Blame it on one too many "truffle" fries, but we're skeptical of every mushroom, garlic and jalapeño-knows-what infused oil out there. Enter "crush flavored" olive oils, the jam "confitures" (oh, the food regulation semantic wonders) of the olive oil world.
Lodi-based Calivirgin has been producing great traditional olive oils long before there were conversations about the difference between cooking versus drizzling oils, much less olive oil "infusions." But with their latest crush oils, the produce -- here, garlic, jalapeños, citrus rind -- are tossed on the olive press *with* the olives, not infused in olive oil later. The flavor difference was remarkable -- yes, even for infusion skeptics like us.
According to co-owner Gina Coldani Sans, making a press oil is an extremely labor-intensive process. "We have to clean our mill after each flavor just to get the extra pulp that sticks to the equipment out ... so you can imagine how fun that is after running about 1,000 pounds or more of fresh produce through."
As with that jam-versus-confiture naming dilemma, the literal "flavor-crushed" description on the bottle is a matter of linguistic necessity. "There really isn't an official term for it in the olive oil industry yet -- at least not one that is well known by customers," Sans explains.
Well, whatever you call those garlic-jalapeño and Buddha's Hand (!) pressings, they changed our idea of not-exactly-infused olive oils, particularly the fantastically no-nonsense garlic version (our favorite). Will we still primarily buy traditional fresh-pressed (olives only) oils? Of course, for flavor, cooking diversity and price reasons (the labor-intensive process makes those flavor-pressed oils pricey -- $20 for 8.5 ounces). But on those days when we just need a quick fix of garlicky oil and don't feel like pulling out the garlic chopping block (any day involving traffic on the 405 comes to mind), we'll be pulling out these "crush-flavored" alternatives.
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