By Rick Petrocelly
©The Olive Tap 2013
Agrumato is a relatively obscure word used in the olive oil business, but The Olive Tap hopes to make it more commonplace. Once you try our newest Agrumato style flavored olive oils, we think you will agree that they are the best there is.
The term Agrumato is Italian in origin, and originally referred to a process developed in my ancestral homeland of Abruzzo of simultaneously crushing Lemons or Oranges with olives to produce exceptionally flavored olive oils. In addition to citrus, including limes, today this term is also used to refer to oils made with select herbs like Basil and Oregano, and bulbs of Garlic, Onions and Shallots.
Farmers of the Abruzzo region would create a limited amount of very special Agrumato oil that they would give as gifts to family and friends. The process is tedious and more expensive than just producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and recipients would cherish this truly remarkable gift. To make Agrumato oil, they must gather the best handpicked olives along with locally grown and perfectly ripe fresh citrus fruit, and then crush and press them simultaneously in their “Frantoio”/mill to produce oils with flavor profiles that perfectly match the source fruit, herb or bulb. For the best Agrumato oils, it would not be unusual to find that 20% by weight of the total crush was citrus fruit. The exact ratios will vary based on the plant product being used, the degree of ripeness, as well as varietal and seasonal factors.
In order to produce flavored olive oil, one of 3 methods must be used. Please note that we do not include “artificially flavored” as an option, as we are unaware of anyone using this method to flavor olive oil.
Agrumato, sometimes referred to as fusion, where the flavor is extracted directly from the fruit. With this method, the essential oils and flavor components of the desired plant product are suspended in the olive oil, while the pulp, rind, seeds, stems, water and other solids are discarded along with the olive Pomace.
Naturally Flavored/Additive, where an oleoresin, extract, essential oil, or other natural ingredient is added to olive oil. With this method, the quality of flavor and aroma are variable, and dependent upon the processing of the plant product. Some are very good and very authentic in taste, while many are fair to poor and taste artificial. Note: the word “infused” is used throughout our industry to refer to an olive oil that has the flavor added. For example: "The enchanting and classic flavor of Herbes de Provence in a base of premium quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil will do magical things in your kitchen. Use this savory infused olive oil as finishing oil on meats, fowl and fish..." The Olive Tap Herbes de Provence is a Naturally Flavored olive oil.
Infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material into olive oil, allowing the material to remain suspended in the oil over time (a process often called steeping. Infusions are the least favorable method for olive oil, since heat is generally needed to extract the flavor from the plant product, and heat damages Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Additionally, with an infusion you cannot control the leaching of undesirable secondary flavors while extracting the flavor you want.
The Olive Tap only offers Agrumato and Additive flavored olive oils. To us, authenticity of flavor is paramount, and we will only sell oils that pass our exacting standards for oil quality, flavor and aroma. We have found that certain oils taste better when the additive method is used, while others produced in the Agrumato method are superior.
A note about terminology: You cannot call a flavored olive oil Extra Virgin. By definition and in conformance to the established national and international standards for chemical and sensory analysis, there cannot be anything added to Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Once a flavor is added, it is no longer Extra Virgin, and must be called olive oil. Without the added flavor, we are confident that the base oil would qualify as Extra Virgin, and in most cases have the analysis of the base oil component to prove it.
In the past, The Olive Tap has offered Lemon and Orange “Agrumato” oils. In 2013 we added Agrumato produced Basil and Jalapeno oils to our line. The crisp, fresh, and absolute authenticity of flavor produced by the Agrumato method cannot easily be duplicated by the more common method of adding natural flavoring to Extra Virgin or plain Olive Oil. Once you taste our Agrumato Basil or Jalapeno, we think you will agree that this method is superior. The aroma is authentic, and both exhibit the same smell as their whole leaf or fresh pepper counterparts. A simple taste and you will be convinced. Our Basil olive oil will taste just like a Basil leaf, and our Jalapeno olive oil will taste like a fresh Jalapeno pepper.
Look for more upgrades to The Olive Tap flavored olive oils in the future.