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Bariani Olive Oil
Green Gold

No, you can't make jewelry with it but you can use it for lamps, to make soap and cosmetics, as a medicine, as a multi-purpose lubricant…and you can also cook with it.

We discovered the fresh and flavorful olive oil at the Templeton Farmers Market in the Central Coast wine-growing region of California. It tasted pretty good and later we went back for more and to conduct a question-and-answer session, which led to a visit to the orchard in Sacramento. There we were greeted by the entire Bariani family with a green tea and almond cake "ceremony." This traditional family gathering set us in the mode for things to come. Angelo, the papa, and wife Santa welcomed us into their modest home filled with trophies garnered by their four sons, Luigi, Enrico, Emanuele and Sebastian, during their dirt-bike and road-bike races. These are proof of the family's competitive spirit, which drives them to produce the best olive oil one can find on the market.

The Bariani family immigrated to Sacramento in 1987 from Voghera in Northern Italy's Liguria region, following the lead of their eldest son, Luigi, who had been attending University of California Davis. In 1991 the family started pressing olives for personal use, beginning with something like five gallons. Bariani Olive Oil came to life in 1995 and today produces over 10,000 gallons. They purchased a run-down plot consisting of an old house and a barn on 45 acres. After intense revitalization, the orchard now boasts a combination of 75-year-old trees and 2,000 new trees. There is a new, 60-acre orchard north of Sacramento with the same types of trees. The varietals are Manzanillo and Mission, which were brought from Spain by Franciscan fathers in the 1700s. Only California fruit is used. Just like in winemaking, the Barianis bank on the concept of terroir. That is, to let the local conditions craft the product. The soil and climate are the basis for the quality of the juice. Another influence is the time of harvest. Sebastian notes that "We are crafting an original product; it would be a mistake to try to recreate what is done in Italy, Spain, Greece or France." No matter what the conditions are, children and parents are fully dedicated to their newly established passion. They regularly work 16-hour days in the busy fall season. They proceed with insight and are already rewarded for their hard work with high sales, complimentary e-mails, and awards.

Angelo's years in the construction business helped offset the family's initial lack of farming experience. He designed a "smart" plant which enables them to turn out a quality product at a most reasonable cost; somewhat reminiscent of the Italian cottage industries. For olive processing, good orchard management is prime. You must prune every three to four years in the late winter, making sure you have adequate cross-pollination and some water. Fruits are picked by hand and with the use of small rakes to minimize any chance for bruising, which may cause fermentation later in the game.

The olives are picked green, to assure a more intense flavor, in late September to mid-December. This is the busiest time at the Bariani farm. A custom-designed production line cleans the fruit by separating the leaves and twigs, and washing and drying prior them to stone crushing. Huge granites wheels (weighing 2 tons each), imported from Italy, crush the delicate fruit against a granite base. This procedure generates a paste which is then layered on filtering mats and cold pressed at only 10% extraction with hydraulic equipment. The resulting pulp goes back to the orchard for compost. Many producers press the pulp again at this point, and others go further using heat to extract any possible drop. A centrifuger separates the vegetal water from the juice, which is then set to rest in steel vats to decant. Several weeks later the finished product is poured into 250-, 500- and 1000-ml dark, light-protective bottles, totally unfiltered to preserve flavor. You might question the cloudy appearance and deposits, but you want these as they extend the life of the product and are ultimately responsible for the delectable taste. Bottling continues from January to October. At any point in time of production or consumption, you want to avoid oxygen that would render the oil rancid. Enrico the miller notes that "we simply copied the ancient Greeks but added electricity to the process."

It is important to note that Bariani Olive Oil is Certified Organic. Emanuele, the salesman, adds that "the lady from the Department of Agriculture lives next door; you bet she has her eye on our orchard." The oil keeps 18-24 months in good storage conditions (a cool and dark place) and the Barianis point out that "our grandmother in Italy has had it for five years and it still tastes fresh." As all good cooks know, not all olive oils are created equal. This oil is not only molto bene but also doesn't cause a gasp at the price: $14 for a liter, as compared to more than $50 charged for some Californian olive oils. Our tasting panel gave it a thumbs-up as great for dipping in bread or tossing with pasta but cautioned it might be a little strong for salads. Pure olive oil is better for sautéeing since it has a higher smoke point. Some found it "pungent with a real olive taste" others "nice and meaty" and "smooth." With its gorgeous emerald color and robust character, you have a truly natural, no-fault, high-quality product with a new orchard blend for balance and consistency.

Know what you're looking for in a bottle of olive oil...

· Antioxidants: Any substance that inhibits oxidation, which is thought to be a factor in disease and aging
· Certified Organic: Grown and processed by farmers who do not use harmful chemicals, who process using sustainable methods, and who keep detailed records of their practices.
· Cold pressed: Pit and all pressed with a chemical-free process that involves only pressure, which produces a natural level of low acidity to produce high-quality oil.
· Extra virgin: Oil produced during the first round of cold pressing; more intense and flavorful than other pressings.
· HDL: High-density lipoprotein which removes unwanted cholesterol from the body and thus lowers the risk of heart disease.
· Mono-saturated fat: Contains no saturated fat and thus does not produce cholesterol build-up in arteries.
· Polyphenols: A type of antioxidant which acts as protective substance against deterioration and rancid quality.

· Heat pressed: prone to rancidity
· LDL: Low-density lipoprotein which transports and deposits cholesterol in the tissues and arteries.
· Poly-saturated fat: Decreases levels of both LDL and HDL in the body.
· Refined: An oil with maximum acidity of .5g/100g-.5% which has been subjected to heat and chemicals and depleted of flavor, vitamins, essential fatty acids, other nutrients.

>Part 2

Bariani Olive Oil:Green Gold

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