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Acidity levels in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I received an email from a customer last week regarding the newest buzz words regarding extra virgin olive oil : acidity level . Advertisers are always looking to repackage extra virgin olive oil in a way the consumer cannot discern, and so here comes yet another marketing technique to sell EVOO.

To start with, if you purchase quality EVOO the acidity level is already low at no more than .8% (That’s less than 1%) The International Olive Oil Council set those requirements, together with specific methods of production : no chemicals no heat used in extraction, for classifying extra virgin as the cream of the crop from any other grade of olive oil. My customer told me she was purchasing an EVOO from Greece with an acidity level of .3%.  She wanted to know if the EVOOs I carried had the acidity level listed on the label like hers. Much like customers that look for the words first cold pressed/ing on the labeling because marketing tactics tell them to specifically look for those words,  her concern arose because of this newest method to market olive oil.

Acidity levels are determined solely by the variety of olive and  by production methods. Some olives have a naturally higher acidity level. If they are not harvested with care and quickly processed into olive oil they will have even greater levels. Some on the other hand have lower acidity to start but if they are not harvested and processed  properly the levels will increase. This is why olives from the same variety and the same grove can produce different grades of olive oil. If the olives are picked and pressed within 24 hours, as all of the ones in my line are, they will never have acidity levels greater than the required .8%.  If oils are blended, as is done routinely with lower grade and refined olive oil it can produce lower acidity levels and then be passed off as “extra virgin”.

As a serious cook and person who takes to heart the nutritional value of the ingredients in the foods I prepare and eat,  the acidity levels of extra virgin olive oil mean very little unless someone has a medical condition where a .5% to .8% would cause stomach upset.  So long as the oil is real EVOO (and many are not even though they claim to be) there is no reason to choose based on acidity. It should be based on taste and what one wants to do with the olive oil. All that being said, if a customer has problems with acidic foods and digestion I suggest any of these 3 EVOOs in my line that are on the lower end of the acidity spectrum.  They are not labeled as such but are less than .5%.

Oro Verde Lucano EVOO from Basilicata Italy

Favacchio Organic EVOO from Sicily Italy

Kibbutz Revisim Negev Israel

The rest hover around .5% , though my Kolympari Organic EVOO from Crete Greece is at .7%

 

 

 

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Summer is the season for fruit, and you don’t need Cool Whip on top !

Ahhh its that time of year when all of the lovely fruits grown in the USA come into season. Living in Florida I have the freshest sweetest mangoes available right now and the juicy and sweet Athena cantaloupes grow locally as well. We even have fresh lychees. Thanks to my proximity to Georgia , those sweet famous peaches can be found for .79 a pound. I picked up some of the first blueberries of the season as well. Though not as good as those luscious plump cousins that New Jersey grows famously, they still have that special appeal that only comes with a blueberry. And before I know it, in a couple of weeks when I head north to New York and Connecticut , I will have access to fragrant local strawberries and peaches and then later plums , pears and apples as the fall approaches…

Some of my fondest memories as a child living in New York’s Hudson Valley was the big fruit salads my mother would make and then later the strawberry and peach jams she began to jar with fruit from our 1 acre plot.

Fruit was always in the house and we ate it as it came into season because that was the only time it was available to purchase. I vividly remember with great anticipation when grapes would be available in the supermarket. It always meant that soon thereafter all of the fruits I loved would soon be on our counter top or in the fridge.

One summer something else showed up in our fridge : Cool Whip. I don’t remember exactly when it was but it had to have been sometime after it was invented in 1967. Back then there was no mandate that ingredients be listed on packaging and Bird’s Eye wasn’t volunteering the information either. My mother grew an organic garden before the word organic was ever used and we always ate fresh home prepared food. She just had no idea what made up the sweet convenience.  I remember its big thing was that it was referred to as “non-dairy” topping. I think the term non-dairy was just code the chemists behind Cool Whip used instead of “lab created” .

