February is Olive Oil Month

Below is a press release announcing that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed February California Olive Oil Month. This underscores the growing realization of how important olive oil is for our health and how important these local businesses are for supporting their communities statewide. We hope this recognition will help more Americans experience the beauty of this California made artisan product. The vast majority of California olive oil producers are small locally owned businesses that focus on very high quality. Through buying certified extra virgin olive you help support this emerging vibrant industry that focuses on high quality and small production rather than mass produced homogeneity.

February 12, 2010, Berkeley, CA Oil Month this February, Governor Schwarzenegger urges everyone to make
California olive oil a staple in their kitchens and cuisines. He emphasizes
the rich history and important role of olive oil in California agriculture,
noting California produces 99 percent of U.S. olive oil, and has set
standards to align its grades and quality with producers around the world.

As the state¹s olive oil production continues its rapid growth, California
competes with the finest oils from around the world in both taste and cost.
With hundreds of olive oils from around the world from which to choose,
California Olive Oil Council Executive Director Patty Darragh urges shoppers
and chefs to look for the COOC seal, as the guarantee for extra virgin olive
oil produced in California. Darragh adds, ³The COOC Taste Panel, founded in
1998, has certified nearly 200 extra virgin olive oils from our recent 2009
harvest, and these oils are already available on store shelves, farmers
markets, online merchants, and foodservice channels.²

About the California Olive Oil Council and its Seal Certification

Founded in 1992, the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) is a non-profit
trade and marketing association whose purpose is to promote the growing of
olives and the production of fresh, high-quality extra virgin olive oil in
California. The COOC represents 90% of olive oil production in the state
with a membership of 350 growers, producers, and supporting members from the
retail and service industries. The organization supports certified olive oil
standards and provides grower, producer and consumer education. Through its
Seal Certification program, the COOC helps everyone from home chefs to
restaurants find guaranteed extra virgin olive oils for their kitchens. For
more information, visit http://www.cooc.com.

The proclamation in its entirety follows.


February 2010, as ³California Olive Oil Month²

Governor of the State of California

Our Golden State¹s agricultural diversity is unrivaled in the world, and
oil is one of our fastest growing industries. Olive trees were first brought
over by Spanish missionaries, and their acreage in our state is expected to
grow annually by 10,000 acres in the next ten years. Moreover, our state
produces 99% of all olive oil from the United States.

California olive oil is made from a great variety of olives and production
methods and offers a range of flavors to choose from. In 2007, I signed SB
634, which aligns our state¹s olive oil grades to international standards.
This law requires bottles of olive oil to meet certain guidelines and
ensures that there is consistency in quality.

Additionally, extra virgin olive oil has many health benefits. It is high in
monounsaturated fats, a healthy type of fat, which reduces both overall and
bad cholesterol levels. Extra virgin olive oil also contains a great amount
of polyphenols, important antioxidants that promote heart health and

Olive oil is an important part of our economy and heritage, and this month,
I encourage the people of our Golden State to make California olive oil a
staple in their kitchen and cuisine.

California, do hereby proclaim February 2010, as ³California Olive Oil
Month.² IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great
Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 21st day of January 2010.

Governor of California

Take a Tour of Apollo Olive Oil

Below is a link to a 4 minute brief glimpse into how Apollo Olive Oil is made. You will see some of our orchards, how the olives enter the mill, the unique under vacuum milling process and the fresh oil emerging from the decanter which we taste immediately to ensure high quality. We are very proud of our little mill and the award winning olive oil it produces, it is a labor of love.

Watch the video (11 mb)

Which oil should I buy?

This is a question we are frequently asked and the answer can help you with not just our oils but other high quality olive oils. If you are buying a California olive oil the first consideration should be to buy an oil that is certified by the COOC. All oils certified by the COOC under go a human taste test by trained experts. Many olive oil defects cannot be detected by a chemical analysis so a human taste test is essential to ensure high quality. It is very inexpensive to become certified so all high quality producers do so. You also want to look for a harvest date. All high quality producers print a harvest date on their bottles. You also want to choose producers whose bottles are dark glass. This helps prevent the degradation of oil due to exposure to light.

We describe our oils in the following way:

Mistral is light intensity and used on white wine dishes.
Sierra is medium intensity and used on red wine dishes.
Barouni is strong intensity and used on red wine dishes and other hearty fare.

The word intensity above refers to the pungency in the back of the throat that real extra virgin olive oil has. This is evidence of anti-oxidants.

However, as with wine, all the rules above can be broken if you are looking for contrasts. So which oil you choose depends on how you like the olive pungency. Typically the more you intake real extra virgin olive oil the stronger you prefer your oil.

Because of the high anti-oxidant level in our oils they can easily last two years from harvest date. Anti-oxidants protect our body and they protect the oil from degrading.

Is the oil ok if it freezes in transport?

During the cold months we are frequently asked the question, ‘Is the oil ok if it freezes in transport?’ The answer is yes it will be fine. Simply let it thaw at room temperature and it will be good as new.

