Fall and winter have come and gone. Spring is to arrive and a new year's cycle has begun. With the unsettled times we are in, I thought it better to remind you about some old favorites, familiar and comforting, rather than dazzle you with new products. They will come. Right now, it's the tried and true.
In the winter of 2001, I wrote about SHELLER ALMONDS for the first time. They had been featured in Saveur magazine, issue 48, as item number 74 of that magazine's 100 BEST FOR 2000. They are very popular with our customers and since California is the leading producer of almonds in the U.S., I am reminding our customers about them. We use the name AMENDOLA to distinguish them from other almonds.
Produced for us by a local grower, Sheller Almonds are roasted in their shell, but not the hard outer shell, but a thin part of the shell which is very easily opened. Thus, you must shell them to get at the flavorful meat. In-shell roasting adds more intensity of flavor and the slight bit of salt added, makes these AMENDOLA unlike anything else on the market. They are equally at home with an aperitif or a glass of after dinner port or muscat. Another of those "I bet you can't eat just one!" things, once tried, they keep you coming back for more.
Sheller Almonds Amendola
MARCONA ALMONDS A Spanish Treat
The MARCONA is a hard shell almond whose major production is in northern Spain's Catalan region. It is very different from our California varieties since it is quite large, very wide and flattish in aspect, with a hard shell. Most of the California grown varieties are soft shelled. Marcona are not grown here due to its lower productivity and hard shell.In Spain, once harvested, the MARCONA almond is peeled and then fried in olive oil and salted. They are ubiquitous as a nut in Spanish bars, leading Americans--who may not eat a lot of almonds at home--to exclaim over their flavor and ask "where can we buy these?" Now you can. Corti Brothers has sold Marcona almonds for some time, and together with Sheller Almonds, they would make an interesting tasting at the beginning of dinner.
A new harvest of extra virgin oil is always eagerly awaited. Last year, we offered the first harvest of the production from a new orchard, California Olive Ranch, located in Butte county, to the north of Sacramento. California Olive Ranch (COR) is a Spanish backed investment, planted to several unique olive varieties: Arbequina and Arbosana from Catalunya and Koroneiki from Greece. Another unique attribute of California Olive Ranch is the high density planting of these varieties which allows the trees to be harvested mechanically with an upright grape harvester. High density planting allows for rapid production entry and ease of harvesting. Hand harvesting cost is the major cost in olive oil production worldwide.
The romantic view of silvery, tall, ancient olive trees is out of place with practical notions of harvesting for oil production and having a competent labor force. The dense planting system was fostered in Spain's Catalunya region, where it is proving successful. To give you an idea, the number of trees in this system is 670 per acre rather than the usual 200 trees.
COR's 2001 harvest produced some 3,000 bottles of oil. The 2002, much more. With this harvest there are two varietal bottlings, one of Arbequina, the other of Arbosana. The use of a spanking new mill and press has given California Olive Ranch complete control of growing and production. This is an entirely closed cycle, completely "estate" produced oil.
The two California Olive Ranch oils available this year have been bottled unfiltered. Just racked, several times, they will be slightly opaque in aspect and will throw a light, harmless deposit. ARBOSANA is a variety which was snatched from oblivion due to the effort of IRTA, the Catalan government's agricultural research arm and Agromillora, an important Catalan nursery. Isolated trees of Arbosana were found in the Pened‚s region outside of Barcelona and rescued by Agromillora. The variety is rather rustic; it has a low growth habit, and is a good producer, entering production early on after planting. Because the fruit is somewhat difficult to remove from the tree until late in the harvest season, it was abandoned in its native home. However, Arbosana has made a come back due to its adaptability to modern--over the tree top--harvesting methods. Its oil is very stable with a good amount of polyphenols, making it a terrific blender with Arbequina.
ARBEQUINA is the most important variety in Catalunya and is becoming so elsewhere in Spain since it has a light fruitiness which blends easily and softens other more forceful varieties. Arbequina produces the fruit which is the basis for the famous appellations of Catalan oils such as Siurana and Les Garrigues.This year, California Olive Ranch has bottled both of these cultivars separately. Now you can taste the difference between them and decide for yourself which you prefer: the more "green" fruit intensity of Arbosana or the more "delicate" light intensity of Arbequina. For different reasons and uses, you might want to buy both. Remember, just one olive oil rarely suits all purposes.
California Olive Ranch E.V Olive Oil Arbosana 500ml bottle
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