I was never fond of Cool Whip as a kid because it left this nasty film on the inside of my mouth and teeth. Yes it was sweet, but I didn’t need to eat it on the fruit or on any of the fresh fruit pies my mother made. I had no idea at the time it was only one ingredient shy of a plastic bag. I”m not making it up, read the ingredients explained in cleared English

By the time I got to college my roommates and I began referring to “non-dairy” creamer as nuclear cream and I was asking if the whipped cream listed on a menu was real before ordering at a restaurant.

So many restaurants these days think that they can get away with serving this lab creation in place of whipped cream. Read this blog about the 12 day Cool Whip Experiment and see how , much like me when I was a child,  a young girl knew the difference when it was served to her.  Seriously if you choose it because you cannot digest dairy products it would be better just to forget about the concept of whipped cream all together.

Guess what goes GREAT with fresh seasonal fruit ? Add your fruit to a salad or chop up a fresh fruit salsa and dress it with any one of my citrus extra virgin olive oils and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth ! Buon appetito and have a great summer :-)

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Ask Ersilia About Olive Oil, Nature’s Most Perfect Food : Which Olive Oil is Best ?

Which Olive Oil is Best?

This question is posed to me every day by consumers that come to my green market stand. Other times consumers stop by and espouse that olive oil from a certain country is the best and make a decision based on a preconceived idea or past experience.  To say that a particular oil from one country or a specific region within a country is better than another is not true. There is excellent and terrible  olive oil produced in all of the 26 olive oil producing countries in the world.  He who markets best will try to convince the consumer otherwise and will often succeed, but olive varieties are as diverse as grapes and production methods vary as well.  Ultimately the BEST olive oil depends on the individual. The idea is to find excellent ones and choose what one considers to be the best of them. That starts with finding REAL Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

In its purest form, first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil delivers unsurpassed flavor to the palette and indisputable health benefits to the body. Many people are confused about the terms  “ first cold pressed” and “extra virgin.” The United States  does not have labeling requirements specific to olive oil like it does other food products so there is great confusion as to what these 2 terms actually mean.  Put simply, the terms are synonymous. Extra virgin olive oil is always the first cold pressing.

Some producers are still using old methods with grinding stones and pressing mats that expose the olives to oxygen.  Most,  however, have embraced the newer technologies that crush and press the olives in enclosed stainless steel machines that keep the oxygen out. Professionals everywhere agree that exposure to oxygen alters the quality of olive oil.  Knowing the origin of olive oil from the farmer to the olive pressing mill, the variety of olive and whether or not it is indigenous to where it is cultivated, whether the olive oil is a single variety or a blend and how it ultimately tastes are all part of the subjective nature of olive oil.

My father, a first generation American whose parents came from near Naples Italy prefers a grassy tasting olive oil produced from the Sevillano olive that is cultivated in Modesto, California.  My sister prefers the nutty Souri olive oils that come from the Middle East.  I prefer the highly pungent tasting olive oils that come from the Italian regions of Umbria and Marche, and Sicily as well as Cataluna in Northern Spain.  Each of these areas has a specific native olive that delights my palette in a different way.  From Cataluna Spain there is the rich and fruity  Rojal , from Umbria there is the Dolce Agogia olive that delivers a smooth finish,  from Marche it’s the Carboncella olive that adds a strong pepper finish, from Sicily it’s the Nocellera del Belice olive that not only produces a robust deep olive flavor but is also cured to produce phenomenal table olives.

