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Harvest and Milling Season at Il Fiorello

Photo for Oct 2 blog copyAs we begin harvest and milling season, I am always reminded of the long history, culture, and memories of olive oil. With respect for this very ancient product, we make oil with new machines and very modern technology. Nick, our assistant miller, and I are taking again the Master Milling course at UC Davis to keep up with the modern technology and to reacquaint ourselves with our olive oil colleagues from around the world. We are a small group of people who are determined to make a quality product. New science and improved techniques are making better oil.

Nick took some of our freshly milled oil to a fellow farmer in Suisun Valley. When she smelled the oil she cried. Tears streaming down her face, she said that the fragrance brought back strong memories of her family in Greece.  She is 85 and could so clearly remember the fragrance and taste of olives and newly milled oil from her family farm. A potent and remarkable food memory.

This story is why we mill olive oil. Not for the gold medals, not for the sales but for respect of an ancient healthy food that deserves a place at the modern table©.

Come visit us as at IL Fiorello as we mill and enjoy good health and fond memories.

Ciao

Ann

Growers Meeting

IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co sponsored a growers meeting on Saturday June 28, 2105 we were joined by Marvin Martin, of MarvinMartin Olive Oils and a professional olive grower and master taster from Napa and Tom Turpen, Plant Biologist, from Davis, CA.

The days discussion centered about olive fly in California and in Italy. We reviewed the methods available to growers to use GF 120 or Spinocid. Most of the growers were aware of the application process and the dilution ratio of 1 to 1.5 or 1 to 2. When mixed the Spinocid must be used within 24 according to the Dow Chemical product information. Discussion centered about how problems arise with the olive fly when neighboring growers do not spray their trees. An example is of ornamental trees planted in neighborhoods or city plantings. Suggestions were made to contact neighbors and do cooperative spraying, and to discuss with city officials that city trees need to be fruitless or sprayed to preserve commercial or private crops. There is a spray that can be applied to prevent fruit set. Swan variety of olives is also fruitless.

Discussion also centered on the use of Kaolin clay. One of our growers has been using it on tomatoes with good success. Application is at least 3 times a season to protect the olives. In California, this does not seem to be a problem, but if it rains reapplication is necessary. The manufacturer reports that this product does not have an effect on photosynthesis. No one at the meeting has direct experience with the residual Kaolin wash water risk at the mill. We at IL Fiorello are trying to find more information about how this residual is handled at the olive washing site. Short of washing the olives on site by the grower we are concerned about the residual clay in the water at the mill.

Chef Martin was a guest at Expolivo in Spain and reported to the meeting some of his findings and experiences. Expolivo is the world’s largest olive oil convention. Reports and books from the Expolivo meeting are available for your perusal at IL Fiorello, courtesy of Chef Marvin.

Tom Turpen, from Innovationmatters.com, discussed Xylella infestation in the citrus greening disease and the concern for like diseases in olives. Please refer to the article Olive Quick Decline in Italy Associated with Xylella Fastidiosa, by Elizabeth Fichtner, Dani Lightle, and Rodrigo Krugner, published in California Fresh Fruit, June 2015. OQDS, (olive quick decline syndrome) is destroying trees in Southern Italy. It is of concern here in California and growers should report dieback or scorch on olives to farm advisors or agricultural commissioners. He also discussed the possibility of research to control olive fly propagation. The group consensus was positive to go forward with this discussion and research.

The growers meeting concluded with a tour of IL Fiorello Olive Mill and a discussion of the plan for milling this coming year. Clear communication between growers and millers can make the difference call us with questions.

Ciao
References:
Marvin Martin marvinmartinoliveoils.com for information and olive grove management
UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management
Dr. Frank Zalom Professor of Entomology UC Davis
Dow Chemical: Spinocid information
Novasource: Surround WP Crop Protectant OMRI Organic for the Kaolin Clay

The Flavors and Aromas of Summer

In my past blogs I have been talking about olive growing, oils, birds and bees.

It is time to think of the wonderful flavor aromas of summer. Think fresh cut grass, peaches, roses, orange blossoms, and tomatoes on the vine. The flavors of nature, open fields, grass and fresh blossoms.

rose

Humans respond to aromas. Ask yourself what is the most vivid aroma memory you can remember. Your mom’s perfume, your dad’s woodworking shop, the smell of fine wine.  At IL Fiorello Tasting Room the first step in tasting oil is to smell the oil. Each oil has a specific aroma, very complex, very delicate and memorable. It takes time to really train yourself to remember aromas. Just like in evaluating wine, mind memory is an innate and a learned process. You either have the ability to smell or not, and then you begin training and learning. I might also say expanding your experience.

I asked some of our staff what their fondest or most powerful aroma memories might be. The answers: Eucalyptus, jet fuel (from Mark the jet pilot), the stamp on your hand from Disneyland, old car exhaust smell (before unleaded fuel), lavender, horse barn and stall. Isn’t it amazing what aroma memories recall? Everyone smiled when I asked them this question.

The next time you visit IL Fiorello, think about the aroma of the oils, how distinctive they are and then begin to pair the aromas with what food you are going to serve to enhance the food and the oil.

Watch for our next class on how to taste olive oil, smell included.

Have a wonderful June. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families.

CIAO.

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.

