Category Archives: Random Thoughts

TO PRUNE OR NOT TO PRUNE

That is the question.

The answer is:  PRUNE

Olive trees are sturdy and resilient.

An beautiful Italian saying “Prune your olive trees so that a swallow can fly through without touching its wings”

This beautiful saying gives the olive grower a visual target for pruning.

Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004

Here are some tips for pruning

  1. Lift the trees’ skirts. Keep the branches from touching the ground
  2. Bring the tops down to harvest height – you prune to harvest. Mark says you do not want to harvest by helicopter.
  3. Clean the inside and all dead wood from all the branches.
  4. Take off all old fruit – called mummies – that were not harvested last year. They are a harbor for the olive fruit fly.
  5. The goal is to help shape the tree into a goblet or vase shape.
  6. Prune to allow wind and sunlight into the center of the tree, to prevent mold, scale and mildew.
  7. Feed your trees.
  8. Always prune suckers that arise from the base of the trunk
  9. Prune only 1/3 of the tree each year.
  10. Remember that olive fruit grows on second year growth in the presence of sunlight.
  11. Olives are alternate bearing; so plan your heavy pruning after a heavy harvest. Conversely light prune after a light crop. This helps to try to equalize your production over the years.

 If you have enough volume, have your olive oil certified, both by chemistry and by sensory analysis. The results will help you understand your crop, the right harvest conditions, and the oils characteristic over time.

Don’t forget to spray for Olive Fruit Fly. Spray weekly, from pit hardening in the spring to about two weeks before harvest.

References:

  1. Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004.
  2. Olive Growing, Ed. D. Barranco, R. Fernandex-Escobar, L. Rallo, Gruppo Mundi-Prensa 2010.
  3. Olive Production Manual , Ed. G Steven Sibbett, Louise Ferguson, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2004.

Valentine’s Day

 

A special day you care for people that you love.

A Valentine’s Dinner Recipe

Serves 2 from the heart

1 cup cooked pasta, whole grain organic elbow pasta from BAIA

1 cup cooked little white beans (any beans will do but cannellini is best)

1 cup organic crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like, for garnish

2 tablespoons Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil for finishing the dish

 

Heat all the ingredients till piping hot

Combine each of the ingredients

Serve in beautiful bowls

Garnish with cheese, red pepper flakes and Frantoio Oil

 

Delicious, warm, heart healthy, simple and perfect for a rainy night.

 

Light a candle at table

Finish with a little bit of really great dark chocolate.

 

 

 

 

Everything Citrus

Our citrus trees are in full production and we use all the citrus in Kitchen in the Grove. Endless uses for our fruit; marmalade, candied fruit, soups and flavorings, and plenty of eating. There is a lot of citrus on our tasting plates in the Visitor Center these days. Citrus represents a major component of the flavor profile for this month.

 

 We are featuring citrus co-milled oils, lime, lemon, mandarin. We even made a kaffir lime oil this year.

We are serving Citrus Mostarda’s as a Chefs Sampler in the Kitchen.

Making Co-Milled Oils

Co-milling means we mill olives and citrus together. It all goes through the entire process simultaneously, from cutting, washing, grinding, malaxing and passing through the centrifuge all at the same time.  The result is beautiful co-milled award winning oils. The balance differs each year depending on the variety of olive, the maturity and the sweetness of the citrus fruit.

The Origin of Citrus Fruit

A DNA study published in Nature in 2018 concludes that citrus trees originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the area of Assam (India), western Yunnan (China), and northern Myanmar.

The three original species in the citrus genus that have been hybridized into most modern commercial citrus fruit are the mandarin orange, pomelo, and citron Within the last few thousand years, all common citrus fruits (sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and so on) were created by crossing those original species.

Most citrus comes from China. Some of the new DNA studies are able to locate their origins. Some researchers believed that it had originated in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and then made its way to the US via of China. It is also thought that citrus has been cultivated for over 4000 years.

And I thought that olives were old!