The misconception out there is that extra virgin olive oil is strong in taste. That’s because the larger commercial producers mix together different oils from different countries at the best price possible regarding their bottom line.  And study after study has determined that most of them are not REAL Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They are substandard olive oil that has been deodorized and refined with chemicals and then cut with a bit of extra virgin olive oil to be passed off as real.  That’s what the American consumer can buy in the supermarket or in a large 3 or 5 liter tins from a specialty store.   “Light olive oil” from the supermarket shelves is not only not extra virgin, it is tasteless and colorless because it has been refined with low heating and chemicals to strip out the offensive smell that comes from the olive oil it is made from. There are REAL extra virgin olive oils that are light in taste. It all depends on the olive. From the Fernandina area of Basilicata, the least populated region of Italy, there is the Majatica olive that produces an extra virgin olive oil so light and buttery in taste my son pours it on his popcorn. From Calabria Italy there is the Carolea olive that is rich and buttery in taste.

 It’s important to READ the containers and look for the country of origin. Even if it says “product of Italy or Spain” the olives are probably coming from whoever offers the best price. There is no telling where they come from,  how long they laid at the bottom of the tree or how long they sat in the back of a truck before getting to pressing.  According to the International Olive Oil Council (the US is the only country that does NOT participate in this group), extra virgin olive oil is classified as : 1) it must be from the 1st pressing,  2) no heat or chemicals can be used to extract the oil from the olives and the temperature may not exceed 82 degrees during the process, and 3) it must contain an acidity level of less than  1% (.08%). It is almost impossible to produce an olive oil with less than 1% acidity if it the olives are not pressed within 24 hours of harvesting without chemically refining the oil.

“The greener the better” is yet another fallacy.  The color of olive oil varies simply due to the amount of chlorophyll or carotene in the olive oil. Some varieties, like the Frantoio from Italy and the Koroneki from Greece are supposed to be picked very green and those olive oil oils will naturally have a deep green color. Other varieties like the Ladolia from Turkey and the  Sevillano from California are picked when the olives are riper (a purple black color) and they will contain more carotene and will produce olive oil with a more golden color. Unfortunately there are unscrupulous producers that will press the leaves with the olives to get that deep green color as well. Our eyes are our first sense when it comes to food and can trick us into thinking something should taste good. Whenever there is an olive oil competition the judges are served the oil in cobalt blue glasses so that the appearance plays no part in the judging.

Its important to know and trust your source if you want a true quality product. If your purveyor doesn’t know WHO is making their olive oil you can never be sure what you are purchasing is not adulterated.  Its not enough to know what kind of olive oil it is and the country of origin. As a follower of the Slow Food movement since its inception, knowing the source of my food and the ingredients is the most important thing to me. Purchasing from small producers who care about every aspect of their food product is what I look for as an importer.

Naturally  these  olive oils will certainly be more expensive than those in a supermarket but just because its expensive doesn’t necessarily mean its quality olive oil either. I’ve learned that going to the farms and fostering a relationship with the farmers is the way I can be 100% sure of the olive oil I import. It gives me that direct connection to the land and the olives that makes my experience “local” even if the farms are thousands of miles away.

Forget about what has been marketed to you over the years and beware of bulk products businesses. The best extra virgin olive oil is determined by your palette and your cooking needs.

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Spreading the Olive Oil Love

This article appeared in the Jan 4th 2012 edition of the Palm Beach Post.

A passion for olive oil: Ersilia Moreno goes from accounting to expertise in ancient oils

 

 

 

 

Olive oil is like wine. Everyone’s palate is different.

Ersilia Moreno’s reinvention started with a single bottle.

It was a tiny, unassuming bottle of dark, shimmering liquid that beckoned Moreno, whispering to her promises of a world just beyond reach. Its contents, a smooth and seductive elixir, caused her to question life as she knew it.

It was 12-year aged balsamic vinegar, and it reminded her of an aged vinegar she had tasted long ago. That one bottle caused Moreno, the practical-minded owner of an accounting practice and mother of two college-age kids, to follow her heart down a new path, one that would end in travel, friendship – and olive oils from around the world.

“I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I was doing what I was good at and what would feed my family,” says Moreno, who spends winters in Palm Beach Gardens. “Something just clicked and it catapulted me into it.”

