Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tour of Queen Creek Olive Mill

Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only producer of extra virgin olive oil in Arizona. When I visited the mill in March, I took the half hour tour and was fascinated by the process. The two most influential factors in producing high quality olive oil are harvest date and the variety of olives used. The ripeness of the olives, from green to deep purple also affect flavor. When green olives are harvested and pressed into oil, the result is an oil with a grassy, bitter and peppery flavor that keeps well. Dark purple olives give oil a buttery fruity flavor and doesn't keep as well. The best oil is a blend that capitalizes on all these characteristics.

Queen Creek Olive Mill processes olive into oil within 24 hours of harvesting and only uses mechanical means to extract the oil. No solvents or heat are ever used. The master blender selects different varieties of olives at various stages of ripeness to produce the high quality oil that is their standard. After being pressed, the oil is stored in stainless steel tanks to keep it fresh and bottles it as needed. Shelf life is one year to 18 months as long as it goes into the bottles fresh. Queen Creek Olive Mill has a bottling date, not harvest date, on the bottle to guarantee freshness.

This spring we saw the blossoms on the trees and will return during the main bottling season in the fall from mid-October to mid-November to observe the harvest- by hand from the trees.

We tasted several types of oil including Meyer lemon, blood orange, bacon, chili and chocolate. The chocolate oil has a rich chocolate flavor and is ideal for scones, muffins and cakes. I use Meyer lemon on seafood, fresh vegetables and vinaigrette. The bacon flavor was disappointing as the flavor was bitter and astringent. Chili olive oil zips up the flavors of any food.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Just in Time for Dyeing Easter Eggs

Eggs are plentiful and cheap in the spring and provide high quality protein.

Here's eggs-actly a dozen tips!

Use the freshest eggs for frying or poaching because the white is thick and doesn't spread as much. This makes it easier to flip the eggs without breaking the yolk.

Fried eggs should be turned "over easy" to insure safety from salmonella.

Older eggs (1 to 2 weeks) are the best for hard-cooking because they are easier to peel. I've included directions below on how to hard-cook eggs.

Remove  eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before hard-cooking to prevent the shells from cracking.

For recipes that use egg yolks and egg whites separately, separate the yolk from the white when the eggs are cold.

When beating egg whites, allow them to warm slightly so that they will whip to the greatest volume. 

Use a non-stick pan for frying eggs and cook the eggs over low heat.

Adding 1-2 teaspoons vinegar to the water for poaching the eggs will reduce the spreading of the white.

Place poached eggs on aa paper towel to absorb poaching water to prevent soggy bread.

Always use large  eggs (24 oz./dozen) when baking as they are used in recipe development.

When using more than one egg, break each egg into a custard cup before adding to your recipe.
When you are separating the yolk from the white, you can remove any little bits of shell by using the empty egg shell. It attracts the small bits.

HOW TO HARD COOK EGGS:  Remove eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to avoid cracking. Place in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by one-inch. Bring to a boil. When water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let stand 15-17 minutes. (I use 17 minutes but most sources say 15 minutes).