I was recently granted the opportunity to go on a press trip to spend a few days learning about California olive oil production at Corto Olive Co. It was a fully sponsored trip, but all opinions are my own in this post. All photographs were taken by Alexander Rubin.
In the Olive Groves
Back in October at the start of the olive harvest season I was invited to learn all the things about olive oil production. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had so far being a food blogger. Spending a few days with Corto Olive Co. really changed my mind about buying the cheapest olive oil on the shelf.
Who else is guilty of buying that $5.00 olive oil in a plastic bottle?? I was – 100%. I used to look for Italian olive oil specifically thinking it was the best of the best, but the thing is Italian olive oil is not regulated, but tightly controlled within Italy so we really don’t know what is in those bottles. The tampering of what is in those Italian oils are so prevalent that 60 Minutes even did a story on it. I watched it, yet I still bought the cheap stuff. It wasn’t until I saw how much planning and care is put into producing that bottle of olive oil that I started appreciating it.
What is striking about olive oil in California is that only a small portion of growers choose to grow olives. To give you an idea of the scale, there are approximately 1 million acres of almonds grown in California as opposed to 40,000 acres. This makes California olive oil pretty rare and special. We are pretty lucky to have it grown here just a few hours from San Francisco.
From how it’s grown, to how it’s pressed, stored and packaged it all makes a difference and it all starts during harvest season between October and November.
Olives are deemed ripe when they start turning from green to purple. It’s a very small window to harvest olives at peek.
The trees were planted and pruned exactly like grape vines at Corto. This is so that they are able to use the same equipment used in harvesting grapes. It makes for fast harvesting and keeps the olives intact by using the harvester machines gentle picking fingers. The faster you pick ripe olives the better to keep the amazing macro nutrients found in olive oil.
At the Mill
Just a few hours after the olives are harvested they are transported to the Mill where they cold press the olives to extract the oils. It’s very important to extract the oil as fast as possible as the olives start fermenting right when they are picked. They start losing nutrients as the minutes go by.
All the olives are optically sorted before they are crushed and milled into mush and then cold pressed into olive oil. The smell when you walk into the mill is amazing. The only way I can describe it, is that it smelt so green and fresh. Everything is temperature controlled and the oil is protected from oxygen through out the whole process.
During the tour we had the opportunity to taste the freshest olive oil ever. These olives were just harvested and pressed. The taste is amazing and because the nutrients are still intact you can feel a slight burning sensation in your throat when you swallow it. That burning feeling are antioxidants being released into your body.
Lunch at San Tomo
After our olive grove and mill tour we had lunch at the Corto family residence. You know when you have made it in life when you have so much property that you have to give your house of residence a name.
Walking through San Tomo was a dream and when we saw where we were eating for lunch our jaws dropped. It was in the middle of a private olive grove next to the guest house.
The amazing food was prepared by Chef Emily Kendall. All of her dishes were lovingly prepared and highlighted the freshness of Corto olive oil beautifully.
One of the best things I ate during the trip was this olive oil gelato. It inspired me to create my own spin on it – a vegan olive oil pudding.
Learning the Science of Good Ass Olive Oil
After our epic lunch we sat down to learn more about olive oil with the Master Miller David. He is a man of many talents and one of them is knowing when and how to extract the best olive oil ever.
We spent a few hours tasting olive oil from the best to the worst. We also learned the chemical structure of an olive (it was THAT detailed). Detailed yet informative.
My key take aways from the olive oil tasting and science section of the trip were these things:
- When buying olive oil don’t look at the expiration date on the bottle. Look for a bottle that provides a harvest date. Really good olive oil only retains it’s health properties and flavor for a couple of weeks.
- Therefore buy only small amounts and make sure it is packaged in either a dark glass bottle OR if you prefer to get a bigger size and go through vast amounts of it, make sure it’s packaged in a box that traps light away. Don’t buy anything packed in tin as the contains reactive metals that degrade the olive oil super fast. It also affects the taste.
- Don’t decant the olive oil in an oil pourer. This exposes the oil to the elements. To properly store olive oil leave it in, in it’s original packaging and put it in the cupboard way from light.
Ending the Day with the Family
We ended our day with a surprise visit from a real life God Father Dino Cortopassi the founder of Corto Oil Co. We spent the night getting to know each other more and really spending the night like family.
I think you can see it through these photos – through out the whole trip there were lots of smiles and laughter. The Corto Olive Co. is a family run business and we felt it. Every person that we met really loved their job and what they do and all they really want is for everyone to be educated about how good olive oil is produced.
I am so happy to have taken part in this year’s harvest. It’s so unforgettable that I still talk about it. This olive oil is so fresh that I want one of you to be able to taste it. You will not be able to find Corto in the supermarket, but you can find it online here.
So I have the pleasure of giving away one Corto’s TRULY EVOO 3 liter FlavorLock Box to one lucky person living in the US. To be eligible all you have to do is comment below what you would do with 3 liters of the best olive oil in the world. You must also be a resident of the United States. That’s it! So simple.
Giveaway closes on Tuesday the 5th of December 2017 at 9pm PST.
*** Update Giveaway is now close and the winner Alice has been contacted! Thank you everyone who entered and I hope you learned more about olive oil in the process!***