Drizzle Oil and Vinegar

Drizzle Oil and Vinegar

California Olive Oil

The olive is one of few plants that tends to be grown on average farm because the crop is harvested by hand and needs pruning. This also allows vendors to cut the cost of olive oil since it’s not grown on large farms. An olive plant thrives in hot weather. That’s why olive farms are popular in California. A typical olive orchard, like those in northern California, is usually no more than 20 acres big.

California grows five popular types of olive (starting with the largest to the smallest):
• Manzanillo (man-zan-ee-o)
• Sevillano (sev-ill-ahn-o)
• Mission
• Ascolano (Ah-sko-lah-no)
• Barouni (Bah-roo-nee)

Because this olive grows big, is hard to bruise, ripens quick, and easily processes into olive oil, the Manzanillo has become one of the most popularly grown olives in America. The quick ripening of the olive makes it ideal to be grown because the fruit can be harvested before the start of winter. Despite the popularity of the Manzanillo olive, the Sevillano olive (largely produced in Tehama County) is the largest olive fruit and is considered the highest priced olive to be bought in stores. It has been adequately named “the queen olive” because it has size classifications such as giant, jumbo, colossal, super colossal, and special. Also, the Sevillano olive doesn’t produce much oil when pressed; so, it is rarely used for making olive oil.

One of the oldest American-grown olives around, the Mission olive comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from small to extremely large. It is a common olive used for the making of olive oil, and so are the Manzanillos and Ascolanos. The Mission olive primarily grown in Butte County and it carries the title of being the first olive to ever be grown and harvested in America. Competition from importing is turning the mission olive into a lesser grown olive, and California is gradually replacing its popularity as being a favorite for cold pressed olive oil with the Manzanillo and Ascolano olives. Even though this gradual replacement is taking place, California is still ensuring that the state produces high quality olive oil with Manzanillo and Ascolano olives.

The Ascolano olive primarily grows in Corning, California in the Sacramento Valley. It has a preferred taste, but the fruit bruises easily and the fruit doesn’t produce that much oil by volume. However, when the oil of this olive is blended with other olives used for making olive oil, it makes a nice yield. The Barouni olive of Yuba County is used for making olive oil and can also be cured at home.

Olives are sold and used in a variety of ways in America. Some olives are canned so they can be bought and eaten with a variety of foods. Some olives are eaten black-ripened while others are eaten green-ripened. Some olives—like the Ascolano, Manzanillo, and Mission olives–are used for processing into olive oil. Some are sold fresh, and others are made in brine and sold at specialty shops and other stores. The percentages prepared and sold in the aforementioned ways are largely determined by the volume of olives harvested for that year.

Between 5%-15% of California’s total olive harvest is processed green, which is also referred to as the Spanish style because of the acidic and salty taste. They are also called the Spanish style because a majority of the green olives Americans consume is brought here from Spain (and tastes identical to the California green olives).

The only type of stuffed olive made in California is the pimiento-stuffed olive. Other types of stuffed olives—like cheeses, onions, nuts, etc.–are handmade and come from Spain where the labor is cost effective to do so. The vendors who make stuffed olives use a process similar to the process used to make maraschino cherries. The pimiento and its seed are ground up, and carrageenan is added to change the texture. Then, the mixture goes through a machine that turns out a red ribbon-like material that is the perfect size for the olive’s pit hole. The olives are then stuffed with portions of the pimiento ribbon.

California also has a few stores producing herbal and spicy brines that contain olives cured in a weak lye solution. These olives are going at a very high price in most specialty stores and markets. However, a much less expensive brine can be made at home by adding spices, red peppers, and garlic to canned olives (green-ripened). These canned olives are usually harvested after they just started turning red; so, they won’t have the black look like black-ripe olives have because they haven’t been oxygenated.

European-style olives that are grown in California are showing up in delicatessens all over the United States. West Coast Products in Orland, California is one company that produces European-style olives. They take local olives that they get from regional farmers and make a hearty oil-cured olive made from March harvested Mission olives, a Greek-type olive from olives gathered between late Winter and early Spring, and a Sicilian-style olive from Sevillano olives picked in Autumn that is fermented in brine for half a year. These European-style imitations are often better than their original olive counterparts because they don’t undergo excess handling and damage during importing.

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