Here is a fun recipe for spicing up winter meals

Whole Lemon Dressing

“When life gives you lemons make a great dressing”

1 organic Meyer or Eureka lemon

3/4 cup Athena’s Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, Maldon

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, Tellecherry

Method:

Cut the lemon into 4-6 pieces

Place in blender

Slowly add the olive oil while the blender is running

Add the spices, as you desire, just before the dressing is finished

Blend until just smooth

Use immediately or refrigerate for only a day

 

Optional ingredients:

Fresh herbs:  thyme, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, oregano or even cooked asparagus

Sweetener: honey to balance the tartness of the lemons

Fresh or roasted garlic

Anchovies, My personal favorite

IL Fiorello Spicy Lavender Mustard

Chef’s Note:

Meyer lemons are sweeter, Eureka Lemons are more tart and brilliant tasting

Try both and compare the taste

Serving Suggestions

Salads, Fish, Roast Pork, all vegetables

OLIVE OIL AND FOOD

What do consumers want from their food, and what can a good olive oil deliver? Simple: better taste and better health.

 At IL Fiorello, we maintain that real, certified olive oil paired with good real food is always the best combination and complement for each other.

It is a simple combination, maybe too simple for people to believe it to be true. There is no magic bullet. However, study after study is showing this to be the simple answer. Stop using fake olive oil, use the real stuff. Stop buying prepared prepackaged foods. Use real foods. 

Do not buy olive oil that isn’t certified in California. That certification is for your consumer protection. Extra Virgin Olive oil is only olives, nothing else. It is not oil with a hundred additives. If you want other flavors simply add fresh garlic, fresh basil, or other fresh ingredients when you are preparing foods. Who wants year old garlic in your oil? Use fresh!

If you pay attention, use real food, and real olive oil, you will reap the benefits of better all-around health. Some researchers are saying that the balanced Mediterranean diet, using extra virgin olive oil, leads to better thinking, looking and feeling better, and improved stamina and performance. That is a real benefit.

I look for taste in this mix. Better taste – more enjoyment better food.

Protect yourself, use the real stuff. It is very good and really simple.

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

MILLING COMPLETED 2018

Milling is done for the year 2018, and we have learned many lessons about olives. Yet again, Mother Nature rules and Farming is a risky business.

Olives are a cyclical fruit, and most growers were down in crop volume from 60% to 80 % this year. Additionally, many people did not even harvest their meager crop. We knew that last year was one of the largest years on record; so, this year would be light. But not this light. Some of the crop reduction is due to the frost at blossom set time last Spring. Some is due to heavy pruning after the large crop of last year. Some is due to…who knows what, back to that risky business stuff.

Many growers were caught between harvesting grapes and harvesting olives. Here in Northern California, wine grapes are usually their primary crop. Olives come second. No climate change, HUH? The very first season we harvested olives, the date was Nov 11. Today, we are harvesting in early October.

The olives that came in were generally overripe. They had a lot of olive fly. Even if everyone sprayed with the only organic spray we have for fly, GF 120 Spinocid, there were less olives so more flies per olive. Some oils may not pass certification because of fly infestation and dryness. This is such a hard year.

One of our growers said to me” this doesn’t taste like my olive oil” my answer…No one’s oil tastes the same this year. Including IL Fiorello. Our oil is very different, not bad or good different, but very different. All the oils we milled tasted different, much less aroma, more bitterness. If you asked us to under-malax the oils, your oil developed with virtually no flavor and you received significantly less volume. If we correctly malaxed, the time in the malaxer for the oil to coalesce, the extraction volumes were enormous, but the flavor was flat. Such an unusual year. Some companies have had to import oil to fill their orders. Strange year.

We have lots of oil to carry us through to next season. (Am I really talking about next season already?) But this year is so very different. It seemed a real struggle to manage the harvesting and milling.

Our mill was better balanced this year; so, the machine was a joy to run. At least one very good aspect of the past harvest season. Our staff is a well-oiled team, so to speak. We have fun working together, and producing great products.

All in all, the operative words are done, finished, complete. Now to bottling and selling certified extra virgin olive oil.

Come visit us and talk olives

Ciao
Ann

THANKSGIVING 2018

This is the time for giving thanks. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Milling is finishing. We have made great oils. The days are cooler. Family and friends gather to celebrate a uniquely American Holiday.

We always cook our turkey outside in the grill. The aroma of the coals and turkey enticing us to finish all the side dishes, and celebrate with a glass of Champagne. My Mother would always say “let me finish the gravy and then I can have a Martini”.  I will raise a glass for her this Holiday.

Wine is poured. Blessings for the harvest are said, and we all have a grand time together.

Sunset over the Mill at Il Fiorello

Our table will be smaller this year, but not necessarily quieter. With one daughter working in Italy and the other in Australia in school, phone calls will suffice for the places at the table.  All enjoying a table of gifts and celebrations.