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

Olive Milling 2014 Harvest Year

 

We are milling great olives this year!  This 2014 harvest is much better than the crop of last year, both in quality and quantity. Everyone is happier and so very proud of their fruit.  This is also a very early harvest; our own olives were harvested and milled almost five weeks earlier than last year.IMG_2506

It is a pleasure to meet everyone that delivers olives to our mill.  Most are tired from harvesting and grateful that their fruit is safely delivered. This represents a yearlong odyssey with their olives.  Truly, people are passionate about their fruit.  It is also interesting to see so many different types of olives and how they grow in different micro climates in Northern California. Little tiny Korineiki are dwarfed by mammoth Sevillano, along with the fat and plump Frantoio, the like I have rarely seen.  Most are really healthy, well harvested, and lovely fruit.  In this area, the olive fly seems not to be as devastating as last year.  Although, we are still seeing some bad fly infestations from growers that are not spraying their fruit or not spraying correctly.  There are great conversations at the mill about growing and how to help the trees give good fruit. We also have much celebration when oil is pouring out of the Valente centrifuge. This truly is a treasured product.  I love the honor of giving growers the first taste of their oil, right out of the centrifuge. This makes everyone smile and be happy that they are in this crazy business.

IMG_2731 copy

 

Milling is a lot of work, and it takes precision
to run the equipment. It is not as simple as just turning on the machine and pushing buttons. In fact, with each delivery of olives there are discussions as to the type of grinding wheel, time of malaxation and correct malaxation temperature, centrifuge speed, and correct storage. Each olive batch is monitored for volume of olives, extraction rate, and temperature control. This data helps us learn from our hard work as how to best mill certain types of olives. We love to have discussions before milling with the growers are to their goals. The time not to have these discussions is while we are hard at work running the machines.  Everyone wants to see their olives being milled, however, due to health and safety rules that is just not possible.  With pre- discussions about methods of milling, both the grower and the miller can rely on each other to do their best job.

IMG_2904Growing olives is a passion and a lot of hard work.  You cannot just sit back and watch them grow. If it isn’t spraying, it is weeding.  If not weeding, it is pruning.  Farming is an ongoing business.   I hosted a group of 15 twelve year olds for a birthday party and tasting. What a group of interested and busy, young women.  Representing women in agriculture, I hope that I captured their interest in growing.  As I told them, if I don’t farm, you don’t eat.  And as anyone knows, kids love to eat.  It was great fun, and I hope that they recognized a little bit of the work that it takes to grow and make olive oil.

Our Olio Nuovo is now available at our Visitor Center. Come taste this beautiful new oil. This is the best of the year; fruity, pungent, fragrant and delicious. This taste is what we wait for all year long.  See you at the Farm!

Harvest Begins

We are up and milling and expecting over 46,000 pounds just in the first two weeks. Harvest is very early and we are harvesting our own olives almost 5 weeks earlier than last year.

Here is what our growers and colleagues are saying about this year’s crop: As usual with olives, some trees are heavy with fruit and others have none. Some trees have ripe olives on one side and green on the other. This is pretty normal for olives. This sturdy tree is always teaching us new lessons.

Crop size varies depending on the location and variety of the olives. Some crops are very light, while others are moderate to heavy.

1

The olive fly is very fickle. Some growers have lost entire crops and other growers who were not rigorous in spraying have a greater than 20% loss. At IL Fiorello we have been very diligent in spraying every week to prevent crop loss and have less than a 10% infestation. It is clear to us at IL Fiorello that there is a change in the fly, whether it be resistance, increased number of olives, and/or growers who are not taking care of their trees. Landscape trees are of particular concern as no one monitors, treats, or harvests these trees.

We have handpicked all the olives and they are in the mill this week! We are milling almost every day and reservations for mill tours are still available. At our Visitor Center, tastings are every day from 1 to 5, including fresh oil called Olio Nuovo.  We have some fabulous Olio Nuovo available now for purchase. It is the best new Frantoio oil I have tasted in a long time.

Call us and come out and watch the process!

 

 

 

The California Olive Oil Commission

The California Olive Oil Commission was formed under the stewardship of Senator Lois Wolk. Similar to the Almond Commission, the Olive Oil Commission was created to standardize nomenclature as well as the processing of oils from California.

Is this a good thing, at the right time or not? Fortunately everyone has their opinion and gets to express it. On July 16, 2014, the California Senate held a meeting for open public comment on the California Olive Oil Commission.  Over 100 people attended to provide testimony and input on the document. Growers and producers of olive oil from California, European Union, including representatives from Italy all gathered to give their opinions about the process and the document.

The Olive Oil Commission became law on January 1, 2014 and became operational effective March 24, 2014. The Commission proposes grading and labeling standards for California.  It is important to have accurate statements and definitions to help California define our unique product.

In our opinion the use of certain terms, specifically, “best by dates” and “first cold press”, are detrimental to the language in the Commission’s document. These terms confuse our consumers. Some people who sell olive oil make claims that it cures diabetes, lowers blood pressure and other medical claims, which are misleading; stuff and nonsense. We in the industry have let such ridiculous claims go unchecked too long. It is time to change.  It is time to base your definitions in fact and science.

The real emphasis is that we in California want to promote a clean product: Extra virgin olive oil, certified by specific guidelines.

Just this week in Taiwan, a court settlement was levied against suppliers of adulterated oil.  The IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company was interviewed by Taiwan news media last fall about this very serious problem. This is an example of both the economic and consumer fraud issue that California is trying to address with the California Olive Oil Commission.

Come in to IL Fiorello and ask us about the Commission and how it affects us as producers and how it can benefit consumers.cooc_seal_shadow

Refer to:

  1. Senate Bill 250.
  2. Lois Wolk Senator California (D)

Testimony July 15, 2014

  1. Divergent Views on Proposed California Olive Oil Standards

Olive Oil Times

By Nancy Flagg on July 22, 2014

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Custom Milling

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

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Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

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Il Fiorello Blog

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

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Custom Milling

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

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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.

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