I have to be honest, although an olive oil judge for 20 years, [retiring last year], I so dislike flavoured oils that, to my shame, I had never bothered to learn anything about them. My annoyance at being forced to taste what, are in the main suspect olive oils with fake flavourings was partly the cause. I have never understood why anyone would buy a lemon flavoured oil, when all you need to do is grate a little lemon rind and use freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of vinegar.
In 2022 judging the flavoured oils, in amongst some truly appalling flavoured oils, there was a stunning chilli oil and a couple of excellent citrus oils. Why? Not just because the oil itself was excellent, but because they were manufactured by the Agrumato method. To my shame after 20 years of moaning about flavoured oils and doing my best to get out of participating in their judging I didn’t know what Agrumato was. A fellow judge, of similar age to myself, took great delight in giving me some Agrumato education. Agrumato is in fact a manufacturing method done by processing the chosen fruit or herbs with the raw olives.
The outcome very much depends on the quality of the olives and the fruit. I think the conclusion I have come to over many years of professional cooking is that no amount of flavouring masks a bad olive oil, if anything it accentuates the faults of the oil.
There are strict laws with the labelling of Agrumato oils and they cannot be labelled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Virgin Olive Oil because of the method of manufacture. This should not put you off of trying an Agrumato oil and why choosing a good brand is important because they will be taking pains to get it right. A flavoured oil may be accredited ExtraVirgin Olive Oil to start with but ruined by the quality of the flavouring used.
Bread with olive oil became a thing in Australia some 30 years ago, and whilst in some ways it has been preferable to ice cold butter that tastes of the fridge, in Adelaide I can count on one hand the restaurants that are using really great quality fresh extra virgin olive oil. The two that most spring to mind are Fino Vino and Oggi.
It is disappointing that many chefs waste hours flavouring and colouring oils without ever learning anything about the quality of oils that they are using in the first place. Add to that they are frequently stored incorrectly near heat and in clear glass bottles that aren’t even relegated to a dark space after service.
Purchasing truffle oil was forbidden in the kitchens I managed because they are mostly eye wateringly expensive, and in the main fake aromas, apparently because of the danger of salmonella when using fresh truffle. I used a small trick test to prove my point and put a clove of quality garlic in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a couple of days, removed the garlic clove and let them taste and smell…with interesting results. Most often the diagnosis was truffle oil…..wrong!!!
After preserving our own olives for more than forty years we have some tried and true methods click here
The same mantra applies to preserving olives as it does to making the best olive oil. Quality fruit in premium condition.
It was just three years ago that one of my former apprentices noticed a truffle oil with dried truffle in it at Costco that there was a change of heart. We have now purchased two seasons of this oil and have found it to be unfaltering quality. Italian, Terre Francescane Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Black Truffle. The truffle component is finely sliced small dried black truffle and you’ll need to invest in some bent nosed tweezers to get it out at the end of the bottle.
We are waiting to purchase from a third season. Initially we purchased just two bottles from Fairdinks in Melbourne so that we could taste it with others and check it’s bottled by provenance with the Costco offering which was identical. The freight added some considerable cost but if you are a restaurant Fairdinks also do trade accounts. At Costco, in 22, it was priced at about $15 AUD and we do expect a price increase.
This is not an oil made by the Agrumato method, it excellent because the base extra-virgin olive oil is quality.
A favourite apart from scrambled or soft-boiled eggs is a simple salad of endive, Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, Leonardi White Balsamic and the Terre Francescane Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Black Truffle. True the quality of the endive, picked just a couple of days before at Patlin Gardens is a big factor but as a combination, for the simplicity of the dressing, it receives undeserved compliments. We will be buying a single bottle first to taste it but given the quality of the two previous years we have used we are expecting excellence. The recommendation yes or no will be posted in our newsletter and on cuisine-extreme.com
So, whilst I still don’t see any point buying flavoured oils, apart from the above-mentioned truffle oil, it makes sense to check the labelling when you are buying a flavoured oil and read the label carefully searching for the word Agrumato. Add to that choose a quality oil producer because the quality of a flavoured oil totally depends on the excellence of the flavouring component and the olives it is manufactured with.
Fairdinks Terre Francescane
Read more about agrumato click here
It’s not rocket science…start with good ingredients, don’t mess around with them and stand back to receive undeserved praise. Any salad is only as good as the oil that dresses it.