pasta

PASTA! PASTA ! PASTA!

We just had a wonderful class on pasta, led by our Chef Marvin Martin. It was so popular we may do another! Everyone ate well, laughed well, and went home with the recipes to try their hand at making homemade pasta. I grew up making pasta by hand, in class we made pasta with an electric pasta roller. The small Atlas hand cranked pasta makers are just fine to use to make dinner at home. For ease of making lasagna, we recommend Barilla or De Cecco pre made pasta. The Barilla oven ready pasta sheets are fabulous for making lots of lasagna for your party.
pasta blogWhen you make dough, feel free to add spices to the dough itself to add layers of flavor. In class the pasta dough was flavored with finely diced green olives, Castelvetrano, Nocellara del Belice olives, from Sicily. You can purchase these olives locally in Northern California, at Nugget Market, Whole Foods, and Costco. If you cannot find this product in your local store, ask your grocer to purchase some for you to try.
In Italy, each town, each Grandmother, has their own pasta recipe and their own sauce. Books have been written about how to pair just the right sauce with just the right type and shape of pasta. Different shapes are usually indicative of regional preferences and how to pair their local sauces. Here is a beautiful example of corzetti or coins, the wood hand press cuts the dough and the engraved characters on the disc are pressed into the pasta coins. The designs helps hold more sauce. In Liguria, where Taggiasca olive oil is plentiful, I have had corzetti served with oil, toasted pine nuts, herbs, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It is common in Liguria to add a little wine to the pasta dough.

pasta blog 2
Speaking of pasta, yesterday our staff attended Tri Biccheri in San Francisco, we tasted our way through over 100 premium Italian wines. This was a wonderful experience to talk to the wine makers and distributors from Italy. So many amazing wines. Beautiful Amarone from Nagar near Verona. Fresh sparkling white wines from the Veneto region, and gorgeous dessert wines from Sicily and Sardinia. Of course all the Chianti was so drinkable. Great fun to discuss wines with your friends and plan meals around the best wines from Italy. After the tasting we went to La Ciccia, “the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco” according to the food critics in the city. Their pasta dishes are spectacular. The sauces are really out of this world. Olive oil, lemon, and dried tuna over fresh pasta over spaghetti. A ragu with lamb, tomatoes and herbs served over tiny gnocchi. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I would love to go back there tonight. The owners, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan are so friendly and gracious to every single person who comes in the door.

In preparing for the class, I did some research on pasta and would like to share the list of dried and fresh pasta names with you. Pasta the noble Maccherone
From The Silver Spoon Pasta
There is no more natural and simple food than pasta, which is made from tow ingredients only – flour and water. Simply drying the product makes it last for much longer, while its natural coloring is already full of the sun’s brightness, absorbed by the wheat grains as they grow in the fields. The Queen of fresh pasta is egg pasta. Pasta is one of the most balanced foods in terms of human nutrition. Every city, town, region and village in Italy has its own method of making pasta: the shape, sauce, filling, and even the dough varies. Pastario, the atlas of Italian pasta, says that pasta is music to your mouth.
The oldest evidence dates back to 3,000 years BC. The ancient Greeks and Etruscans produced and ate the first types of pasta. The oldest documentary evidence for the use of dried pasta dates to 1316 and was found in Genoa, naming the first pasta make in history, Maria Borgogno, owner of a house in which lasagna was made.
For Italians the only way pasta can be cooked is “al dente” or “vierde vierde”, as they say in Naples, and overcooked pasta is considered uneatable. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”, while “vierde vierde” means “very green” or “unripened”, both describing pasta that is tender but still firm to the bite. Here is a compilation of some of the names of pastas from the Silver Spoon pasta book and Pastario.
THE SILVER SPOON PASTA BOOK, PHAIDON PRESS
Pastario, Atlante Delle Paste Alimentari Italiane, Eugenio Medagliani e Alessi, Crusinallo 1985

pasta chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for recipe: Fresh Egg Pasta Dough a la Chef Marvin Martin at IL Fiorello

CONCLUSION
Making pasta is fun. Eating pasta is even more fun. Experiment with types of pasta and types of sauces. Go to La Ciccia and learn how the real experts make spectacular pasta. Then go home and use the recipes and make your own.
Mangia Mangia.

Farming in the Winter, Sights to See and Appreciate

 

In the winter things are quiet in the olive groves, but the animals are still active.

