Date: November 18, 2015
I’ve tasted all types of fantastic flavored oils, no matter the flavoring method.
There are two methods of flavoring olive oil:
- Crushed or Agrumato Style, also called Fused – where whole fresh fruit, herbs or vegetables are crushed along with olives during the milling process (I prefer the term “crushed”).
- Infused – where flavoring or all-natural oil (natural essence) is blended into extra virgin olive oil
Both methods produce great flavored oils, and both have their own unique attributes, which should be considered when deciding to purchase or produce these products yourself, particularly if you have an olive mill:
- Pro – If you are looking for a true “naturally” produced flavored oil, this is your only choice, as it’s the real deal. Interestingly, it’s milled and racked the exact same way extra virgin olive oil would be. When the fresh fruit, herbs or vegetables are crushed with the olives, their natural oil essences are released and mix with the olive oil naturally, flavoring the olive oil during the milling process. Therefore, whatever you add to crush with your olives, needs to have oil essences in it. For example, apples or carrots would not work (although that would be very cool!), as they do not have natural oil essence in them…or if they do, they are not near enough to flavor the olive oil. Foods that have natural oil essence in them: all citrus, chilis like jalapeno and habanero, garlic, rosemary, basil, etc.
Fresh lemons to be crushed with olives.
- Pro – You can price crushed oil higher: One – because they generally taste more authentic and are closer to the actual flavor of the product (therefore better flavor profile), plus the aromacan be drastically better, and more intense. Two – because the product itself is so unique, and more difficult to produce. Not many producers/millers in the US make crushed flavored olive oils, the list is very small (I’ve included a few below to check out).
- Pro – The romance, pertaining to how it’s made, is attractive and unique, strengthening its marketability.
- Pro – Generally (in my experience), you can make a better flavored oil, with stronger aroma, through the crushed process.
- Con – Crushed oils can only be made one time of year during the olive harvest season, so you need to invest in your entire stock for the year, all at once.
- Con – It costs more to make crushed flavored olive oil, because you also have to purchase the ingredients you are milling with your olives. This can add anywhere between $10 – $20/gallon plus the added logistics of getting it to your mill, together this adds roughly $1.30 – $2.60 per 500ML bottle.
- Con – On the milling side of crushed oils, there is added cost and risk. If you also crush oils for extra virgin olive oil (evoo), it’s imperative that every last drop be removed and cleaned from your entire system before making evoo, otherwise you risk producing and oil that you can’t call evoo, virgin olive oil or even olive oil, because it has something else in it (technically adulterated with another type of oil). This also results in your olive oil tasting like whatever fruit or plant you last added (so invest in a nice cleaning system if you are a mill owner, a high-heat, high-pressure, pressure washer should do it, along with running a caustic solution through the malaxers, decanter and polisher). The extra cleaning required after crushing is added cost and time, unfortunately, and added costs in terms of resources like water and electricity. Therefore adding $2-$4/gallon to your product costs, possibly more.
- Con – Timing is critical, because to achieve best results, very mature olives are used to make crushed flavored olive oil because the flavor of the olive oil is more mild and buttery, which you want so that the fruit or plant flavor and aroma can stand out over that of the olive oil. This requires waiting, and allowing the olives to ripen on the tree, which growers don’t like of course, as the entire crop could be lost in a bad winter storm. If you are milling citrus, you’ll also have to wait for the citrus to ripen.
- Con – Flavor can change year to year, however, you can always tell customers that it’s a naturally produced product, and in farming (like wine), every year is going to be different. This concern will go away over time as customers become more educated with olive oil.
- Note: To achieve best results for your crushed flavored oil, be absolutely sure to use all fresh products when milling (harvested within, and kept cool, for less than 48 hrs).
- Pro – You can make as much or as little as you want, any time of year (probably my favorite reason to produce an infused line of product). This is extremely beneficial for small
Infused Flavored Olive Oil
companies who can’t invest in all their oil during the harvest season and needs to stretch out their costs over the entire year. It’s also beneficial in saving space, you can order the product to make infused oils when you need them. So if you have a big order come in, unexpectedly, you’d be able to fulfill it most likely, where crushed oils, once you are out, you are out. You can only product it one time of year.
- Pro – Once you have your formula, you can achieve your flavor profile every single time. Large customers, particularly, grow to expect consistency, so this process allows for the highest level of consistency.
- Pro – It costs less to produce infused oils versus crushed, making them more affordable, and still maintain a great margin.
- Con – It can be difficult to find flavoring or oil essence that tastes exactly the way you were shooting for, there are typically compromises to be made.
- Con – It can sometimes be hard to blend because every batch can be slightly different in flavor due to the intensity of the olive oil or flavoring you use (usually it’s the olive oil), therefore you have to constantly taste, and be on your toes, making slight adjustments here and there. Consistent blending techniques are very important here.
- Con – Flavorings have a shelf life too, and can lose flavor over time. Therefore monitoring inventory is important so you can maintain the best flavor profile, and freshest product.
Culinary Uses: Both crushed and infused are fantastic in all culinary applications. From baking to salad dressings, to drizzling over ice cream, both crushed and infused can be used interchangeably. Choosing one over the other really comes down to personal preference, with two things always being the determining factors: flavor and cost. For high volume applications, infused might be best due to cost, where a high-end restaurant chef may choose the crushed because it offers a unique flavor and the romance of how it’s made is appealing.
Using the term “Extra Virgin” on your flavored olive oil label:
Once you add a product other than extra virgin olive oil to extra virgin olive oil, it’s no longer extra virgin olive oil
. Therefore, on your flavored olive oil labels, “Extra Virgin” should not be used in the copy because it’s misleading and technically not true. Of course, it would be appropriate in the ingredients section to say “Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with flavoring” for infused olive oils. This is a commonly made mistake, due to the advantages and marketability of using the phrase “Extra Virgin,” however the COOC
(California Olive Oil Council) is starting to monitor this more rigorously in order to protect the “extra virgin” designation.
Fresh chilis to be crushed with olives
Chili oil from the polisher
Fresh limes to be crushed with olives
Note: There is one other method used, however it’s very tricky and if not done correctly can cause botulism – therefore I do not recommend it. This is where the fruit or plant of the desired flavor is cut up and submerged into olive oil to naturally infuse and flavor the oil (like steeping tea). In most cases, dried ingredients are used which is safe, if 100% dry, but sometimes fresh ingredients are used instead, and that is where you can run into trouble.
Please let me know if you have questions in the comment section below, or email me at dewey@olivefantastic, I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much,