A taste of Tuscany in her backyard.
Annetta ‘Annie’ Paterson has been producing award-winning olive oil for over 20 years.
“Move over Tuscany, because we’re coming,” Paterson says, describing her organic approach to producing unadulterated, delicious award-winning extra virgin olive oil. Her olive oil is always made only from fresh olives, allowing it to exhibit its signature “peppery” flavor.
The Freshness Of Olive Oil
One of the most important things when it comes to consuming olive oil is its freshness. Olive oil is a product of the olive fruit, and much like other products derived from fruit such as orange juice, it is most delicious and nutritious when it is freshly pressed. Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil begins to lose its peak nutritional value 6 months after the date it was pressed1.
This is why many of the top olive oil producers across the globe will include a harvest date on the bottle so that consumers can always select the freshest olive oil for their food and cooking.
Most olive oils you find in the supermarket today provide the best “before date”, however, this date may not be the best indicator of the freshness of the olive oil.
The freshness of olive oil is its most imperative feature, and when olive oil is freshly pressed, it contains the highest amount of health-promoting antioxidants called polyphenols.
Six months after production is generally when the polyphenols in olive oil begin to oxidize and degrade within the bottle. When stored for long periods of time, even premium olive oils can turn into a dull, lifeless, stale, and eventually rancid oil that has lost much of the rich nutritional value it once had.
The Story Of Nullamunjie Olive Groves
For many years, Paterson was fascinated and enamored with the myths and legends of ancient Greece, and within this ancient culture the olive tree was considered an important symbol of peace, wisdom, and victory.
When two of her close friends passed away, she decided – “Well, if I want to do something, I better get on with it.”
Since purchasing a plot of land from her father in the Victorian Alpine Mountains in 1998, this very same land is where Nullamunjie olive oil continues to be produced to this day. With only 600 trees at the inception of her plantation, Paterson has since expanded to house over 3000 olive trees on her estate.
Recent Studies Into Olive Oil
When Paterson set out to establish her farm over twenty years ago, there was limited information available on the nutritional benefits of olive oil, as research into the Mediterranean diet was in its infancy.
Now, with an ever-increasing amount of studies showing the significant role of olive oil as the source of the various health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Paterson has experienced first-hand the advantages of consuming fresh extra virgin olive oil on a regular basis.
The study also showed that olive oil is a better source of fat and leads to improved cardiovascular health when used in lieu of butter, margarine, or mayonnaise.
Olive oil consumption has also been linked to aiding weight loss and lowering blood pressure due to its high monounsaturated fat content.
Australian Olive Oil Standards Up To Scratch
While some may be unfamiliar with Australian olive oil standards, Paterson explains that the olive oil governing body in Australia is rigorous in its testing, and upholds high standards.
At Paterson’s farm, it’s all about getting the olive fruit from the tree to the pressers as soon as possible, and the resulting mixture from the pressed olives is then put into the centrifuge where every last drop of moisture is extracted from the oil.
This is done because “any moisture that’s in the oil will spoil the oil”, Paterson says, which ensures the oil retains its flavor and nutritional value for as long as possible.
“Any moisture that’s in the oil will spoil the oil”, Paterson explains, and extracting all moisture ensures that the oil retains its flavor and nutritional value for as long as possible.
In Australia, by law, the manufacturer is required to print the best before date, which is two years from when the product was packaged.
And this means that the product could have been sitting in a storage container for much longer periods of time, and thus the best before date is a poor indicator of olive oil freshness.
Tasting Olive Oil
Paterson fondly describes Nullamunjie’s award-winning extra virgin olive oil as “herbaceous, and fresh, but not too oily,” The latter may seem antithetical, but as Paterson explains, “if an oil tastes oily, it’s because it doesn’t have the fruit flavors that you want coming through.”
After all, olive oil does flow from the olive fruit.
An indicator of good, fresh olive oil is, first and foremost, the taste. Paterson’s recommendation for tasting olive oil consists of gathering good friends together to do a group tasting.
The first step of her recommended tasting method is to swirl the olive oil around in a glass, and to then put a small amount of the olive oil on your tongue; inhaling through your mouth and using oxygen to push the olive oil across your tongue, coating your palate in order to get the full spectrum of flavor that the olive oil has to offer.
As the bitter and sweetness receptors of your tongue are located in different parts, it is important to coat your tongue with olive oil to get the full range of flavor and aromas.
Cooking With Olive Oil
A common misconception about olive oil is that you shouldn’t cook with it due to its low smoke point. However, the smoke point of olive oil is between 218-241ºC, and when cooking everyday dishes, one seldom requires such high temperatures.
In addition to dipping fresh bread in olive oil, or drizzling it over salads, cooking with extra virgin olive oil is a delicious and healthy way to make your meals more fragrant and appetizing.
Cooking with extra virgin olive oil also adds to the feeling of “wok hay (鑊氣)”, a Chinese phrase that describes the aroma and energy of a particular dish. In which the aromatic flavors of the olive oil can help bring out and accentuate the vitality of a particular dish.
Paterson leaves us with her notable one-liner, that “nothing leaves my kitchen without a drizzle of olive oil.”
Want to use more extra virgin olive oil in your cooking? Here’s our buyer’s guide with 6 tips to get the most out of your olive oil.
2. Olive oil consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in US women, M Guasch-Ferré et al.