We grow olives, lavender, citrus, and figs, and have a culinary garden. The olives grow at our home in Green Valley and at our Farm in Suisun Valley. If you live in an olive grove you have animals, domestic and wild. Sometimes they both cross the lines and all the time you can enjoy their presence. Well at least some of the time.

owls

We encourage birds, we have counted 75 different varieties on our land. We have an amateur birder on our staff and she is keeping a count of the numbers and variety. We encourage bees, birds, and most of our friends that are ground dwellers. We love the owls and hawks that help moderate our ground critters that eat our trees. Our owl boxes are being used by local owls, leaving remnants of their nightly feasts. We often find owl pellets, the ones you dissected in grade school, in our side yard. If you are walking in the grove at night you can feel their presence as they glide on virtually silent wings. Maybe next year we can post an owl-cam from the nearest owl box. The turkeys are always present and one lone hen wanders across the road from the vineyards every evening at dusk. The major animal, really a bug that we discourage is the olive fly.
But that is the topic of another entire blog.

bee

At home in the early evening, and early mornings we hear foxes bark and discuss mating and afternoon snacks. They have ventured to our deck and taken cool drinks from the fountain. The fox scared our daughter, whom was also sitting on the deck in the late cool evening. One sharp bark from the fox who was very surprised to find a human in his territory sent her scurrying inside. Of course they would not do anything but bark to protect their territory, but that is country life. If you go on line to YouTube you can listen to the bark of the fox, very unusual. One time we found our cats sitting on the grass near the fountain with the fox lying just near them. All peacefully coexisting for that moment in time.

The raccoons are another issue. Very beautiful animals, curious and smart, they found the cat door and helped themselves to the cat food. So the cat door was closed and the cats were kept inside until the raccoons found another place to have a free feast. Four very young raccoons were playing in the driveway making soft chirping sounds. Great to watch but they can be aggressive animals. Flashlight and some clapping sent them out the drive and down the hill. But knowing raccoons I am sure they remember the free feast.

geese copy

We have doves, turkeys, owls, hawks pigeons, pheasants, and Guinea hens. The flock down the road from us cackles and cries and someday I expect they will show up at our front door. Beautiful large birds, black and white speckled, but I am told not very good parents. Ducks, a pair I call Fred and Myrtle fly over each night to find their night spot, White egrets and blue herons make their way up and down the irrigation canal. The great blue herons only need wire rim glasses to look like old dodgy professors. We have a flock of motley geese that supervise our milling operations. We all laugh as they alert to noises that may threaten their territory.

Coyotes in the middle of the night, early evening, early morning. You can hear the coyotes howling up and down the creek. They move and the sound echoes throughout the canyon. Usually it is a sad lovely call, but sometimes they are very active and on the hunt. I always count the cats and try to bring them in but up until now they have all survived. Even Piccolo who is a pure white cat and glows in the full moon.

cows

Cows, we call “the girls,” roam the back hills behind the olive farm. They keep close watch on us during milling season as they must know the olive waste may turn into feed for their winter dinners. At the last Kitchen in the Grove cooking class on cheese, “the girls” and their babies made a cameo appearance and mooed their way into our hearts when we talked about good cheese.

The rattle snakes are the ones that are good for the olive grove as they keep the mice and moles and vole population down, but not good for us. We have had a few on property, both at home and at the Olive Farm. We try to have animal control come out to capture and relocate them, but they are very territorial and often come back to the same spot. Our Vet has some great stories of moving snakes vs snake shot and then holes in his car door, don’t tell his wife we told on her. In reality they are solitary creatures and like to be left alone, but just not under my Visitors Center front porch.

We tell everyone that visits that this is a farm and critters are always around, watch out and you may even see something wonderful. Always be alert and you will see more, much more.

Watch for the announcement of our expanded Farm Tours.

Co-Milled Olive Oils

AKA Flavored Oils
2015 Production

comilled4

What do you do with 8 tons of newly harvested olives and 2 tons of fresh fruit? You make co-milled oils of course, one of our most popular products. We use really fresh fruit, sweet and succulent and flavorful; Tangelos, Limes, Lemons, and Jalapeños.

There is a huge difference between olive oil made with a flavored essence added to the oil and a true co-milled oil. While milling olives we mill the citrus at the same time. The olives and the citrus go through the crusher together. It makes a better oil, more homogenized and therefore more flavorful. The proportions of olive to fruit will differ each year, depending on the ripeness and oil content of the olives and the taste of the specific fruit. The exact proportions are usually a closely held secret. The whole fruit is used, skin, seeds, flesh. The skins have an enormous amount of their own oils, and that translates to flavor.

Many olive oil companies in California produce enough to make flavored oils. Although we use olives that could be made into certified extra virgin oil, the co-milled flavored oils cannot be certified. Anything added to olive oil makes that product not acceptable to extra virgin standards. Some companies may state on the bottle, extra virgin olive oil with citrus or herbs added. We just mill the fruit together and make luscious co-milled oils, and call it co-milled. Remember that we mill and not press our olives. First cold press, although legal to use, is not really the process today. It is not first, not cold and not pressed. These names are monikers from a historical perspective.

In competitions, savvy judges are asking the producers to state whether there is an essence added or if the product is co-milled. There is nothing wrong to adding an essence, just that the taste is very different. We prefer to cut the fresh fruit and mill with fresh olives.

The jalapeños go into the crusher whole and you should smell the absolutely wonderful aroma of ground jalapeños as they are very gently warmed going through the malaxation tanks. Just amazing…… Of course this is the last oil of the season, as you can imagine we are now in the process of taking the centrifuges apart and cleaning each little hose and tube.

