So now we get to the essential post. Olive oil. A huge 80% of Italy’s olive oil originates from the South – Puglia and Calabria the main producers. With Puglia accommodating a perfect environment for around 66 million olive trees, it’s no wonder olive oil in this region is comparable to liquid gold.
I feel very lucky to have an olive oil made with my family’s own olives. Each year my Uncle Mario brings the olives that he has collected over the winter to be pressed at the Frantoio or Trappito in Sanlentine dialect, which is located at the heart of the village. Lots of villages in the South have communal mills where you drop off your bounty and within 36 hours you have will own a drum full of your very own molten treasure. There also used to be a communal bakery in our village which had a giant oven, but more on that in another post.
Every time I visit my family I go to see the trees that produce this intensely nutty oil. Like old friends with stories to tell, each tree has a distinctive trunk. One special tree used to lie at the end of our land. The trunk was large and had an opening. The cave like tree was my Dad’s hideout as a little boy. Eating his packed lunch and watching his father work the land from his little den, this tree was part of the family. That was my favourite tree to visit. Sadly, it got burned down a few years ago whilst a farmer had a fire over on the next plot of land. Needless to say my Dad was very upset.
Back then my family used to pick the olives from the trees one by one by hand. Now, my Uncle has invested in nets. They are placed underneath the trees to catch the olives as they naturally fall off their branches. He collects them up throughout the Winter and stores them until he has enough to take to the mill.
I would use this olive oil on everything, not because it bears my name, but because it’s so deeply delicious, healthy and has the power to transport me back to Puglia in an instant. As I can only get my share when I go to visit, I use it sparingly and mainly on salads. If we run out of the normal stuff at home, Rizzello oil is emergency back up. So distinctive in taste, as soon as we sit down to eat, Murray says, with a smile on his face “We ran out of olive oil then”.
Enter for a chance to win your very own bottle of Rizzello olive oil. This is a unique prize, as only a handful of people have tried this oil.
All you have to do is like Mangia Bene’s facebook page and share this post. A draw will be made at the end of the month to pick the winner. Good Luck!