Generally speaking, flavored olive oils are oils made from olives with the health benefits and characteristics of olive oil combined with ingredient(s) other than olives which give the resulting olive oil an additional flavor. Olive oil purists may balk at the idea of a flavored olive oil and I personally feel they do not replace the use and taste of a fresh extra virgin oil seconds after it has been milled; however they do offer a plethora of creative culinary uses beyond just dipping bread. Many people use the term “infused” oil when talking about all flavored oils. Consequently, many people do not realize that there are a few different ways to accomplish the task of flavoring an olive oil and that the end results are not all entirely the same.
Infusing olive oil is achieved by adding an extract or flavoring to oil that has already been processed/milled. This method is relatively easy to do but sometimes the results are lacking. I find that some infused oils taste artificial. For the same reason that Grape soda doesn’t taste like fresh grapes, many infused citrus or herb flavored oils from extract tend to have an artificial taste.
The other way to “infuse” olive oil is to submerge your ingredients in the oil for a length of time until it imparts a subtle flavor to the oil. The two tribulations with this method are the flavors can often be very subtle and you need to make sure the ingredients you add do not contain any moisture. For this reason it is recommended to use dried herbs or produce. An example would be the bottle of olive oil you see with fresh pieces of garlic
or herbs floating in it. This may be fine for one or two days but the moisture in the produce can cause botulism to occur and make the consumer sick or even be fatal.
It is for these reasons that our Calivirgin flavored olive oils have all been made using a third and more labor intensive approach. We add fresh produce and herbs right on top of the fresh olives so that they are all crushed and processed together. Some people call this method simply “fused” instead of infused while others refer to it as the agrumato method. A growing term in popularity and the one used on our Calivirgin flavors is crushed. We are essentially using the same process, settings and procedure we use for our extra virgin oil by crushing the produce and olives together. The oil in the olives and produce are released in this process before going through a centrifuge and finisher which remove all water content and solids leaving a very aromatic and tasty natural flavored olive oil with nothing except exactly that in the bottle; oil. This process creates some of the best tasting flavored olive oils so you have to ask yourself, “Why doesn’t every company use this method?” Simply . . . because it is a pain. Everything a flavor touches has to be addressed before a different oil comes in contact with it. Cleaning out processing equipment between and after each flavor in order to not have
any crossover flavoring takes a lot of time. This applies to cleaning bottling machines as well. You also have to store each flavor in its own individual container which takes up room and I also find that because of the added produce there tends to be more sediment than with plain olive oil so I need to rack it many more times than normal. This means using transfer pumps which means cleaning transfer pumps multiple times. It is very time consuming and most companies would rather not mess with it but I think the finished product is often exceptional in taste. Chefs and home foodies alike enjoy creatively using these flavors as ingredients or finish oils over their dishes. Believe me! I understand why most companies don’t crush their flavors but sometimes a little more work pays off and here at Coldani Olive Ranch we feel our flight of Calivirgin Crushed Flavored Oils are something to be desired.
-Author Mike Coldani