She tracked down the vinegar and started selling it, along with four different types of olive oil at the local farmers market in Palm Beach Gardens, just as a hobby. Then in November 2008 she went to Italy to study with an olive oil sommelier. (Yes, they exist, as well as the olive oil police).

The following spring, she went to her first olive oil trade show and the hobby turned into a profession. She began visiting olive oil producers, developing personal relationships and strictly evaluating each olive oil.

One of five daughters in an Italian-American family and a lifelong traveler, Moreno started sampling olive oil at a young age.

“I always had this thing about olive oil. Wherever I would go, I’d want to try the new olive oil,” she says. “Like wine, you have different olives, different soils, different climates.”

She carries 24 different oils, one from each olive-producing country, three from different regions in the United States and also from eight out of the 16 olive oil regions in Italy (though she plans on collecting them all).

“It’s painstaking,” she says. “I’ve been looking for an oil from Puglia for almost three years.”

She deals only with truly small producers, many whom have never had their product sold in the United States.

Moreno describes her olive oils as if describing a wine: buttery, nutty, grassy, robust, smooth, full fruit, light fruit, medium fruit. She suggests a sprinkle of a nutty olive oil over hummus, buttery olive oil with fried eggs, fruity for roasting vegetables, light if you dislike the taste but want the health benefits. Once, she had a fruity olive oil drizzled over ice cream (“It made the palate go crazy”).

“Olive oil is like wine. Everyone’s palate is different. That’s why I have very light and buttery and very strong, pungent olive oil. I have olive oil that goes the entire spectrum. And it’s fun, I get to try all of them,” she says.

She seeks the perfect combination of taste and beauty.

“It can’t just be an exceptional olive oil. It can’t just be an exceptional looking olive oil. It has to be presentable and exceptional,” she says.

As her business grows, Moreno plans to start bottling balsamic vinegar herself, and she plans to open a showroom as the Internet business grows every day.

“I love this job,” she says. “I used to make a lot more money as an accountant. But I love this job.”

OLIVE OILS OF THE WORLD

During the season, you can find Ersilia Moreno and her oils at local farmer’s markets – Saturdays at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket and Sundays at the Gardens GreenMarket in Palm Beach Gardens.

Stop by her booth and try some of her bottled goods. She also sells specialty vinegars (including that magical balsamic), Calabrian chili paste, apple-pomegranate olive oil jam and other specialty items.

And if you can’t catch her at a green market, you can always find her olive oils online: visit OliveOilOfTheWorld.com.

ERSILIA’S OLIVE OIL CAKE

Ersilia Moreno says she got the idea for this cake from the At Home with Michael Chiarello cookbook. “I played around with ingredients making about 10 different cakes and then, if I do say so myself, I finally created the best olive oil cake recipe around.”

She enjoys this cake with balsamic-marinated strawberries.

Serves: 12

4 eggs

1 3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup Oro Verde Lucano (light and buttery) extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups milk

Grated zest of 1 large orange and 1 lemon

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350º.

Prepare a Bundt pan with olive oil and flour.

Beat together the eggs and brown sugar until thick and frothy. Slowly add the olive oil. Then add the orange and lemon zests and continue mixing well.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternating in 2 batches add ½ of the flour mixture to the egg mixture, then ½ of the milk, mixing until just blended with no lumps. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Loosen the sides with a knife and invert onto a serving plate. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.

Here is the original article : http://www.pbpulse.com/dining/2012/01/04/a-passion-for-olive-oil-ersilia-moreno-left-a-successful-accounting-career-to-become-an-expert-in-a/

 

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Simple reflections of a month long trip to Italy

I promised myself I would blog about my trip to Italy during the entire month that I was gone and I never got the chance until the evening before I leave, and once again time is short because off to dinner I go in a hour. There just never seems enough time to get things done here, and it doesn’t matter at all.  There is no stress, you just get used to doing less in the day. I wouldn’t change a thing because it’s not procrastination, it’s the way it is here. You just can’t jam as much in a day here as you can in the states. The reason is simple. Between the hours of 1:30 and 4:00 most people are not working. Though that is slowly changing, like most of Italy is….

