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.