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Bitter EVOO - did I buy too cheap?

krissywats Nov 15, 2006 08:23 PM

I've noticed that the most recent olive oil I've purchased is bitter. Quite bitter. I went with a lower-end brand that I hadn't tried before but I've never noticed this before. It's not a rancid taste - just a bitter aftertaste. Any help? I've never noticed this with cheap EVOO before - thoughts? Suggestions? Do I just pitch it?

  1. MMRuth Nov 15, 2006 08:25 PM

    Is it a "green" bitter taste - that I associate with more expensive olive oils - but wondering if that could be the case here. Care to share the brand?

    And, if you don't like it and it was cheap, you might want to pitch it - did you try cooking something w/it?

    1. krissywats Nov 15, 2006 08:30 PM

      Badia is the brand. (meant to reply to MMRuth - oops)

      Hmmm, it is kind of a "green" bitter. My husband even noticed the bitterness last night and was unhappy (and his tastes aren't that sharp).

      I've used it for cooking and haven't noticed any problems, but I have noticed a bitterness with salad dressings and just now I was able to put my finger on it when I dipped a piece of bread in it. It's just very sharp, if that makes sense. Unpleansantly so, for me.

      I love a strong olive oil taste - do you have any suggestions for a good flavor with no bitterness?

      2 Replies
      1. re: krissywats
        MMRuth Nov 15, 2006 09:00 PM

        I just bought a wonderful Spanish olive oil at that Spanish store on Broome - Despana or something - it was relatively reasonable - will find the name for you and post. Not familar with Badia - but sounds like just cook with it and find another option for salads.

        1. re: MMRuth
          MMRuth Nov 17, 2006 12:28 AM

          The olive oil I was referring to is called "Castillo de Canena"- unfiltered, made with picual olives. To me, it has a lovely green flavor.

      2. Robert Lauriston Nov 15, 2006 09:37 PM

        Newly bottled oil sometimes has a bite that disappears after a few months.

        1. p
          ptrefler Nov 15, 2006 09:37 PM

          Sounds like the Badia olive oil should be left for cooking only, if that. If my husband noticed that the olive oil had a bitter taste (once I recovered from the shock), I would have to figure I probably shouldn't even use it for cooking. I have found the California olive oils tend to have a very olivey (sp?) taste. A little too much for my taste, but many of them are quite reasonable, and might be worth trying one or two and see if you like them.

          1. Cheese Boy Nov 16, 2006 03:34 AM

            I like the Badia spices. I never purchased their EVOO ... http://www.badia-spices.com/cooking/cooking_prod_detail.cfm?id=132 To avoid a lot of disappointment, I tend to purchase olive oils from Italy, and France. Those tend to have the fruitiest taste of the olive. No bitter aftertaste [usually]. The brand I can recommend that is consistently good is Carapelli EVOO. The oil is very floral and very fruity surprisingly for its price. You can find it at most supermarkets ...http://www.carapelliusa.com/product.html

            Some useful info:

            Spain uses Picual, Hojiblanca, Ecijano, Cornicabra, Arbequina, and Picudo olives for olive oil. These tend to have bitter aftertastes many times.

            Italy uses Frantoio, Lecino, Ascolana, and Coratina olives. All fruity notes.

            France uses Picholine, Salonenque, and Lucques olives. All *milder* fruity notes.

            With the prices of olive oils skyrocketing, olive oils from Turkey still remain very nicely priced and really impart wonderful flavors to any recipe. Don't be quick to judge them as "cheap and probably tasteless" because they have a small price-tag. Turkey uses Edremit, Ayvalik, and Domat olives.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cheese Boy
              Ed Dibble Nov 16, 2006 01:41 PM

              One of my favorite brands is Sultan from Turkey. Nice pronounced olive flavor. Currently around $30 for 3 liters of EVOO.

              ed

              1. re: Cheese Boy
                b
                butterfly Nov 18, 2006 10:12 PM

                > Spain uses Picual, Hojiblanca,
                > Ecijano, Cornicabra, Arbequina,
                > and Picudo olives for olive oil.
                > These tend to have bitter aftertastes many times

                This is not true... There is a huge difference in flavor between these varieties (and the many other varieties grown in Spain). There is also a pretty marked difference between olives of the same variety grown at lower and higher altitudes.

                Mild Spanish varieties:

                Hojiblanca
                Picual--particularly those grown at a higher altitude
                Picudo
                Verdial
                Arbequina--except for those pressed from the first olives
                Empeltre

                The problem is that the vast majority of Spanish (or Italo-Spanish) olive oil sold in the US does not identify the variety on the label as it would in Spain. It's much easier to choose the right oil based on the variety than it is by brand.

              2. krissywats Nov 16, 2006 02:42 PM

                Thanks so much for all your help! I'm going to take the advice and use the current Badia for cooking and try some new one's for dressings, etc. Thanks again! If I think of it, I'll report back my finds.

                1. n
                  Nyleve Nov 16, 2006 03:27 PM

                  Hahaha. Funny story. We were driving through Tuscany a couple of years ago and stopped at an olive oil factory that sold directly from the plant. Went in and tasted the olive oil and was so appalled at the bitterness of the oil that we left without buying anything. As it turns out, it was probably wonderfully fresh oil and I simply failed, at the time, to recognize that the bitterness was not a sign of rancidity. Now, of course, I regret my stupidity. I should have, at least, bought one bottle.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Nyleve
                    krissywats Nov 16, 2006 04:41 PM

                    Well, yeah! I was so surprised when the replies here have been that the bitterness is new or high quality oil, not cheap crap - like I was sure it was going to be! I would have done the same thing. I do wonder why the bitterness doesn't seem to show up when I cook with it - does heat break down that bitterness somehow? Can't help but wonder....