How do you use co-milled oils? We suggest pairing these luscious oils with fresh products.
Tangelo: Great with Chinese Chicken Salad, or dressing for fresh avocados or citrus salad
Lemon: Serve with fresh pasta, a little salt and pepper and a little juice of a fresh lemon
Lime: Serve with fish tacos, on a sweet soup as a finishing oil, or as a cabbage salad dressing
Jalapeño: Serve drizzled over guacamole, hummus, and couscous, or on grilled chicken or steak.

comilledfoods

The Storage of Olive Oil

IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co.  mills for over 75 clients. Most people want the oil for private purposes and some clients will sell their oil. New oil right out of the centrifuge ranges from golden yellow to fluorescent green. Each variety of oil has its own color and taste. Early harvest and late harvest oil is often different in both color and taste. Some of the green color is varietal and some comes from the chlorophyll in the olives or sometimes from the little bit of leaves in the mixture.  In master tasting and at certification, the color is immaterial and the sensory evaluation is done with dark blue glass to hide the influence of color on your tasting experience.

blue tasting glasses (smaller)

It is so interesting to mill for many people, because we get to see so many different types of olives and the oil they produce. Each oil represents a year of hard work for the growers. Everyone is anxious about how many pounds they have worked so hard to produce and how their oil tastes. As often as possible, as soon as the oil comes out of the second centrifuge, tastes are given to the owners. It is a time for celebration.

Almost everyone is asking us how to store and care for their precious oil. We have a handout but there are always more questions. So let’s discuss our recommendations.

 

  1. Always use clean new containers.
  2. Never use old containers, even if they have been washed well. (see photo below)
  3. Never use a metal container unless it is food grade, as that imparts a negative defect to the oildirty container
  4. Keep the oil in a cool dark place
  5. Cool should be around 68° F, refrigeration is not necessary
  6. Top coverage with an inert gas is optional to prevent oxidation
  7. Food grade stainless steel tanks are good for larger quantities
  8. Decant the oil in about 6 to 8 weeks after the sediment has collected at the bottom of the container.
  9. Proper storage and temperature protection of oil is very important to the longevity of oil. This seems to be one of the critical issues facing many growers after producing a beautiful product.

Use your new oil as soon as possible for the best possible taste enjoyment. Thanksgiving and Christmas are days for new oil and good food and the celebration of a year’s work in the olive grove.

 

Fruit Pizza from Our Pizza Oven

Cooking again on the pizza oven at IL Fiorello.  We hosted 12 guests for a corporate luncheon and served our homemade pizzas on the back patio. The day was sunny, warm, beautiful, and it is November by the way. I love being in California. I spoke to my friend in Boston this morning and it was snowing! Yikes!  pizza

Anyway, I digress, this pizza oven is marvelous. Cooks pizza in 2 to 3 minutes! Gets up to 450° to 500° C. (842°F to 932°F) in less than an hour. Thank you to our Chef Marvin Martin who found this wonderful oven for us to use here. Amazing. It is a wood burning oven with convection. Very efficient to use.

While we waited for the guests to have lunch, Lani, our support Chef, and I were bored. So out to the garden, harvested eggplants and zucchini, roasted them in the oven and made roasted soup for service in the tasting room. Pretty cool.

Although you may not have a pizza oven with this capability, pizzas can be made
on the backyard grill or in a regular oven.

PEACH AND SWEET RICOTTA PIZZA
WITH PEACH BALSAMIC VINEGAR REDUCTION

INGREDIENTS

PIZZA DOUGH

2 cups “00” flour
2 cups AP “all purpose” flour
2 packages instant rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil mild
Warm water at 160° F about a cup (more if needed to make the dough)

RICOTTA CHEESE

1 quart ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream (optional)

FRUIT
Fresh peaches, pears, or apples. The fruit should be soft to melt into the pizza.

WHITE PEACH BALSAMIC VINEGAR REDUCTION, IL FIORELLO OLIVE OIL CO

PROCESS

For the dough

Place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil into the bowl of a mixer.
Add the warm water slowly until the dough comes together and is just slightly firm
Roll into a ball and place in a stainless steel bowl cover with a light coating of oil and then clear kitchen wrap.
Put in a warm draft free place to rise for about 1-2 hours until at least doubled.
Punch down measure out each individual pizza amounts and let rise again.

For the Ricotta Cheese

Place the quart of ricotta cheese, the powdered sugar and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and whip until almost doubled in size. Sometimes adding ½ cup heavy cream makes it whip more easily. Do this at the last minute to maintain the fluffiness of the cheese.

For the fruit

Halve the peaches, remove the stone and slice the peaches into eights

ASSEMBLY

Roll out the pizza dough into a personal size dessert pizza or larger if you are inclined to share.
Spread the fluffy ricotta over the pizza
Carefully place the sliced peaches in concentric circles to almost cover the ricotta

COOK

Place the pizza into the pizza oven for about 2 minutes, more or less depending on the heat of the over. Ours cooks well at 450° to 500° C. (842°F to 932°F).
Drizzle on the White Peach Balsamic Vinegar Reduction after cooking.

Serves about 10 large slices.

 ©IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company

IMG_3765 smaller

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...