Cover bottom of pie crust with pecans & chocolate.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add
the corn syrup, brown sugar, zests, cinnamon, bourbon. Stir with wooden spoon until
all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into the pie shell over the pecans
and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F
and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes or until pie is set. Remove
from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Fresh olives, being harvested in Umbria Photograph: AGF s.r.l. / Rex Features
Last month, the Olive Oil Times reported
that two Spanish businessmen had been sentenced to two years in prison
in Cordoba for selling hundreds of thousands of litres of supposedly
extra virgin olive oil that was, in fact, a mixture of 70-80% sunflower
oil and 20-30% olive.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
In 2008, Italian police arrested over 60 peopleand
closed more than 90 farms and processing plants across the south after
uncovering substandard, non-Italian olive oil being passed off as
Italian extra virgin, and chlorophyll and beta-carotene being added to
sunflower and soybean oil with the same aim.
Most alarmingly, a study last year by researchers at the University of California,
Davis and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory concluded that as
much as 69% of imported European olive oil (and a far smaller proportion
of native Californian) sold as extra virgin in the delicatessens and
grocery stores on the US west coast wasn't what it claimed to be.
Britain, of course, it wasn't so very long ago that the most likely
place to find olive oil was the chemist. Today, thanks partly to the
health claims made on its behalf and partly to the fact it tastes good,
the oil Homer called "liquid gold" is in half of all UK homes and we get
through30m litres of olive oil every year –
more than double than we did decade ago. We're now, in fact, the
world's 10th biggest olive oil-consuming nation. So with a litre of
supermarket extra virgin costing up to £4, and connoisseurs willing to
pay 10 times that sum for a far smaller bottle of seasonal, first cold
stone pressed, single estate, artisan-milled oil from Italy or Greece,
can we be sure of getting what we're paying for?
answer, according to Tom Mueller in a book out this month, is very
often not. In Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive
Oil, Mueller, an American who lives in Italy, lays bare the workings of
an industry prey, he argues, to hi-tech, industrial-scale fraud. The
problem, he says, is that good olive oil is difficult, time-consuming
and expensive to make, but easy, quick and cheap to doctor.
commonly, it seems, extra virgin oil is mixed with a lower grade olive
oil, often not from the same country. Sometimes, another vegetable oil
such as colza or canola is used. The resulting blend is then chemically
coloured, flavoured and deodorised, and sold as extra-virgin to a
producer. Almost any brand can, in theory, be susceptible: major names
such as Bertolli (then owned by Unilever) have found themselves in court
having to argue, successfully in this instance, that they had
themselves been defrauded by their supplier.
the chemical tests that should by law be performed by exporters of
extra virgin oil before it can be labelled and sold as such can often
fail to detect adulterated oil, particularly when it has been mixed with
products such as deodorised, lower-grade olive oil in a sophisticated
modern refinery. Nor do national food authorities appear particularly
bothered as long as the oil isn't actively harmful, which is rare. In
Britain, says Judy Ridgeway,
one of the UK's leading olive oil experts, the Food Standards Agency
has not done any checks on olive oil in five or six years. "And it only
does chemical tests, not taste tests," she adds.
EU now also requires extra virgin oil to pass assorted taste and aroma
tests, assessed by panels of experts: the oil has to be suitably fruity,
bitter and peppery, and cannot display any of 16 different defects,
including "grubbiness", "mustiness" and "fustiness". But bad stuff still
says it is "hard to say what percentage of faulty oil gets through" to
Britain. "It will vary seasonally – there will be more at this time of
year than in March or April, but it's appreciable. They buy in good
faith, but there are faulty oils on our supermarket shelves, without any
olive, in more than 700 varieties or cultivars, has been grown for its
oil in the Mediterranean since 3000 BC. Unlike most vegetable oils,
which are extracted from seeds or nuts, good olive oil is made using a
basic hydraulic press, or more modern centrifuge, so it is more a fruit
juice than an industrial fat. It comes in several qualities, including lampante,
or "lamp oil", which is made from damaged or ground-gathered fruit and
cannot be sold as food; virgin; and extra virgin, the highest grade.
This has to be made by a physical (rather than chemical) process, and
meet strict chemical requirements, including levels of oxidation and
"free acidity" (a measure of decomposition).
any fresh product, olive oil deteriorates over time. "The trouble,"
says Ridgeway, "is that it's quite easy to clean up, say, an oil that
doesn't quite pass the acidity test, and to do it without leaving any
chemical markers. It could even taste pretty good, for about three
months. Then it will go horribly wrong."
Michael North, an expert who runs a fresh seasonal olive oil club,
says the problem is "huge. The public are just not aware of what's
going on. There's plenty of oil out there that's rubbish: last year's
oil or older. Or not even olive oil."So how can consumers best ensure
they're not being ripped off? Ridgeway recommends paying a sensible
price. Unfortunately, a 50cl bottle costing £15 is, on balance, "less
likely to have problems" than one costing £2. North urges people never
to buy olive oil in a clear bottle ("It oxidises and goes rancid far
faster"), and to buy from somewhere you can taste it first.
he and Ridegway, though, stress the prime importance of buying young.
"Look for a harvest date," North says. "They're starting to appear now,
albeit on only a few bottles, and they'll tell you how old the oil is.
It's not an absolute guarantee of quality, but half the battle."
How to buy olive oil
Find a seller who stores it in clean, temperature-controlled stainless
steel containers topped with an inert gas such as nitrogen to keep
oxygen at bay, and bottles it as they sell it. Ask to taste it before
• Favour bottles or containers that protect against light, and buy a quantity that you'll use up quickly.
Don't worry about colour. Good oils come in all shades, from green to
gold to pale straw – but avoid flavours such as mouldy, cooked, greasy,
meaty, metallic, and cardboard.
Ensure that your oil is labelled "extra virgin," since other
categories—"pure" or "light" oil, "olive oil" and "olive pomace oil" –
have undergone chemical refinement.
Try to buy oils only from this year's harvest – look for bottles with a
date of harvest. Failing that, look at the "best by" date which should
be two years after an oil was bottled.
Though not always a guarantee of quality, PDO (protected designation of
origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) status should
inspire some confidence.
Some terms commonly used on olive oil labels are anachronistic, such as
"first pressed" and "cold pressed". Since most extra virgin oil
nowadays is made with centrifuges, it isn't "pressed" at all, and true
extra virgin oil comes exclusively from the first processing of the
For further information, see extravirginity.com. Extracted from Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller.
• This article was amended on 5 January 2012. The original referred to Bertolli as owned by Unilever. This has been corrected.