                    1. re: krissywats
                      n
                      Nyleve Nov 16, 2006 05:07 PM

                      Thinking about it now, I realize that a fresh-off-the-tree green olive is a horror story of bitterness. The worst possible thing you can imagine putting in your mouth. So it just makes sense that some of that bitterness would show up in the oil. I suspect that when you cook with it, you're melding the flavours more thoroughly than when you simply drizzle over a salad. So you'd be mitigating some of the bitterness. Maybe it's still there but has blended into the other ingredients adding, if anything, just a layer of complexity so you don't exactly taste it.

                  2. m
                    mclaugh Nov 16, 2006 10:11 PM

                    The bitterness you're tasting is due to glucoside oleuropeipein, a bitter (and indigestible)carbohydrate found in fresh olives.

                    Olives are cured in a sodium hydroxide (lye) solution or brine to neutralize the oleuropein, so the good news is that the fact that the oil is bitter indicates that the olives it was made from were very fresh. The bad news is that it may also indicate that they were inadequately fermented/cured before pressing.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mclaugh
                      krissywats Nov 16, 2006 11:49 PM

                      Wow! That's so interesting and informative. Thanks. Is there any way to know if this is the case ahead of time?

                      1. re: mclaugh
                        n
                        Nyleve Nov 17, 2006 12:34 AM

                        So do they ferment/cure olives before pressing the oil? I always thought that olives were pressed fresh. This is really interesting.

                        1. re: mclaugh
                          PommeDeGuerre Nov 18, 2006 07:36 PM

                          Olive oil is made from fresh, not cured, olives.

                          http://www.oliveoilsource.com/making_...

                          1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                            n
                            Nyleve Nov 18, 2006 08:53 PM

                            Right. That's what I thought.

                            I especially like the line in the olive-oil-making explanation that begins: "Set up an orchard, grow olives and pick them"

                            I live in Canada. Don't think that's going to happen. Too bad.

                        2. Tonyjlive Nov 17, 2006 12:39 AM

                          I buy a specialty store brand here in Philly and have noticed a bit of a bitterness. It's EVOO unfiltered, first press and it's good, but has a bit of a bite. I like it but it's strong. I was wondering what was up with it and was going to ask the guys what the deal was as they are very knowledgeable.
                          PS. It's not cheap

                          1. choctastic Nov 17, 2006 12:39 AM

                            cooks illustrated had an article about olive oil and addressed this issue. some dude in the article said that tuscan oils have that 'bitter' quality and they've kind of conned the world into preferring that. i forget what the fave oil oil ended up being but I've tried some spanish olive oils that were buttery and awesome and i avoid anything tuscan after that article.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: choctastic
                              c
                              CDouglas Nov 18, 2006 01:11 AM

                              Exactly what I was going to point out. The CI article basically noted that Tuscany has potential frost problems so their law requires harvesting by a certain (early) date. This means they create a green olive oil that is bitter and pungent. Because of this, the Italians just convinced the rest of us that EVOO is supposed to taste that way. Simply a case of marketing.

                              They had Badia A Coltibuono in their taste test and it came in fifth in the "recommended with reservations" section. Their top two were Spanish and the third was from Greece.

                              I tasted the most amazing EVOO I have ever had at the restaurant Minibar in Washington, DC for my wife's birthday. When I asked they gave me the name: Aria EVOO from Crete. I now have a bottle that I ordered from Amazon and it has a mouthful of olive flavor and zero bitterness. Truly an olive oil to be eaten in its simplest state.

                              1. re: CDouglas
                                Robert Lauriston Nov 18, 2006 01:33 AM

                                The Tuscans haven't convinced the Ligurians. The latter make very ripe, yellow oil. Sometimes they hang nets under the trees and let the olives mature until they're dead ripe and drop off.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  c
                                  CDouglas Nov 18, 2006 01:58 AM

                                  Taggiasca olives. Sounds intriguing. Any brands you would recommend?

                            2. d
                              drobbia Nov 18, 2006 06:31 PM

                              My advice is to get to know your olive oil producer - there is so much fraud,mis--labeling,and general crookedness in that industry.
                              My favorite(for many reasons) are Tuscan oils
                              Tuscan olive varietals are, Frantoio,Moraiolo,leccino and Pendalino for pollination. Traditionally(and by a law that is not nec. inforced) they are picked by Nov.15th. They are picked by hand as they are picked while still green (In most of other olive areas in Italy "Parachutes" are laid on the ground and the tree is shaken,the olives must be black-fully ripe)
                              The not fully ripe taste is prized by many - it is slightly peppery(PIZZICA) These oils (and there are hundreds of producers large and small) are usually very expensive -$50-$100 per 750ML bottle. -- Let the buyer beware !The price does not guarantee authenticity.
                              If you want to know just about all there is to know about Olive oil - get "Olives" a James beard award winning book by Mort Rosenbloom.
                              Keep trying different oils and stick with the producer you find that meets your taste buds and style of cooking needsand pocketbook.
                              I have 4 or 5 oils from the world (California olive oils are becoming quite tasty!)that I use depending on menu.--- Good Luck!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: drobbia
                                v
                                vanillagrrl Nov 18, 2006 10:15 PM

                                Of mass-marketed oils, CI preferred the Whole Foods house brand, called 365. I use it all the time. It's good, and not too pricey.

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