First of all, it’s Australian!
While the Australian industry may still be new compared to Europe, one of the key attributes of Australian olive oil is its freshness. Obviously Australian oils are able to get to market in the Southern Hemisphere more quickly than imported oils and are now available in a variety of outlets, not only as boutique products. Moreover, modern olives groves and equipment allow speedy harvest and processing, the two main key elements to achieving a high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Now the well-established Australian Olive Association encourages research and dissemination of information and is committed to a sustainable national olive industry. In a world first, it has developed a Code of Practice as a guarantee to consumers about the standards of Australian extra virgin olive oil. The certification logo can only be used if rigorous criteria have been met under the code and signifies authenticity and quality. It also means that the olives were grown in Australia and were subject to organoleptic (taste, aroma and texture) and chemical testing.
The Australian industry is very proud of its quality and high standards. A “fresher tastes better” campaign conducted at major food shows over two years involved consumers being given two oils to taste blind, both sourced from a supermarket, one Australian and one imported. Over 30,000 people tasted these oils, with 85% adults and over 90% children picking the Australian oil as fresher. Gradual oxidation of olive oil over time causes rancidity, which is most easily detected by taste. The oil will be reminiscent of peanuts, banana or stale nuts.
The World Fats and Oils Conference in Darling Harbour in 2009 revealed that 80% of what is labelled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is imported is not true to label. The Australian Olive Association is currently lobbying the Federal Government to set up testing mechanisms for imported and local oils alike.
A couple of home tests may prove if an olive oil is genuine. When refrigerated, it should become more viscous, if not nearly solid. Blended olive oils and non-olive oils will not solidify when refrigerated. Also pure olive oil should burn in an oil lamp. Not necessarily conclusive tests but a bit of fun.
With post war migration, journalists familiarisations hosted by the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) from the early 90s (I was lucky enough to go on some), awareness campaigns promoting olive oil and the subsequent use of olive oil in recipes on TV and in the print media, Australia is the 2nd highest consumer of olive oil per head of population outside the Mediterranean!
I am personally proud to have been instrumental in starting Australia’s first Olive Oil competition in 1998 at the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW.
Held every Spring, it’s still going strong and the website is a great resource for checking oils and can be searched here by state or town or class.
The Australian Olive Association also hold a competition and their website is also a great resource. You can learn more about myths and frequently asked questions about olive oil by clicking here, otherwise click here to read my blog post on Demystifying Olive Oil.
Oranges with Honey and Olive oil
Try this quick l recipe I picked up on a trip to Portugal where an olive oil producer served this dish which is as surprising as it is simple. The region is well known for both its honey and its olive oil. Just choose ones which you love.
Peel oranges and remove the pith. Slice into rounds. Place on a plate and drizzle with honey and olive oil. Serve at the beginning or end of the meal, as a snack or even a salad during the meal. Add some freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Recipe from Lyndey Milan The Best Collection (New Holland), available from all good bookstores.