Thanks to all the IL Fiorello staff new and old, all young at heart and thankful for jobs and good lives. Thanks to all our guests and supporters, without you IL Fiorello would be not nearly as much fun.

Celebrate and give thanks for new oil, and always look forward to spring, and a new crop of olives.

Here are suggestions from IL Fiorello for Holiday Extra Virgin Olive Oil and our Condiment pairings:

For a different type of appetizer, try a cheese like Pt Reyes Toma with our fabulous Lemon or Blackberry Mostarda and our Wine, Apple, and Pear Harvest Compote. Just delicious.

Turkey – use our robust Athena’s Blend at table to add a savory note.

Roasted and thyme-scented Butternut squash and Brussel sprouts with French Blend oil.

Mashed potatoes with a large well of luscious Leccino Oil.

Green Beans with pomegranate jewels drizzled with herbaceous Pendolino Oil.

Harvest Kurri squash and chocolate cake made with Mandarin oil.

Olio Nuovo, interesting pantry items, and Gift sets are now available for hostess and friend gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Ciao

Ann and Mark

FALL HARVEST & MILLING 2018

My favorite time of the year is the Fall Harvest and milling season.

The bounty of our Farm, the organic garden, and the Olive harvest is in full swing. This season closely links the Farm and the Kitchen in the Grove.

Olive Oil flight & tasting plate

Tasting plates at the Visitors Center reflect our garden’s produce and the uniqueness of our Extra Virgin Olive Oils.  Each month’s presentation of oils and tasting plates are different and unique, and reflects the imaginations of the Chefs, the Gardener, and the Millers.

Olio Nuovo straight from the Mill

The olive mill is working very well. Please stop by to view our new movie on milling olives. It will give you a finer appreciation of the power and elegance of the Italian equipment. When you stop by, and if we are milling olives, I would love to have you taste the new fresh oil as it is coming out of the centrifuge.  It is an amazing taste experience, never to be forgotten.

Olio Nuovo – Fresh New Olive Oil

Olio Nuovo, a beautiful new oil is now available to dress your harvest dishes.  It is the very best oil of the year.  New Fresh Oil.

Even with the sparse amount of olives this season, we have made some lovely oils. The early harvest of mostly green olives gives the oil a beautiful fragrance, solid bitterness, and lingering pungency.

1000 lbs of green & black olives

Beautiful Italian Blend Olives

This combination is the best pairing with Fall foods. Big flavorful oils, savory foods, cooler days.

We are grateful for our Fall Harvest.

PREPARATION FOR HARVEST AND MILLING

Olive harvest is getting closer, and we are very excited.

The mill is clean, the spare parts and replacement parts have arrived, and updates to the computer systems are completed. All the computer updates to our databases for documentation are ready to go. The centrifuge is balanced and ready to work. The technician from Pieralisi will be doing the final checklist with us in mid-September.

Our mill is one of the most modern and computerized in North America, but we still use some ancient but effective processes. The auger that moves the olives from the washer pit to the crusher is based on an ancient process used by the Babylonians and named after Archimedes – an Archimedes screw. This screw originally transferred water from a low-lying body of water into higher irrigation ditches. In our mill, it is used to transport olives after washing up and then into the crusher.

On to Olive Oil and Milling for 2018

Everyone is anticipating making great oil again this year. All our growers are calling in asking about volumes of olives and dates for milling. This year’s crop is uncharacteristically light; so, our milling schedule is wide open. Minimums are still 1000 lbs. to make the necessary volume for single producer oils. Many of our smaller growers will be coming in to community milling days. Call us if you have any questions. We are anticipating that we may be grouping small customers together for efficiency. We are setting aside the day before community milling for those who are not sure if they will meet the minimum 1000 lbs., or one very full macro bin. Crops that come up less than 1000 lbs. can then be included in community milling the following day. Everyone wants to make oil, and in a light fruit set year we want to help our family of growers. Last year, our community oil was certified as extra virgin AND won a Silver Medal at the California State Fair.

Oct 21 will be our Oktoberfest, great family fun and food and Community Milling. Lots of bratwurst and sausages. House-made sauerkraut and mustards. Beer cheese soup will warm everyone’s heart and soul. And Beer. Delicious. Beer. From Ruhstaller and Sonoma Springs. Maybe even a special beer from Scotland.