At the same time it is not recommended to keep the oil in the refrigerator. The oil should be stored in a cool dark place like a pantry, preferably not above the stove. Stored  like this the oil should keep at least 3 months after it is opened. Remember real extra virgin olive oil is a fresh product and you receive the most health benefits if you consume the oil within three months after opening. This is why we sell our bottle in the smaller 375ml size. This allows you to finish the oil within, at most, 3 months after opening.

End of Harvest Paella!

We finished the hard but rewarding work of harvest in mid-December. The harvest went very smoothly and the resulting oils were excellent. After blending and bottling we should have the new oils available in mid to late March. To celebrate the occasion our assistant miller and olive farmer Juan Jose made his family’s traditional paella. What a treat! Gianni, Diana and their son Umberto joined Steve and his wife along with Juan and Eve at Steve’s home on a beautiful December Saturday. There was plenty of beer and wine flowing as we all gathered around the table and watched Juan Jo prepare his masterpiece.

It starts with a special large flat pan hooked directly to the propane. You first brown the meat (duck, chicken, turkey, and pork) in an excellent extra virgin olive oil, of course. Then move it to the side and add fresh green beans and assorted white beans. Then move that to the side and add organic tomatoes. Quite a colorful dish. Then add water and rice. This is the tricky part, you need to add the correct ratio of rice vs. water. You then let this simmer for around 18 minutes. During the simmering you can add fresh artichoke, just remove the prickly leaves.

And now the kicker, top with fresh rosemary from the garden as it simmers.

After the rice is done and the water evaporated bring the whole pan to the table. Each person then dips his fork into the delicious mixture and proceeds directly to his own mouth with no plates intervening. This is true family style dining at its best. At this point you might be wondering, “Hey where are all the measurements and ingredient lists.” Well this is how family recipes are cooked – by feel. And we all felt very good with a perfect end to a perfect harvest.

Is what you are buying actually extra virgin olive oil?

The biggest challenge for the small artisan producer is the large scale fraud in the olive oil business in the US. Up until recently the US did not have any labeling laws in regard to extra virgin olive oil. Even now there are only two states with laws pending that are barely enforceable. Most of the olive oil sold in the US is similar to white bread in which all the nutrients are removed and the product is chemically treated to allow longevity during mass production and large scale transportation. This is not extra virgin olive oil.  Real extra virgin olive oil is necessarily a fresh product loaded with anti-oxidants. It is a product that does not lend itself to mass production. Therefore real extra virgin olive oil is expensive when compared to ‘white bread’ olive oil.

Italy exports 4 times more oil then it actually produces and yet this oil makes it into the US with the ‘From Italy’ moniker. Italy imports massive quantities of olive oil from all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean and bottles it and then ships it to the US. This is nothing new and has been going on for over 50 years. It only became an issue in the US when in the early 1990′s California started making real extra virgin olive oil and noticed it could not compete with the $10/gallon ‘extra virgin olive oil’ from Italy. Gradually the truth began to emerge. One of the best articles on this topic is the New Yorker article ‘Slippery Business.’ I recommend it highly.

Smithsonian Folkways

Quite by accident the other night I caught a show on the Smithsonian channel about Folkways founder Moses Asch. This is the fascinating story of a man who made it his life mission to record all the non-commercial sounds of our world from 1948 to the year of his death in 1986. Over this period of time he made 2,200 albums. That is over one every week. The content includes the folk music of Africa, the Near East, the Far East,  Appalachia , Cajun Louisiana, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, bird songs, animal sounds, junkyard sounds, children songs and much more. He is responsible for the first surviving recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, and many others thus allowing the rest of the world to hear unusual artists that would have been lost forever. He also produced the historic and legendary Anthology of American Folk Music edited by Harry Smith. His son has recently put together 26 one hour segments, called Sounds to Grow On, highlighting the vast collection that can be heard for free at the Folkways Smithsonian site. During his 38 year span at Folkways Moses Asch never allowed any of his recordings to go out of print. When the Smithsonian took over the collection the main agreement was that no title can ever go out of print. The Smithsonian continues to add eclectic recordings to the collection to this day. I take my hat off to such a wonderful non-commercial effort enriching us all. Oddly, one of the best selling recordings in the collection is an album of frog sounds with scholarly commentary. Enjoy!

Why are Extra Virgin olive oils sometimes a little bitter?

Extra Virgin olive oils contain the flavors of the olive fruit. (Tasting a raw olive is one of those experiences you would hope never to repeat.) Bitterness, along with pungency and vegetal/fruit flavors are considered positive attributes in EVO olive oils, particularly when they are well balanced. Depending on many factors, such as the olive variety and ripeness, milling technique, and the age of the oil, the bitterness and pungency can be quite intense. Sometimes professional tasters jokingly classify EVO oils as ‘one-cough, two-cough or three-cough’ oils. Fortunately, these strong olive oils make wonderful condiments. Once you get used to them, you’ll find them more and more attractive. In addition, the bitterness and pungency are evidence of a fresh olive oil that has polyphenols (anti-oxidants). It is this flavor in large part that actually makes extra virgin olive oil good for you.