Whether you’re a drizzler or a lasher, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an indispensable ingredient. And not just any EVOO, mind you… we’re talking locally produced liquid gold bearing the SA Olive Industry Association’s seal of Commitment to Compliance (CTC). In other words, look out for this sticker on locally produced EVOO, as it certifies the content as 100% South African; that the product conforms to the SA Olives Codes of Practice, which are based on international quality standards; and, along with the year of harvest clearly shown on the sticker, if the label states that the content is Extra Virgin, the producer verifies that the content is just that and not Virgin or Refined Olive Oil.
So, without further ado, here are my top five local EVOO brands all available from Woolworths…
1. Costas Artisano Extra Virgin Olive Oil (R69,95 for 500ml)
With subtle black and gold branding, this product whispers quiet confidence – however, once cracked open, it packs a powerful punch of green fruitiness that leads to mildly peppery tones. It’s the perfect way to finish freshly steamed greens like sugar snap peas or kale and, melded with lemon juice, it makes for the perfect zesty coating to toss steamed cauliflower in.
2. Willow Creek Directors’ Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil (R94,95 for 500ml)
The only South African EVOO to be rated among ‘The World’s Best Olive Oils 2015’ at New York’s International Olive Oil Competition in April this year. At once velvety and grassy, it slides down your throat like a freshly shucked oyster. I love slashing it over a Caprese salad, making sure I linger over the buffalo mozzarella with a little extra liquid love.
3. Prince Albert Extra Virgin Olive Oil Karoo Blend (R73,95 for 500ml)
If the vintage design of its canary yellow tin doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, nothing will. Produced in the Swartland by cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst of the AA Badenhorst Family Wines (Secateurs label), this EVOO is blended from Italian Frantoio, Favolosa and Coratina olives, a trinity characterised by a tart beginning, a fresh and zesty middle and a lingering peppery ending. I use it for everything from the simplest of pleasures – poured into the welcoming wells of a ripe Hass avocado sprinkled with Maldon salt – to balancing sweet and salty combinations: think ripe strawberries with creamy Gorgonzola and a touch of aromatics like fresh basil leaves.
4. Vesuvio Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( R74,95 for 500ml)
After an initial fruitiness, this cold-pressed EVOO revs up to a peppery hit, making it the perfect balance for sautéing baby marrow ribbons finished off with a sprinkling of Italian parsley and Parmesan shavings.
Made from late-harvested Ligurian olives, this liquid gold is fruity and toasty, settling to a creamy and smooth finish – in other words, I take it neat served in a tablespoon. Okay, sometimes I have it over ice cream too. The perfect all-rounder, this EVOO is a favourite staple in my house and, much to my dismay, I recently learned that only 3 000 bottles of it were produced! I think a little stockpiling is in order.