On a recent visit to the Oregon Olive Mill and Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms we were delighted to learn there is a fun technique to olive oil tasting, not unlike wine tasting. Libby Clow, Olive Oil Program Ambassador, explained the steps.
|Morning view at Oregon Olive Mill|
2. Don’t swirl it, heat it up – Just like wine releases aromas when it interacts with air, olive oil “opens up” with heat. Think about how much stronger olive oil smells when it hits a hot skillet or when drizzled over steamy vegetables. We placed our stemless glasses in our palms, covered with our other palm, and twisted back and forth to warm the oil.
|Combining olives at different stages of ripeness adds peppery spice and buttery texture|
If you try these steps, and you can for free at Oregon Olive Mill, you might find yourself coughing at the end. According to Clow, the pepperiness in the back of your throat is an indication that the oil is still lively. This is an individual response and can be more pronounced for some people.
How to Buy
Quality olive oils are often made with just one type of olive and it will be listed on the label just like a wine label lists “chardonnay.” At Oregon Olive Mill we tasted Arbequina, Frantoio, and Koroneiki. Labels often list harvest and bottling dates. Filtered oils have a shelf life of 2 years. Once opened expect them to stay fresh about 6 months. Just like wine, they should be stored in a cool, dark place. A kitchen cabinet away from the stove and fridge is a good place to keep olive oil.
How to Use
Olive oil doesn’t just keep your cast iron happy. It can add flavors and textures to your dish. What about adding an oil with flavors of orange peel and a buttery texture to a crisp arugula salad?For our tasting, simply prepared foods were drizzled with various olive oils. Frantoio, buttery textured with flavors of celery leaf, was lively enough for roasted potatoes and subtle enough for cheddar cheese. Tuscan, the only olive oil we tasted made from a mix of olives, was versatile enough for both salami and brussel sprouts. Arbequina, had a creamy avocado texture, flavors of bitter almond and green banana. It was a great addition to roasted beets. Koroneiki had the most tannin, viscosity, and depth of flavor. A popular olive oil for meats, it was drizzled on poached chicken.
While our lunch was not huge or heavy, we found it very satisfying. Score one for good fats. We even had olive oil and espresso salt on ice cream (yummier than you think.) For those with special dietary needs, get ready for chocolate chip cookies with olive oil instead of butter. We like our butter, but these were really good and the recipe is at the end of this article
How to Simplify
Most of us are not going to have an arsenal of oils for different dishes. If you do, please invite Tasting Pour over. We will bring wine. Choosing olive oil is like choosing wine. Find a quality product you like and it will be a good pairing.
How to Learn More
Red Ridge Farms, owned and operated by the Durant family, includes the Oregon Olive Mill and Durant Vineyards on one property. If you are lucky enough to live in Oregon or are planning a visit, we highly recommend adding this to your list. The vineyards, first planted in 1973, are part of Oregon’s wine history. This is also the state’s first commercial olive mill. In 2000 the family added a destination nursery and began experimenting with olives, planting their grove in 2005. Paul Durant explains that being an Oregon olive pioneer results in similar challenges to being an Oregon wine pioneer. “There is a lot of trial and error and the learning curve is long because olive trees grow slowly.” Paul’s father, Ken Durant, planted the first grapes at Durant Vineyards 42 years ago. He remembers, “The first five years people were planting the wrong clones.” He relates these challenges to learning about growing olives.Because Oregon Olive Mill is the only commercial mill in the state, the Durants get to cooperate and share tips with the few other Oregon olive producers. UC Davis has proved a valuable resource and the California olive industry as a whole has been supportive. Paul Durant explains, “We have the mobile number for California Olive Ranch’s Head Miller and we can call any time.” Ken Durant shares, “There is a mystique and curiosity about olives in Oregon, but we will make it. We are making it.”
|Oh the places you can go at Red Ridge Farms|
Guests get to enjoy the fruits of the Durant family’s labor. Visitors walk through the green house and nursery running their fingers through the various scented mints and lavender. Olive oil tastings are free and so are olive mill tours with a reservation. The gift shop is an inviting space with many products based on honey, lavender, and of course olive oil. Outdoor seating is located by the gift shop and outside the wine tasting room. If we could only take guests to one vineyard in Dundee Hills this is the one we would choose. Our parents, who don’t drink, recently visited. They loved the views, nursery, gift shop and olive oil. There is something for everyone. For those who do imbibe, the wine is not to be missed. For more information on Durant Vineyards wines Farming Comes First at Durant Vineyards. For more information on wine and olive oil tastings visit Red Ridge Farms.
Have you found a fabulous olive oil? Tell us about it. Oh, and here is the cookie recipe as promised.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon Oregon Olive Mill Arbequina or Koroneiki Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
- Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.
- Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop out as much cookie dough as necessary to make the size of cookies you desire. I did one big tablespoon for each cookie, which equaled to 2-sheets of 12 cookies.
- Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 13-15 minutes.
- Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; and allow cookies to cool.