Jan
11

The Quality Olive Oil Challenge: Musings on the CIA/UC Davis Olive Center Seminar

DSC01440

One of the problems faced by quality olive oil producers and their supporters is that a lot of time is spent preaching to the choir. We have conferences, symposia, seminars and short courses, with audiences consisting mostly of olive oil producers, an occasional chef, and some miscellaneous academics, scientists, writers and other olive oil partisans. There are a lot of excellent presentations, creative ideas and energetic exchanges.  But at the end, it seems like there is never enough meaningful progress outside of this group of olive oil fanatics. The upcoming class co-presented by the Culinary Institute of America and UC…
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Oct
11

Accounting for Taste: Comparing Reviews by Trained and Untrained Tasters

tasting at the mill

When a trained olive oil taste panel replicated a national magazine taste test comparing extra virgin olive oils, the results were very different. This 2007 article explains what happened, and why. By Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne and Paul Vossen When Cook’s Illustrated published an article comparing various extra virgin olive oils, word spread more or less like wildfire through the olive oil tasting community. Most people may not even be aware that there is such a thing, but a small coterie of trained olive oil tasters exists in the United States. An olive oil taste panel located in California was trained…
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Sep
26

The Fight Over Olive Oil Quality

Oil out of separator

Any American olive oil consumer who has been paying attention to the news in recent months is probably reeling. The announcement last April that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was adopting standards for olive oil was the first eye-opener. This was the first time many consumers realized that there had been no definition in the U.S. for the term “extra virgin.” Then came the report on supermarket olive oils from the University of California, Davis: 69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the International…
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Sep
26

When Good Oils Go Bad: Recognizing Rancidity and Other Defects in Olive Oil

Questionable olive oil web

The joy of olive oil lies in its many delightful aromas and flavors—from voluptuous ripe olive to bright green grassy notes and from a soft subtle finish to a zippy peppery kick—there is a world of sensory exploration awaiting the adventurer. But like any great explorer, you will be faced with risks—crocodiles in those placid waters. This is an introduction to the most common defects you will find in olive oil: what they are called, what causes them, and how to recognize their presence. Any discussion of defects must start with rancidity.  The sad truth is that most people in…
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Sep
26

Introduction to Olive Oil Tasting

olive oil tasting ucd

Olive oil quality has been prominent in the news recently, with headlines telling us that our extra virgin olive oil might not really be extra virgin. A pall of suspicion has been cast over the kitchen cupboard; how are we to know if that pretty bottle of olive oil has been lying about its extra virgin status? What’s a consumer to do? It is true that there is some serious hanky panky going on in the ranks of extra virgin olive oil. The issues of adulteration, mislabeling and regulation are all real, complex and very important. That does not mean,…
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