My favorite condiment by far is fresh, unfiltered, first cold-pressed olive oil.
As you will see in the film, 82% of ALL olive oil world-wide is "lamp oil". Lamp oil is everywhere - restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets and salad bars. This "oil" is ubiquitous and is loaded with artificial flavor, artificial color and contains absolutely no healthful properties whatsoever.
Many brands such as Bertolli, Star, Monino, Trader Giottos, and Whole Foods brands are lamp oil. It might say extra virgin but all that really means is that it was the first pressing; quite likely with rancid, rotten olives.
Big agribusiness, mainly in Spain, Morocco, Tunisia and Australia, have as many as 10 million trees on each "farm". Because harvesting olives is so labor intensive and expensive, what they do is let the fruit (olives are fruit) get so over-ripe, that it falls down on the ground and rots. Then, they have machines that vacuum-clean the soil with the dirt, insects and rancid olives. It's fast and it's cheap.
In order to make the oil "fit for human consumption," they have to reach what they call a "neutral greasy fluid" by filtering, deodorizing, and injecting color and flavor to make this rancid, dirty oil, palatable and legal by lowering the acidity.
Again, this is 82% of ALL olive oil worldwide.
Lets start off with some examples of the dreaded lamp oil, with the worst first:
LAMP OIL EXAMPLE #1
This "light" oil is a joke. Notice that is says, "Packed in Italy". This is a clear sign that it is lamp oil.
Remember 82% of all olive oil worldwide is "lamp oil'" i.e. rubbish. They ship the rotten, rancid, olives to factories in Italy where it is pressed using heat extraction to get as much oil as possible and then filter, color, and deodorize it as well as add artificial flavor.
This one is the worst of the worst. This isn't even extra virgin, which means the first pressing of the paste. Most oils that still say "extra virgin" are still lamp oil anyway. Yet don't despair! Continue reading.
Gilberto Lo Coco of Amphora, a real olive oil dispensary in San Anselmo, Ca. writes,
"The category of extra virgin is like a pass or fail course. One can get an A or D and still pass the course." Chemical analysis, tasting panels, knowing the crush date and ultra traceability, is the only way to insure one is buying TRUE extra virgin".
You can tell from the color and weakness that this is the second pressing of the paste.
"Cold-pressed "means nothing. What you want is "First-cold pressed" which means that AT LEAST the olives and the olive paste cannot be over 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 Celsius.
President's Reserve "Lamp Oil"
"Presidents Reserve"?! Sooooo tempted to make a joke here ;) Hopefully in 2020 this will not be as "ironic".
More examples of Lamp Oil. Don't buy!
Spazzatura example #3
If it says "Mediterranean Blend", I would stay away. Remember big agribusinesses in Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Australia have "farms" with 10 million trees.
MEDITERRANEAN BLEND IS NONSENSE.
FAKE GREEN COLOR = LAMP OIL
Notice the fake green color. This stuff is 100% Lamp oil. Just because it is from Spain does NOT mean it is fake, yet highly likely. You can get very good oils from small authentic producers in Spain. But Spain is the main country that continues to lobby heavily against having a European standard and regulations for olive oil because they produce so much of the fake stuff.
Pictured above is more rubbish from Trader Joes. In this instance, "Extra Virgin", "Cold Pressed" and "Packed in Italy" mean nothing other than STAY AWAY!
Many lamp oils will be used to infuse with flavors or herbs. This is a great way to disguise the lamp oil and make you think it's healthy....or at least has a flavor. Below is
another prime example that makes up 82% of all olive oil world-wide (Lamp Oil)
GARLIC FLAVOR IS BETTER THAN LAMP FLAVOR I RECKON...
Question: Matteo, how can I tell the difference between lamp oil and real authentic olive oil?"
Response: If it is clear or filtered I would stay away. Unless you already know the oil, it is highly likely that it is rubbish. There is NO REASON to filter the oil unless it is garbage.
Lamp oils have hardly ANY taste but perhaps a very slight artificial peppery flavor at the finish. They taste greasy and "oily" and the color looks fake. Once you taste a real olive oil, you will know, trust me. It is alive, not greasy at all, and has a freshness and pleasant complexity to it.
Ok. Basta!!! Now on to the good stuff.
This is what you want your oil to look like; LIQUID GREEN GOLD
So what should I look for in an olive oil, you ask?
First of all, if it is filtered I would steer clear. There is NO reason to filter the oil, unless there is dirt, bugs and debris in it. Oils that look clear are usually filtered, therefore are LAMP OIL. Some very good oils do, over time, become clear. Yet, as a general rule, unless you already know the product I would choose something else.
I would avoid oils that say, "Mediterranean Blend" or "Packed in Italy". These are clear signs that the oil is lamp oil. Avoid clear, or golden oils, or bottles that say "light oil". This is a joke.
