Today I had a day dedicated to my favorite cooking ingredient - olive oil. My day started with a visit to an Olive Oil museum in Loreto Aprutino, in the Pescara province of Abruzzo, Italy. I saw an amazing array of antique olive pressing machines that have contributed to this part of Italy's wonderful olive oil tradition. I was amazed at the engineering wonder of the minds of clever people in the past who created olive oil production techniques using stone, timber, animal and man. All to produce what we know now to be the healthiest fat source we can consume.
I then ate an Abbuzzese degustation meal which included five savory dishes. Each one relied on lashings of olive oil for texture, flavour, fat and shine. I then slid back through the cobble stoned streets of the old hill top area of Loreto Aprutino and headed out of town passing countless olive trees, bursting with fruit and ready for harvest in late autumn.
I am staying at a tranquil agritourism olive farm just near Loreto Aprutino. The old farm house has been converted into a friendly and relaxed accommodation option for people who enjoy immersing themselves in local life. My hosts Mario, Gabriella and her mother Olga are welcoming, superb cooks and most importantly olive oil masters.
Tonight I was invited by Luciana Masci, an Abruzzo expert and Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo tour operator to join an olive oil master class with Gabriella. She explained the properties of olive oil, the process of production and the definition of what makes a good olive oil good. We learnt how to taste olive oil using special blue or amber coloured tasting glasses that help focus the user on the two crucial senses for olive oil - smell and taste. Gabriella's olive oil sells out every year and is award winning....and trust me, it is amazing. Peppery, smooth, clean and full of depth.
Following our tasting session we proceeded to do what many women here in Italy did out of necessity in the past....make olive oil soap. Good olive oil makes good soap. We added fresh rosemary from the garden to the soap mixture to add flex of colour and a sweet scent. I can't wait to see the results of our efforts tomorrow evening when it should be set enough to cut.
Now that I know how to taste olive oil, I'll do some taste testing at home with our Australian olive oils. I'll carry a little can of Gabriella's award winning oil home with me to measure against!
You too can experience olive oil tasting in my Finding Valentino Tour of Abruzzo in October 2014. Click on the Tours tab of angeladisciascio.com for details.