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Posts Tagged ‘Tuscan olive oil’

We woke up to the news that our friends’ organic Tuscan olive oil won First Prize last night at the local Tuscan competition!

Complimenti, Keith and Helen!

Here’s their website for Boggioli, pictured below–1100 olive trees on a hillside in the Valdarno south of Florence: http://www.boggioli.com/

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The judges got it right–the oil we brought back last week is exceptional.

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We arrived at Boggioli this year, as last, in a rainstorm that disrupted the olive picking process.

Our usual contribution to the work–gathering the olives into the plastic paniers and pulling out any twigs and small branches that have fallen in–was minimal–limited this year to one afternoon.

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The torrential rain had made it impossible for the five-man team of professional pickers to work. This left Keith with a problem: He had booked a visit to the frantoio (oil processing plant) but only had a small quantity of olives waiting to be transported from the previous day’s limited picking.

Olives begin to degrade fast and waiting more than two days might affect the overall quality of this year’s yield. So to make up the quantity a little, Keith, Helen, Meredith and I picked some trees nearest to the house where the ground is flat and relatively dry.

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Pas grand choses but it was fun and made more sense of the next morning’s trip to the frantoio.

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The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are well known–and Tuscan oils are especially highly prized.
Keith and Helen’s dedication to the cause has been justly rewarded.
We sped home last week with our precious cargo on board–highly prized now in more senses than one!

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Our friend Keith Richmond has a thousand olive trees in the Tuscan hills, south east of Florence.

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Keith shows off tomato bruscetta at a local restaurant in Radda in Chianti.

Every November he harvests his olives and wins prizes with the rich green oil they produce.

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He recently picked up a gold medal in Los Angeles and another important prize in Germany.

We first met him at an olive oil tasting demo in Florence and were smitten with his passion for this miraculous product and his beguiling way of expressing it.

He knows his subject.

I thought I’d ask him to write a brief note about the tricky task of choosing a good olive oil.

He obliged with this:

It occurs to me that, since you mention extra virgin olive oil so often in your recipes and recently extolled the virtues of the Mediterranean diet in your blog, some of your readers may like to have some pointers on how to select an olive oil of good quality.

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The supermarket shelves are loaded with olive oils of questionable quality, many of which may be suitable, I imagine, for frying or cooking in general. Price is certainly an important first indicator: cheap oil is, well, cheap oil – and you get what you pay for!

When taste and flavour are indispensable you have to go to the top of the range. Ideally you should know the grower and how the olives are processed. Obviously that is seldom possible, so the best alternative is to head for the more expensive olive oils on the shelf. You are more likely to find an olive oil of good or even exceptional quality in that way, especially if the label indicates that the olive oil is organic (‘biologico’ in Italian, for example) and that it is (for Italian olive oils at least) IGP or DOP, a sort of appellation controllée. This means that the olive oil has passed rigorous olfactory and chemical tests and is reliable.

Pay attention to the ‘best by’ date. This should never exceed 18-24 months after the year of production. Oils can still taste good after that date but will have gradually lost most of the characteristics beneficial to health. Also, you have no idea how the olive oil has been stored, so keep your distance from ‘old’ olive oils.

Your readers in North America would do well to consult a web site and blog run by Tom Mueller (www.truthinoliveoil.com). He gives a lot of sensible advice on a variety of oils that are available in the US especially.

I’ll be happy to answer any queries. Keep cookin’, best, Keith

This is meant as an introduction to his excellent site–which is worth a visit.

http://www.boggioli.com/

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Keith and Helen Richmond also offer excellent holiday accommodation on the farm.

http://www.boggioli.com/the-farm/hospitality/

 

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Consulting the oracle…

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Olive picking resumed yesterday, Wednesday, after rain stopped play for two days–(sounds like the English cricket season!)

We arrived here Sunday night after driving down the Ligurian coast in a storm.

A brief and beautiful pause in Santa Margherita Liguria, Sunday morning–

soon proved one of Mother Nature’s teases as the rain began in earnest again on the road to Florence.

Footage of flood devastation on the Tuscan coast reminded us of America’s East Coast troubles–still terrible for many.

Our friend, Keith, didn’t apologize for the uncharacteristic Tuscan gloom.

You brought the rain and wind with you–from home!

It’s true, it tagged onto our coattails in Provence and followed us all the way.

But today all that is forgotten as autumn returns to its golden glory.

Keith’s team of five work their tough eight hour day on the steep terraces–the clickity-clacking of the picking poles playing constantly in their ears as the pretty little olives, green and all shades of purple, rain down from the trees and onto the nets.

A tree yields a litre of oil, roughly–Keith says.

He has a thousand trees. It takes a couple of weeks to harvest his crop, depending on the weather.

Then our job begins.

Gently lifting up the nets after the trees have yielded up their treasures, we help guide the olives into piles.

We pull out any twigs and small branches that have fallen and gather the olives into the plastic paniers, ready to go to the frantoio to be processed  in the morning.

Alba–a willing helper.

They had four good days last week though the rain has lowered the percentage of oil in the olives, plumping them up with water.

It doesn’t affect the overall quality of the oil–just the yield.

The liquid gold seems even better than last year.

My hands I notice smell of sea water–that slightly salty tang.

Must ask the master about this.

Exhausted olive worker, is now retiring to the shower!

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