If you plan to travel to the Andalucía region of Spain you must try as many kinds of olive oil as you possibly can. Andalucía is Spain’s premier olive oil region and as you pass through you will see endless rows of trees bearing the beloved fruit. It is as basic to the Andalucían people as the Meditteranean sun and it accompanies and dresses food morning, noon and night.
Although most olive trees produce fruit destined to be crushed for oil, some varieties are grown to be table olives such as manzanilla and gordal. The markets of Andalucía have stalls selling both a variety of table olives as well as many kinds of bottled olive oil.
Extra virgin is the oil of choice and the Jaén region is king. Jaén is the largest producer of olive oil in Spain and it is prized the world over. To be certified as extra-virgin by the International Olive Oil Council an olive oil must be produced by mechanical methods. This means that the olives are simply crushed and pressed, without using any chemical extraction processes. The resulting oil must have a free oleic fatty acid content of no more than than 0.8%. The oil must pass then pass an evaluation by a panel of professional tasters trained by the International Olive Oil Council.
Andalucían olive oil is the preferred oil for deep frying and one of the signature dishes of the coastal regions is pescaíto frito, a mixed fish fry with fresh anchovies, squid, sole and other varieties of fish all turned crispy and delightful.
Dip in and out of the tapas bars and sample croquettes and fritters and even desserts fried in olive oil such as empanadillas, little pockets of sweetened and spiced pumpkin.
Here’s something you may not know: the summer delight known as gazpacho comes from Andalucía. Originally a peasant dish of bread, olive oil and crushed garlic it has been elevated to a must have for any foodie worth her fleur de sel and now gazpacho is blessed with additional tomato, cucumber, onions and other ingredients.
More and more American cooks are embracing the many delicious kinds of olive oil. From a simple piece of crusty bread swiped across a shimmering pool on a tiny plate to the joyous drizzle over a hearty winter soup or a plate of roasted vegetables we can thank the people of Spain for their devotion to the unassuming olive.
If you live in larger city you may be able to sample a larger and delectable variety of Spanish olive oils. Here’s a general list of what is known as the denominaciones de origen or designation of origin.
- Aceite de La Rioja
- Les Garrigues
- Aceite del Bajo Aragón
- Aceite de Terra Alta
- Aceite del Baix Ebre-Montsià
- Aceite de Mallorca
- Montes de Toledo
- Aceite Monterrubio
- Sierra de Segura
- Sierra de Cazorla
- Sierra Mágina
- Priego de Córdoba
- Montes de Granada
- Poniente de Granada
- Sierra de Cádiz