 The 30 days went by quickly. I travelled from up in the very accessible towns in the north to remote villages of Calabria in the deep south. I took the train once roundtrip Parma-Milano. It was relaxing, easy and cheap. But getting around Italy they way I needed to required a car.  I put 2765 miles on the car… This time I rented a GPS. I programmed a male voice to speak to me in Italian. More than once it would say “tornate in dietro quando potete” (turn around and go back when you can) but without it I would have been hassling with MapQuest like I have in the past and would have made even more mistakes! From now on I will always have a GPS when travelling in Italy…

Most people looked at this trip as if it were a vacation. I am really wondering if my vacation days in Italy  are over. I come here to work now. Sure there is plenty of pleasure. Its ALWAYS a pleasure for me to be in this wonderful country. However there is plenty of work, not mention the driving I have to do.

I see Italy differently than most Americans, except probably those that live here. It’s another home for me. Wrought with her tribulations and splendid in her achievements, there is no place I’d rather be.  Many of my Italian friends see it differently and wish they could leave to a place where bureaucracy and taxes are less strangling on the economy and financial freedom. I remind them that leaving Italy means leaving an incredible culture that exists nowhere else in the world, and that in no time they would be looking to hook up RAI (Italian TV) on a satellite or to purchase MADE IN ITALY products in stores.

I posted a pictorial history on my Face Book fan page www.facebook.com/oliveoiloftheworld . Tell me what you think of the food that you see or the countryside that I visited. In the meantime I think I’ll relax back with a cup of coffee….

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My name is up in lights again :-)

 
 

Marco Eagle 03/20/2011, Page B07

AT THE MARKET

EVOO from OOW

TAKE YOUR PICK OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OILS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

By Jenine Ouillette

Special to the Eagle
W
inter or summer, autumn or spring, Ersilia Moreno, owner and chef of Olive Oil of the World, runs her business on a seasonal clock in sync with the olive trees that grow the fruit that is converted into liquid gold called extra virgin olive oil. Moreno is a vendor at Marco Island Farmers Market and a knowledgeable olive oil expert who travels to find countries that produce the best tasting olive oils and makes them available to her local and mail order customers.

“My goal is to have one extra virgin olive oil from each the 26-plus countries that produce it and one from each of the 16 olive oil producing regions of Italy, and one extra virgin olive oil from California, Texas and Arizona in the United States,” declared 

 


Olive Oil of the World owner and chef Ersilia Moreno is always happy to explain the benefits of extra virgin olive oil to customers Beth Phelan and Elizabeth Rechtin at the Marco Island Farmers Market booth.



Olive Oil of the World’s booth at the Marco Island Farmers Market displays a wide selection of extra virgin olive oils from countries around the world and the United States.

Moreno, noting that she has been searching her whole adult life, from a hobby that started in college to the present, to find the best tasting olive oils.

Related to that quest, Moreno said she’s always looking to add to her inventory and is planning to introduce a new varietal extra virgin olive oil from Italy at her booth sometime soon before the Marco Island Farmers Market closes April 13. Truly, a visit to her booth is almost like a tour through the olive groves. Moreno takes the time to cheerfully explain the obvious benefits derived from cooking with olive oil and really enjoys helping customers choose one perfect for their palate as well as their cooking needs.

“I only want to deal with extra virgin olive oil because it’s always from the first pressing when no c hemical solvents are used to extract the oils. Then, there’s the IOOC, the International Olive Oil Council that set the guidelines that reputable member countries adhere to, and they (countries) are the ones obligated to monitor the growers’ quality and whether or not they are actually producing extra virgin olive oil.

Moreno noted she is a sponsor of an upcoming Taste of Home Cooking School show being held in West Palm Beach. She invited readers, who may in the vicinity at the end of March, to come visit her booth at the cooking show presented live at Northwood University in West Palm Beach on Thursday, March 31. The pre-show takes place from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by the cooking school from 7 to 9 p.m. For information about the show please call Moreno at (561) 386-0756.

