Croatian olive oil
Croatian olive oil is (among) the best in the world. It is even called liquid gold.
Today in Croatia there is an important number of domestic varieties of olives recognized in numerous exhibitions and competitions, to be more precise, 31 domestic varieties of olives and 44 foreign. Some of the most famous Croatian varieties are Oblica, Lastovka, Drobnica, Levantinka, Plominka, Buža, Istarska bjelica and Dužica.
Olive picking in Croatia begins after the conclusion of the grape harvest, usually in mid to late October. Families all over the country are called to harvest the olives, the majority of which will be pressed into olive oil.
Olive picking is not an easy job but being in the fresh air and enjoying family, is simply fun and pleasant. Some areas keep the trees growing in width and not in height so they don’t need to climb at all making everything much easier. In the past, and even today, people would work for olive oil since it is a job that asks as many hands as possible and it was customary to give workers one or two liters of oil per day plus some food. Since both the workers and the owners were quite poor, they would work with eating only dried figs.
After harvesting, it’s time for oil production. As soon as the daily harvest is over, the olives are transported to a nearby oil mill, the oil can be extracted either mechanically or chemically. Green olives, if picked too soon, can be too bitter while overripe olives will yield more oil but the quality will be much lower. Producing extra virgin olive oil today is done almost the exact same way as our ancestors use to do many years ago. It’s no longer made with a stone wheel oil mill but, it is made from organically grown, pure natural olives.
Istria is true gourmet heaven, home to some of the world’s best truffles and exceptional homegrown wines. Its olive oil is one of the best in Croatia. Some of the best known oils in Istria are Agrolaguna, Chiavalon, Ipsa, Meneghetti, Al Torcio, Belic and San Antonio. The Croatian coast (Primorje) and Kvarner are also known for their olive groves, especially the island of Cres, where sheep breeding is used in combination with olive cultivation. Another main olive-producing region in Dalmatia with more than extraordinary olive oil. The olives came to Dalmatia from Ancient Greece after the Ancient Greeks sailed into Stari Grad on the island of Hvar in 384 BC. They brought vines and olive trees from the island of Paros and planted them in a fertile field next to their first settlement, today known as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain. Olives and grapes still flourish there, in much the same way as 2400 years ago. Besides its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and winemaking tradition, the southern Dalmatian island of Korčula is also a very important area for olive oil production in Croatia. This olive oil has a very recognizable taste, smell, and color. Some of the best-known producers in Dalmatia are Ivan Miloš, Marco Polo, PZ Postira Brač, Brachia Brač. Olive trees in the area of Lun on the island of Pag is a very interesting area of 24 hectares of wild olive, with 80000 olives, among which there are 1500 wild olive trees, 5-8 m high with an estimated age of some trees more than 1500 years. Olive oil made from these olives has a very special quality and aroma.
Regarding the quality of olive oil, there is a difference between:
- extra virgin oil is the healthiest and is obtained after the first healthy fat and the acidity,
- virgin oil is obtained after the first shredding of weaker olive fruit, and its acidity with respect to extra virgin olive oil is slightly higher,
- olive oil is obtained by mixing refined oil and certain amounts of extra virgin olive oil that serves to improve color and taste
- Sansa oil is obtained by chemical separation from solid residues of olive oil after pulverization, it is of inferior quality but can be used for frying.
Croatia and Croatian olive oils are always winning multiple awards at international olive oil competitions. The Croatian region of Istria has been declared the best extra virgin olive oil region in the world for the sixth year in a row, by leading guide Flos Olei.
This year, Croatia is even awarded at the national level in New York 87 samples, and so is Croatia in total fourth in the world by the number of medals for olive oils at the NYIOCC World Competition. Another great success for Istrian olive growers: Gold for 30 Istrian olive oils.