Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes in several forms when it comes to flavor. There is plain, which means no flavor added other than the flavor from the olive, often referred to as unflavored. Next is "infused olive oil", which means flavor is added after the oil has been extracted from the olive. Lastly, we have "fused olive oil", (known as agrumato in Italian) where the flavor is added at the time of extraction.
Traditionally in some areas of Italy they would crush whole citrus fruits or "agrume" along with the olives for a few special batches of olive oil or "olio d'oliva" during the fall harvest and these special batches would be referred to as "olio agrumato" which loosely translates to "citrused oil". Imagine how difficult this must have been in olden times. Your farm had to have the right climate and soil for both olives and citrus fruits to fluorish. It would also take some luck and a lot of hard work to have a growing season that would allow you to have perfectly ripe citrus fruits and perfectly ripe olives harvested and available to crush on the same day at your olive mill or "frantoio". Then you had to have someone in the family with the knowledge and experience to know just how much to put in. It is understandable that a perfectly balanced "olio agrumato" would be a great source of pride for the family and the local village. Today, our fused oils can also get their natural flavor from fresh botanicals like rosemary, green chiles and more.
Our wonderful EVOO supplier has issued this statement to clear up some common confusion in the olive oil marketplace:
"We've received of a flurry of questions and comments regarding misappropriation of the term "fused" by stores not supplied by Veronica Foods who are using it to describe oils that are not mechanically crushed, i.e. agrumato.
First, a little history… From the time we began making agrumato olive oil aka "fused" olive oil decades ago, we needed a word that best described our mill's process of crushing whole, fresh, organic olives together with perfectly ripe, fresh produce, strictly using mechanical extraction. We chose to use the word "fused" because the only other word that existed to describe this unique, artisan, process was the Italian term, "agrumato". At the time, we felt the term "agrumato" was too obscure so we chose to call our agrumato olive oil "fused".
We believe that the term fused has been co-opted for a few reasons. First and foremost, the process of agrumato is incredibly difficult, costly, and therefore rare. It's time consuming, laborious, and requires a near perfect choreography to bring fresh, ripe, locally sourced produce to the mill the moment the olives are ready to be harvested. We're talking mere hours from harvest to crush for both olives and fresh produce at our mill.
Furthermore, a recipe must be developed dictating how many tons of fresh herbs or fruit should be crushed with a corresponding ratio of olives. This process of formulation can take many seasons to perfect. We had many failures along the way before we got each agrumato olive oil right. Remember, a mill cannot simply stop production to make tiny test batches of agrumato to find flavor harmony. Our mill has an Alfa Laval in full swing during harvest, and fresh olives need to be crushed immediately! Needless to say, the process of agrumato is a labor of love and requires a level of craftsmanship and dedication to quality that we hang our hats on. We're known globally for having one of the largest collections of authentic, high quality agrumato olives oils. We did not roll out of bed a couple years ago and decide to become experts. We arrived at our position in the industry after decades of hands on experience. We're never done reaching for excellence but we have fine tuned the process accruing many accolades and gold medals along the way.
It's for these reasons that we must assume that the intentional misuse of the term "fused" to describe oils that are actually infused, is a blatant attempt to fool and lure otherwise loyal consumers into believing product is authentic agrumato by competitors that can no longer acquire it."
You will find that you don't have to dig very deep to discover when people are selling products that they don't truly understand. Often a few simple questions is all it takes. After reading this article you will probably know more than many oil shop employees about how flavoured olive oils are made. Some shops may not be intentionally misleading their customers, they may simply be repeating phrases that someone in upper management sent over in a memo. We are happy to answer any questions you might have. If we don't know an answer, we will tell you that too. We are always excited to learn something new about the products we sell!! If we have to consult upper management, we can do that over dinner when everybody gets home tonight.
We appreciate your business and our family will continue to provide the best quality products for you and your families.