Another show Moreno is looking forward to is the Festa Italiana 2011 Peekskill where she will have a vendor booth and will be conducting cook ing demonstrations with her son and partner Rasheed, a graduate chef of Florida Culinary Institute. The traditional second annual Italian street festival, held Aug. 12 to 14 in Peekskill, N.Y. draws exhibitors and crowds of participants worldwide said Moreno, adding that even more information can be found though a link on her Website oliveoiloftheworld. com. In addition the site is a valuable resource for finding information about the company’s gourmet food items and gift baskets as well as the olive country tours Moreno will be conducting in October and November 2011.


Olive Oil of the World also offers a variety of organic fruit jams at the Marco Island Farmers Market booth.

 
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Olive Oil truly IS a cure-all

It wasn’t long ago that I lived in the Middle East, where my son was born. If your hands or feet were chapped you used olive oil to moisturize, if you had an itchy skin rash it was olive oil that brought relief, if your muscles felt tight or cramped massaging with olive oil was the answer. Inhabitants of all of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea all have similar homeopathic remedies calling for olive oil.

Today living in South Florida I never imagined that I would discover that olive oil can cure plant disease. For years I have been using olive oil to remove my mascara and as a facial and body mosturizer. Recently while watering my plants I noticed that the fig tree I have been nuturing out of its native environment for 3 years was in terrible shape.

Part of the tree had completely died and the buds that should have been sprouting into leaves seemed suspended in growth and were taking on an ieery brownish color. Worse, the remaining branches were white and not brown like they were supposed to be. My fig tree was on the brink…Looking at the tree made my heart sink because I felt that my pest and disease ridden Florida lawn was finally having its way. The tomatoes and eggplant I have tried to grow always did very poorly and even my 2 lemon trees – which are supposed to grow easily down here- fight for their existance. I should add that I have always refused to use chemicals. But this time I was seriously contemplating taking a picture of the tree and going down to the Home Depot Garden center for advice on what poison to use that wouldn’t kill the tree…

Then it came to me : go get the Oro Verde Lucano (the EVOO I use for my skin and everyone else uses because of its light buttery taste) !!! So I took the half remaining bottle and then using my hand slathered the tree branches with the olive oil massaging the bark.

Three weeks later not only did the buds recover , the tree is full of green fig leaves and it seems to :-) at me. I won’t be around to enjoy the figs this summer since I’ll be up running my stand in New York, but my fig tree is thriving once again and that’s all that matters.  I need to write to Dina who makes that wonderful olive oil !

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To blog or not to blog…

For the longest time I’ve thought I should get it together and update my website so that it would become more interactive. So its finally up and so is the “blog” section. I’m not going to blog about just anything. The central focus is going to be about the wonderful world of good food , where to find it and how to prepare it. I’m also going to try and keep readers updated about what is going on with Big Ag and their attempt to take over the entire world’s food supply.

Food has always been one of my favorite subjects. To this day my parents joke to me that as a child and a young adult my letters home from my travels (whether from Girl Scout camp or overseas) always seemed to be centered on the food. Whether it was good or bad and if it was foreign what was in it.  Its all about the ingredients and where they come from that makes what we eat so special.

I’ve never embraced eating bugs or really bizarre foods (ie a la Andrew Zimmerman), but I’ve always been open to trying new things for the most part, and OH! how I love to cook and bake. I’ve been known to post a picture or two of food I’ve eaten or prepared on both of my Face Book pages just to get people thinking about what they might eat that day or just to make them hungry !

So now I’ll do it here as well. Should anyone read this besides my mother feel free to comment and share your ideas because food is meant to be shared. If its good we moan, we drool , we talk endlessly about it. If its bad we say so and we should say so….

buon appetito ! :-)

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