Oil is one of the main and most important element of Puglia’s cuisine. The extra virgin oil produced in this region is one of the most popular in the world.
In Puglia oil industry is booming and gathers a number of brands, known both in Italy and abroad. As for local brands, we would like to present an oil mill that has received important national and international awards: the Frantoio Intini of Alberobello.
A visit to Frantoio Intini represents a chance to live a unique experience, that of olive harvesting and oil processing.
In our extraordinary tour, we were warmly welcomed and accompanied by Pietro Intini, the owner and creator of the Frantoio.
Pietro led us through the mill, explaining in details what happens in his Frantoio. He told us how olive processing has deeply changed over the years; from the old olive-press with stone wheels (which is present in the mill), indeed, now oil production is a more modern and technological process whose every single phase is subjected to stringent quality checks.
Our tour of the Frantoio gave us the chance to see all the machinery and equipment used during the different phases of oil production. We learnt a lot thanks to Pietro, who also debunked some old myths about olive processing.
Unlike what many people think, indeed, olive paste must not get in touch with oxygen because oxidation reduces aroma and the content of polyphenols. This is why the old olive-press must be replaced by much modern equipment able to guarantee oxygen absence.
Pietro also told us that people usually prefer sweet oils to spicy or bitter varieties, because they think sweetness is a mark of quality. But it isn’t so: a bitter oil is healthier because it is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants naturally present in olives. The consumption of oil with a higher concentration of polyphenols is positive for heart because it reduces the risk of heart attack, blood pressure and the level of LDLs, commonly known as “bad cholesterol”.
The third myth Pietro debunks relates to the period of olive picking. According to Apulian local tradition, olives should be harvested from mid-November to January, when their maturation is well completed. But Pietro says that olives, as all foodstuffs, have their period of highest quality. Green olives can be compared with crunchy, pulpy, green apples, while a mature olive can be compared with a wrinkled, dried-out, yellow apple, with a small amount of pulp. Pietro also told us that the time going from harvest to processing cannot be longer than a 24 hours.
We also visited the underground floor of the mill, where oil is stored and bottled. This area is dark and has a stable low temperature in order to guarantee the perfect storage of oil.
After this “technical” tour, we tasted a few varieties of oil.
The first one was the Denocciolato. This oil is obtained by blending Ogliarola and Leccino varieties, typical of the Murgia area. Light-to-medium fruitiness, it is marked by green scents which recall almonds, tomatoes and freshly-cut grass. It is delicate and balanced with very slight spicy sensations. It is ideal for medium-structured dishes such as starters, sea-food salads or steamed fish.
The second oil we tasted was the Picholine, which has recently won an important award in an international competition in Los Angeles, a variety of Moroccan origins, obtained by medium-sized and little bitter olives. This oil has both a very fruity aroma and a balanced taste, perfectly harmonious in its bitter and spicy components. It preferably accompanies dishes with a robust taste like red meats, soups or Apulian barbecued octopus.
The last oil we tasted is the Cima di Mola. This oil is obtained from a cultivar that is typical of the Alberobello area. A story of struggle lies behind its production, motivated by the will of Pietro Intini and his family to preserve a nearly extinct variety, unjustly overlooked because of the high harvesting and manufacturing costs. Intense and complex, it offers scents of fresh hazelnut, rocket, and beef tomato. It is ideal for dishes with a robust taste, such as barbecued red meats or fava bean purée.
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