If you live on the Mediterranean extra virgin olive oil is a must have in your kitchen. Because of it’s high price I always have two types, one average for cooking and one excellent for salads and finishing touch. We use it every day and spend a lot of it, especially the first one, so I try to find good ratio of price and quality. Usually I pick one of many good Croatian olive oils that you can buy in stores like “Oil Istria” or “Zvijezda”. And the second one I always buy from local people who have their own olives at home. I’m sure it’s pure, I know it’s origin and I like to buy from local people. If you aren’t used to domestic Istrian olive oil it may seem too strong and a little bitter but that’s how you can recognize it’s quality.
Some of the most popular olive sorts that people grow in this area are Istrian Bjelica, Buza, Crnica, Oblica, Pendolino and so on. Mediterranean climate with mild winters, sunny springs and hot summers is excellent for the growth of olive trees and that’s why you can see lot of olive groves all around our peninsula.
There are about twenty oil mills in Istria where the locals can bring olives from their plantations, process them and get oil. From 10 kilos of olives you can get about 1 liter of oil. Harvesting olive trees begins in late October through November and December, depending upon the region and the degree of ripeness. Picking olives can be done by hand or with the use of modern machinery which is more and more common these days. It’s very important to utilize the olives within a few days of harvest so you must be sure the oil mill will be able to accept and process your fruits the day you planned.
Some oil mills organize oil tasting where visitors can learn about the whole production process, from the olive groves to the production technology and, finally, to sample the end product. It’s a great experience that I highly recommend if you find yourself wandering around Istria.
While cooking, I often remember the words of our well known cook Ivan Pazanin during one culinary tv show: “A few drops of olive oil as a finishing touch will immediately give you one extra point”. Well, maybe he exaggerated a litle and one extra point was a bit too much but I always listen the words of a proffesional.
My husband adores olive oil and that’s why I always try to find some interesting new dishes to surprise him. My favorite: toasted bread, cheese flavored with Istrian truffles, pepper and extra virgin olive oil… Great idea for a quick appetizer everyone will like!