Italia Per Due Week 4: Adam, Angela, and the Italian Concentration
This week Ettore Congedi, the owner of Congedi Oil, came to visit and teach us about their oils at the Castello. Congedi is a 4th generation, family owned extra virgin olive oil producer that is based here in Ugento. Congedi started producing oil in 1917, when Ettore’s great-great grandfather started the company. Ettore started by telling us how to distinguish between a good and a not so good olive oil. He told us that you can tell good oil from bad based on the bottle, the smell and the taste. He said the bottle should be a dark glass or terra cotta to ensure that the oil will not be affected by light. He said that you should be able to smell fresh cut herbs, green tomatoes in good oil and if it is a bad oil you will be able to smell rancidity, soil or warmth.
He also taught us how to taste olive oils. You start by warming the oil in the glass with one hand on the bottom and one hand over the top to trap the aroma. Once the oil is warmed, you take about 7 to 10 drops of oil in your mouth and make sure the oil coats your entire mouth. This will allow you to taste the flavor profiles of the oil. Good oil should taste a little peppery in the back of your throat with slightly bitter qualities and not so good olive oils will have little to no taste or a metallic finish. Ettore also told us when doing a professional olive oil tasting, to do so in blue tinted glasses to disguise the true color of the oil. This is so the people doing the tasting will not favor a specific oil due to its color, because some people believe that the darker the oil, the better the oil which is not always true.
Ettore Congedi invited us to the factory where the oils are pressed and bottled, so as a group we all biked to the factory to check it out. He showed us their original presses and their modern equipment which they use to press, filter and bottle their oil. Although it is not the season for producing olive oil, it was still awesome to see how their operation works and how much care they take to ensure great quality oils.
During a class at the Castello, local olive oil producer Ettore Congedi came to share information about his family’s company. Congedi is very unique because it is a family owned business that started in 1917 and has been handed down through the family for four generations.
Later that week, on Saturday, our group biked to the company’s location in Ugento, where we got a tour of the facility. We saw where the olives get washed after they are harvested, where they are crushed, and the machines that extract the oil. In another room we were shown large silos holding the different types of olive oil they produce—including oil made from Cellina olives, which are “deneominazione dei originne protetta/designation of origin” certified.
I learned a number of interesting things from this exciting experience:
- The amazing health benefits that come from olive oil. Olives are rich in polyphenols, which help improve digestibility.
- When choosing a quality olive oil, you start by checking the label to see where the olives come from, the date the oil was produced, and when it expires.
- The smell for good oil should be like fresh cut herbs and green tomatoes. Bad oil will smell rancid.
- When tasting the oil, notes of spiciness, sweetness, and fresh-cut herbs are all good tastes. If is bad the oil will most likely taste rancid, moldy, and metallic.
These are all very important factors to consider when buying olive oil because it is good to know you are receiving the amazing health benefits that well-produced oil has to offer, as well as enhancing the flavor of the food you make!