NEWS FLASH. This will also be the debut of our new film about milling at IL Fiorello. Produced by Epic Flight Films, the focus is on the milling of olives and the use of oil with food. There is no other film like it in the world. We are proud to work with Epic Flight and their talented crew.

DATES TO REMEMBER

October 21, 2018 Oktoberfest Celebration with Community Milling
November 25, 2018, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is our second Community Milling event with mill tours and complementary olive oil tastings.

Tomatoes

AUGUST 2018

This month we celebrate tomatoes in Solano County. The Tomato Festival was very successful. IL Fiorello held the Tomato Cooking contest, with categories that included Salsa, Soup, Salad, and Sauce. Fantastic recipes were submitted, and winners announced at the Festival Grandstand in Downtown Fairfield on Sunday. Congratulations to all who entered the competition. We already have exciting plans for next year’s competition, and it will be bigger and better. We served roasted tomatoes on polenta bites for the VIP event that was held that Saturday evening.

The bounty of the tomato harvest at IL Fiorello is just amazing. Nick, our Director of Green Things planted 23 kinds of tomatoes. Even the volunteer tomatoes are prolific this year.

Daily, we are harvesting bowls full for the Kitchen in the Grove.

We are drying, roasting, preserving, making tomato water, tomato jam, and strawberry and tomato jam.

Sundried and oven dried, we’ll have tomatoes for the entire year. And there is much more to come. We are going to try to dry the brilliant yellow tomatoes, and see what they taste like. Preserved in olive oil, I am sure they are fantastic.

When you dry tomatoes in a dehydrator, they have to have a cut side to let the moisture escape. You can dry or roast whole if that is your preference. On a setting of 140 F, it takes about 24 hours to finish. The final result can than be put in a food saver, and you have fantastic flavorful tomatoes for the entire year.

SUNDRIED TOMATO PESTO

INGREDIENTS
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, use Romas, Juliet, or San Marzano
3 cloves garlic, raw or roasted either is delicious
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup basil leaves, fresh
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup IL Fiorello Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil

INSTRUCTIONS
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil.
Start the food processor or blender, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil
Adjust salt and peppers to your taste
This pesto can be refrigerated for up to one week.

USES FOR THIS DELICIOUS PESTO
Crostini
Warm penne pasta
With grilled steak or chicken

2018 © IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company

You can also pack the sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. Let them soak for a day or so, and serve on crostini. With goat cheese, they are just delicious.
I may have some tonight for dinner.
Ciao
Ann

French Vanilla Lavender Sugar Cookies with Creamy Lemon Frosting

Célébrons avec les Français le bleu, blanc, et rouge!
(It’s the 14th of July!! Let’s celebrate with the French the blue, white, and red!)

Are these cookies really from a French recipe? Um, no.

But we’re willing to bet our French friends would love them!!

Ingredients:

Cookies:
1/2 cup Il Fiorello Citrus Blend Co-Milled Oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups vanilla infused sugar (see recipe below)
4 eggs (room temperature)
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1½-inch vanilla pod and 1 full vanilla pod
2 teaspoons of culinary lavender buds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

Method

For cookies:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease cookie sheets or line with silicone mats.
In a large bowl, cream together the Citrus Blend Olive Oil, butter and vanilla-infused sugar.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Heat the buttermilk on the stove just until it simmers; then stir in the ½-inch vanilla pod and let cool for 10 minutes.
Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the bean into the buttermilk and stir.
Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
Drop rounded spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheets.
Bake for 6-8 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For frosting:
Beat butter and brown sugar with hand blender on high speed until creamy and fluffy.
Mix in the powdered sugar until smooth.
Add the flour and salt.
Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and combined.
Fold in the lemon zest.
Frost the cookies when they are completely cooled.

For vanilla-infused sugar:

Version #1 (Longer wait-time)
Pour 2 cups of white sugar in a bowl. Cut 1 full vanilla pod in half and scrape out the vanilla bean into the sugar and stir. Put in a mason jar and cover with lid; let it sit for a few days to a week.

Version #2 (Shorter wait-time…for when you must have the cookies NOW!)
Place 2 cups of sugar in large resealable plastic bag. Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Seal the bag. Knead sugar until the vanilla is evenly distributed. Spread sugar on large rimmed baking sheet. Let stand 25 to 30 minutes or until sugar is dried. Store in airtight container. If sugar clumps up, break apart by rubbing between fingers.