Monday, 12 March 2012

Olive Oil Obsession

our lovely hillside orchard in Lazio
I must be going through my paranoid phase, having ranted about the failings of the insurance industry I now turn to olive oil production. I have been meaning to tell you how I picked our olives in Italy last year but never got round to it, then I was reading an article in The Times magazine at the weekend about the murky world of oil production, how almost every bottle of oil on the supermarket shelf is now labelled extra virgin and isn't, how an oil can be labelled Italian even if it is made up of mostly non-Italian oil, apparently olive oil fraud is big business and what it says on the label means nothing at all.  At least I can categorically state that our oil is pure, I spent 4 happy days in our orchard pictured above picking by hand and I know exactly where the oil was milled in the traditional way and when. The Italians collect the olives by laying huge nets under the trees then combing the branches with little plastic rakes. Not me I picked by hand, no leaves or branches in my crates just beautiful olives.I did have a slight mishap when I fell out of one of the trees, no real damage just some bruising, so Mr FF took over the high level work with a rake.In our village every family has olive trees, not necessarily next to their property but somewhere nearby and in October and November everyone is out on the hillside busy picking. You can hear the chatter of families collecting and the co-operative mill in the village is working constantly, there is also a plant nearby that turns the squashed pulp into fuel, nothing is wasted. My 105 kilos of olives produced 22 litres of beautiful oil, not a great yield but it varies from season to season and is far more than we need so I can be quite generous with it both on our food and as giving it away. My friend in Rome tells me that he needs about 50 litres for a years supply and will source quality oil both locally in Lazio and as far away as Puglia.There is much excitement when the new oil comes home, it's traditional to make bruschetta and taste, which is exactly what we did. I'd been told that new oil is very special but I was surprised how very strong it is, actually a bit too strong for me but it does mellow. Chatting to friends one evening I was asked how much good oil would cost in the UK, when I said around £20 a litre they were very surprised especially when I explained that it wouldn't be anything like the quality or pedigree of the oil they produce for themselves. For those of you who don't produce your own oil The Times gives four stars to
  • Tesco Puglian stone milled extra virgin at £6.99 for 500 ml
  • Napolina special selection extra virgin at £5.39 for 500 ml
  • Nunex de Prado organic extra virgin £7.98 for 500 ml
and for those of you with bankers bonuses to spend
  • Manni extra virgin from Harrods retails at £137.50 for 500 ml,
now thats about the price I'd put on my own hand crafted oil.


  1. Well I can certainly vouch for your olive oil Jenny. It is absolutely delicious. Thank you again for sharing some with me.

  2. I'm happy to cook with olive oil, but I don't really like it drizzled on food. Jamie Oliver gives me the horrors when he drowns some of his food in it!!

  3. Wow, you lucky thing, how wonderful. Am deeply envious.

  4. I have always wanted to harvest my own olives and use the wine...

  5. There really is no comparison when it comes to the cheap stuff and estate-bottled products. Supermarket brand olive oils end up in my trolley only if I need to fry arancini -- I don't feel bad when I toss it out later.

  6. What a precious crop! I remember when olive oil had to be bought at the chemist in miniature bottles....

  7. I've often wondered how some places can sell supposedly virgin olive oil for such a low price. I'm not sure about extra virgin. In fact, not sure I really know exactly what the difference is.

  8. There is nothing like having your own olive oil is there. :)

  9. Reminds me of that scene in Under The Tuscan Sun! Love olive oil, love bruchetta, love home made pesto and I'm sure I'd love your own olive oil too. Can't beat home made. have a great trip, no need for us to go to Italy, it's already 25C here!!!