I look for a cloudy, unfiltered oil that smells green and fresh - almost grassy. It should be bitter, spicy and peppery, particularly at the finish. These are the antioxidants that are medicinal and contain tannins that have anti-inflammatory properties similar to Advil.
The spicy, pleasant burn in the back of the throat is a sure sign that the oil is made exclusively from real olives which were harvested correctly and quite likely earlier in the fruit's lifespan. In many cases, lamp oil contains other oils besides only olive.
The best oil will almost always come from Italy and will be fairly expensive.
I recommend these two products from Trader Joe's (avoid all their other oils!).
The California Estate is a mono varietal from California and is a good oil for the money - $6 for 500ml. It is not the fullest or roundest oil, but for the money I don't think you can find anything else that healthy in the US. And they have it year-round.
An even better oil from Italy that TJ's sells from December through April (olives are harvested in November) is Novello. This is a fuller, rounder, sweeter oil while simultaneously being bigger and spicier. For $15 per 1000ml (1 liter), you will never find a better oil for the money in the States.
Unfiltered, thick, cloudy, with a peppery, spicy, grassy, green flavor and sometimes lemony aroma is what you should expect. For me, the fresher, bigger and spicier the better...or bitter :) . Yet, you wouldn't want to put this type on a fish dish for instance. You would go for something just as fresh, yet more delicate and less over-powering like Luna Vera or Starec or perhaps a California oil.
Question: "Yeah, but good oil is too expensive to cook with. I use the cheap stuff just to cook with. What do you think?"
Reply: I would NEVER use it for anything. Lamp oil contains no nutrients or medicinal properties whatsoever, not to mention any flavor. Even if you just need a "neutral greasy fluid" to cook with, it will have no taste other than the artificial flavor and artificial color added after they chemically refine it. By spending just a little extra money you can get a decent oil that will be healthful and medicinal to cook with and enhance your dishes.
By buying "lamp oils", you are supporting big agribusiness, continuing their deceptive, unethical and abusive land practices. Buying from local and/or small authentic producers, you will support their livelihood and their families, not to mention their traditional practices and stewardship of the land. And, genuine olive oil is VERY healthy and brings out the flavors in anything it touches. Put it on eggs, in soups, salads, on burritos, over pastas that are bland, and always on top of a Neapolitan pizza! I have been known to drink a very good olive oil right out of the bottle.
A good, authentic oil will also be "early-harvested". Instead of letting the fruit rot and fall to the ground like lamp-oil producers, farms with integrity will harvest the fruit early, meaning that that the antioxidants and tannins will be very high, yet they will extract less oil from the fruit, making it more expensive to produce. But worth it.
Question: "What about California olive oil? Is it as good as Italian oil?
Response: There are some good California oils out there. Bariani and McEvoy which I believe are mono-varietals, are certainly healthful and good, yet you will pay a lot for them. In my opinion and experience, if you are going to spend that much, better to go in person If you are in Marin County or East Bay, California to Amphora https://amphoranueva.com/
If you want local oils, then Bariani and McEvoy are pretty good.
Or.... buy HIGH quality oils from Italy!
One of the reasons why I continue to prefer Italian oils, and oils from very small producers in Spain, Croatia and France is because for instance, at Pornanino located in Chianti, Italy (they are featured in the film), they use the famous mix of 4 types of olives. This gives the oil more fullness, depth, complexity, roundness, and overall layers of different flavors, like a wine.
California typically produces one kind of olive - the Arbequina. It's good, yet more narrow in its range and as a result not nearly as interesting or full as an oil from Chianti, in my opinion.
In addition, one of the reasons why ALL food from Italy tastes so good is that the top soil is considerably deeper and much, much richer than in North and South America, because Italy is largely volcanic. The minerals in the volcanic soil make fruits and vegetables much more flavorful. Given the soil, climate and location, Italy's lauded cuisine is no coincidence. I don't believe in coincidences anyway ;)
I HIGHLY recommend these Italian producers: (there are many, but I have kept it to 5)
Pornanino from Chianti. They are in the film!
https://www.pornanino.com/ They ship to the States - 6 bottle minimum.
Foddi from Sardegna:
De Carlo from Puglia:
Starec from Trieste:
Luna Vera from Sardegna:
For those of you in California who want to buy from a local shop:
Gilberto is from Sicily, Claire from Naples, Italy and their passion is oil. There you can taste MANY oils and then they will fill up a bottle or two... or five to your liking. Good people.
The best healthy oil for the money at a supermarket, but not in the league of the aforementioned: Trader Joes California Estate - available year round. I use this to cook with liberally, as well as on...well everything.
Trader Joes Novello from Italy - Available from December through April. I usually buy 6 or 7 bottles that get me through the year...almost. :)
If you want an Italian oil that you can find in a supermarket, this one is real:
HAND PICKED, UNFILTERED AND ORGANIC. Buon appetito!