Thursday, June 6, 2013

Does good extra-virgin olive oil have to be expensive?

I've been using this 100% Greek extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and dressing salads since February. My only complaints relate to how difficult it is to raise the tin's turtle-like plastic neck into its pouring position and to unseal it, below.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss extra-virgin olive oils, which can cost up to $20 or $30 a liter, compare organic and conventional apples, and herald 'the return' of Costco Wholesale's Organic Strawberry Spread.

You don't see too many bargains in extra-virgin olive oil these days, so a flier I received in February from the International Food Warehouse in Lodi caught my attention.

A 3-liter tin of Isle of Cyprus Greek Extra-Virgin Olive Oil was being offered for $14.99 or about $5 a liter.

Good extra-virgin olive oil was selling for around $5 a liter about 10 years ago, before a sudden and unexplained spike nearly doubled the price.

Then, blends of Italian, Spanish, Greek and Tunisian oils began to appear at a lower price than bottles of 100% Italian or Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, also referred to as EVOO.

I started buying extra-virgin olive oils from Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries in 3-liter bottles that I found in South Paterson stores (about $15).

"Solely by mechanical means," above, refers to obtaining the oil from the olives without the use of hot water or chemicals. Another label, below, refers to "a pure and virgin product obtained ... without any additives."

In February, I bought 2 tins of Isle of Cyprus extra-virgin olive oil, and started to use it for frying eggs, omelets and frittatas, and for dressing salads, along with balsamic vinegar.

I also added it to bottled marinara sauce and drizzled it over reheated leftover pasta.

The oil was fruity and thicker than others I have purchased for the same price, and compared favorably to a Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil from Costco Wholesale that cost $11.99 a liter.

The International Food Warehouse then started selling 1-liter bottles of Isle of Cyrus EVOO for $4.99, but I didn't get to the store before the sale ended.

On May 22, I picked up 2 more tins of the Cypriot oil for $13.99 each.

The golden-green oil and balsamic vinegar make a great salad dressing.

I recall going to the store earlier in May, but found the tins had run out.

I overheard another customer telling his friend the Isle of Cyprus oil must be "adulterated," if it was being sold for such a low price.

But I don't see any evidence of that from the taste and aroma.

It's just a good extra-virgin olive oil at a great price, especially if you use it both to cook and dress salads.

The producer of Isle of Cyprus Extra-Virgin Olive Oil may have cut its price to be competitive in world markets after the island experienced financial problems this year.

It is imported by Phoenicia Specialty Foods of Houston, Texas.

International Food Warehouse, 370 Essex St.,
Lodi; (201) 368-9511. Open 7 days.

Conventionally grown Jazz Apples were $2.49 a pound at the Paramus Shop Rite on Wednesday or only 50 cents less than organic apples at Whole Foods Market.

Comparing apples

Price increases for food never seem to end.

On a visit to Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Wednesday, I couldn't find any organic apples for less than $2.99 a pound.

I bought a single Gala Apple ($1.11), an unusually crisp Braeburn from New Zealand ($1.44) and a Fuji Apple ($1.64), all organic.

A single organic apple cost more than an entire pound of conventional apples a couple of years ago.

Then, I drove over to the ShopRite across the street for lactose-free milk, and saw conventionally grown apples were going for $2.49 a pound.

Whole Foods organic apple prices were stiff, but I also found frozen, antibiotic-free turkey backs and necks for a low $1.49 a pound.

ShopRite had antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken quarters for $1.49 a pound.

They're back

After several futile searches for Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread on visits to Costco Wholesale, I finally found some today at my warehouse store in Hackensack ($7.49 for a 42-ounce bottle).

When I couldn't find the spread -- which family members singled out for praise -- I bought Smucker's Strawberry Preserves, made with high-fructose corn syrup.

I also picked up Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter (Creamy), and will refrigerate it to prevent the separation I didn't like the last time I tried it ($9.99 for two 40-ounce plastic jars).

The ingredients are Dry Roasted Valencia Peanuts and Sea Salt.

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