Saturday, January 14, 2012

Not so Virgin and Thousand Layer Cake

Pork confit with potato bread
Food Diary (January 14, 2012)
Breakfast: Rolled oats with banana, coconut, sunflower seeds and flax seeds
Lunch: Falafel with bread
Dinner: Pork confit with potato bread and wine glazed carrots
Baking/sweets: Chocolate pudding

Today's Favourite Photo
Thousand Layer Cake

Today’s Favourite Blog
Source: Daily Mail
It seems the extra virgin olive oil may not be as virgin as claimed. At the supermarket I don’t remember seeing virgin olive oil. I haven’t looked carefully but it seems most if not all olive oil is labeled as extra virgin. Unfortunately there is bad news. Olive oil is a valuable commodity and as such this attracts criminals. This goes way back. Clay tablets found at Ebla, in Syria, describe the activities of a 2,500 year-old anti-fraud squad who were responsible for ensuring the purity of oil, while the classical philosopher and doctor Galen complained of unscrupulous traders adulterating their olive oil with liquid lard to make it go further.

One former producer claims that 98  per cent of what is sold in Italy as extra-virgin olive oil is actually nothing of the sort. The most common fraud involves diluting extra virgin oil with a lesser grade such as lampante, or lamp-oil, judged unfit for human consumption because of its high acid content. Another option is to substitute a different type of oil entirely, often originating outside the EU where production is cheaper.

Last year, two Spanish businessmen were sent to prison for selling extra virgin olive oil that turned out to be 75 per cent sunflower oil. In another case a shipment of Turkish hazelnut oil arrived in southern Italy as Greek olive oil. Miracles do happen, water was turned into wine and now shipping agents turn sunflower oil into olive oil.

In 2004, an olive oil producer called Andreas Marz, concerned about the declining quality of Italian olive oil, decided to conduct his own test. He bought 31 different kinds of extra virgin olive oil from German supermarkets, and sent them to three expert tasting panels in Florence for analysis. Only one was judged to meet extra virgin standards, nine were downgraded to virgin, and the rest, including offerings from several major Italian brands, were graded as lampante.

Now I wonder how virgin my Italian oil is, and whether it is actually from Italy. Italy is one of the world’s largest importers of olive oil, much of which is then blended, stuck into suitably Italian packaging and re-exported. About 80 per cent of the oil produced in Jaen, southern Spain, for example, is shipped to Italy, where it can be packaged and sold by Italian brands as ‘packed’ or ‘bottled in Italy’, for a far higher price.

The article offers little advice on buying tips. If its cheap there is probably a good reason for it. And look for dark bottles which will protect the contents from damaging UV rays that make it rancid, and search out the longest sell-by date you can.

Or maybe you can avoid uncertainly and buy lampante, or lamp-oil. It will save you money and you can use it for your lamp too. Smoked line caught wild salmon salad with chili lime lampante dressing sounds like a dish that can sit comfortably in an award winning restaurant. And punters will willingly pay a premium for it. Maybe they already are. Ah well, what you don't know you don't miss.

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  1. Sigh ... what is the truth these days. And with no professional tastebuds to tell if it's real oil or lamp oil, I can only believe the labels. Sometimes I wonder if the green tinge in the supposedly extra virgin oils is just coloring. Eww, that's criminal.
    The pork confit looks good! No recipe?

    1. We will never know the truth. Lets hope that green tinge is all natural:)
      Sorry, no recipe yet but I will do something about this!

  2. The pork confit must have been excellent. I have made only duck confit, but now I think I should try with pork next time.
    The article sounds really scary. I am wondering if the expensive oil I buy at Vom Fass (Ping also does her shopping there sometimes ;-) ) is good quality... Anyway, I don't use olive oil apart from salads because it's simply impossible to find ordinary olive oil. Extra virgin is not good for frying and all the supermarket oils are called "extra virgin" as you say. One more case of brainwashing: everyone thinks extra virgin is better (which is not true in case of frying) so everything is called "extra virgin". I know many people who fry every day in extra virgin olive oil and when I told it to an Italian friend, she was shocked.

    1. Pork confit was excellent, thanks.
      Re oil, if its expensive and bought from a speciality store I suppose its almost certain to be real. Sorry, no lamp oil for you:)
      Once long time ago I bought olive oil which was a mixture of extra virgin and I think ordinary or light olive oil, or maybe lampante (can't remember). It was suitable for frying. At least the label specifically said it had other oil. I haven't seen that product since.

  3. I've read about the evoo issue too. I think italian evoos are a bit overrated sometimes, the spanish and greek and apparently turkish olive oils are amazing too. they all have a slight difference in flavour though, so i would say just go with your gut feeling! and definitely buy one you feel comfortable with and like the taste of, and maybe do a bit of research into its background too. I would hate to discover that I've been generously drizzling sunflower oil onto my food instead of olive oil, shudder!

    1. I haven't tasted different oils side by side but I am sure there are differences.

  4. Jebus! That thousand layer cake looks great!

    1. It does, I want to attempt making it someday

  5. the pork confit looks yummilicious! recipe please?

    hmmm, i guess for now, we'll just have to hope that what we buy is authentic and that this practise will be clamp down upon soon.

    1. Sorry, no recipe yet but I will do something about this!
      Lets hope so!

  6. yes would love the recipe for the pork confit too!

    I knew about his whole virgin olive oil situation...but lamp-oil? ewww