One of their partners is Emanuele Innocenti. He is the emotive spokesperson for Pruneti olive oil. First off, let me tell you, this is seriously good olive oil. As Emanuele explains it, “A condiment is something you put on food to make it taste better, and olive oil is a condiment.” These olives are pressed within hours of picking and the olive oil is produced using the latest in cutting edge extraction technology at the proper cool temperatures. This olive oil will improve the taste of everything you put it on!
I think the world believes Italy produces great olive oil, and this is true. But, not all of it is great. And not all of it is made the same way. Emanuele tells me that currently, there are no regulations in place during the production of olive oil. There are a few post-production regulations in place. For example, the distributor or importer of the oil (to the U.S.) must be listed on the label…but not the producer. How useful is that to the U.S. consumer? Not at all. There are also some regulations in place for organic producers. But these regulations have to do with testing for the presence of pesticides….nothing to do with the taste quality or production process of the oil.
Back in the day, olive growers used to put this mash back in the field to “feed” the soil. Today’s growers know this practice creates too much acidity in the soil and is in fact not the best use of the mash. So, what do they do with it? Unfortunately, most olive oil producers send the mash to industrial refineries. Here, it is pressed again, using heat for maximum extraction. This second pressing is pretty devoid of all the known healthy properties of first-pressed, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. This second-pressed oil is often combined with other non-olive oils, and even falsely colored to mimic the beautiful color of fresh oil. Remember my earlier comments about there being no control during production?
Below: The cutting edge technology for olive oil extraction at Pruneti
Emanuele and the Pruneti family want no part in helping to create this less-than-reputable oil. So what does Pruneti do with the mash? They make fuel! They had machines made which separate out the broken pits from the rest of the mash. These broken pits are further broken down into tiny pellets. They are used just like wood pellets for heating and are quite efficient as they still contain minute quantities of oil. And the rest of the mash? Pruneti actually pays to have a fuel producer come haul it away. It’s similar to bio-gas made from corn, only this is made from olives! In this way, Pruneti does not contribute to the production of “fake” olive oil. Genius.
And here’s an idea: You get what you pay for. Restaurants can’t afford to put high quality olive oil on the table when patrons are coming along, pouring it out onto a plate and mopping it up with their free bread. For a restaurant to offer an amazing olive oil, the bread with an olive oil dip should be a paid appetizer item. Only then, and until regulations are in place during the production process will we be assured of consistently getting a quality olive oil.
Until then, how does Emanuele handle receiving mediocre olive oil when he’s dining out at a restaurant? He carries a small bottle of Pruneti olive oil in his back pocket. Maybe we should all do the same.
My thanks to Arianna and Alessio of Km Zero Tours for my day spent with them. My visit to Pruneti was just one of a wide variety of artisanal food and craft producers available to visit. Sound intriguing? Let Bella Giornata Tours help design a wonderful vacation for you. Part of the plan can include a visit and even a stay with Arianna and Alessio and all of their fantastic friends. Ready to taste the real thing, meet the real people? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start planning a tasty adventure!