Olive Oil “Pâté” Tested at UC Davis

A couple of years ago, Brendon Flynn, Pacific Sun Farm’s general manager, and myself visited Tuscany, Italy. We visited with olive oil producers, toured olive mills and tasted Tuscan EVOOs.

Since we were checking milling equipment as well, we visited Alfa Laval and also, Oliomio / TEM, owned by friendly Giorgio Mori. In that visit, a group of producers, agronomists, researchers and tasters gathered there to welcome us and taste our Californian oils. Aside from receiving very useful feedback, I was delighted to see how that group interacted.

We don’t have anything similar here. A space in which highly educated people in quality olive oil, share and get updated by tasting, by listening to each other, getting to know the late developments in the industry anywhere.

Among the people present that day was Lorenzo Cecchi, an amiable chemist, who I met years before while he worked at the chemical laboratory of the Chamber of Commerce along another old friend, researcher and olive oil tasting panel leader, Marzia Migliorini. Lorenzo, later on went to do a PhD at the University of Florence and that, eventually, brought him these days to UC Davis.

There, along another good friend, professor Jean-Xavier Guinard, is studying consumer acceptance of possible uses of olive oil “pâté.”

The pâté is a by-product of olive oil making. Pieralisi, one of the main manufacturers of machinery in the industry, has developed a new type of decanter called The Leopard. This decanter, while it separates olive oil from the paste, produces a dehydrated olive pomace. It also separates the pulp (pâté) from the pits (olives are crushed whole, with their pits in them, by a hammermill or crusher in the beginning of the milling process) right after the malaxation step.

After that separation, the pâté consists of a wet homogeneous pulp free from residuals pits.

The dehydration helps reducing the chances of possible oxidation processes. In this way, becomes a suitable ingredient for possible commercial applications. It is potentially suitable for various uses, including animal feeding, but also for human consumption in the form of food supplement or food ingredient.

That’s what Lorenzo and Jean-Xavier are testing these days. They’re adding different amount of pâté to bread, pastas and granola bars, and checking how acceptable is their resulting taste with a group of volunteers.

After the first round of tests, Lorenzo likes how the bread and pastas taste with this addendum, finding even a layer of pleasant olive-y flavor.

A few weeks ago I attended a sensory evaluation test, at the Mondavi Institute in UC Davis. I tasted two pastas, two breads and two granola bars. I found all the products quite pleasant. The pastas were quite nice, the bread too, and the granola bar, which had a higher concentration of the pâté, was quite interesting, since it tamed the sugary taste quite a bit, offering a more interesting savory taste.

In a paper, which Lorenzo cowrote with other Italian researchers, we find this interesting case: “The possibility to use the fresh pâté was evaluated in one study (Luciano et al., 2013), which demonstrated that the inclusion of olive cake into a concentrate-based diet for lambs could be proposed as a strategy to improve the nutritional quality of meat without compromising its oxidative stability. Indeed, the inclusion of this pâté in the animal diet increased the concentration of vitamin E in muscle and extended meat oxidative stability.”

As you see, the most exciting side of the potential uses of the olive pâté lies in their high anti-oxidant content. According to the paper cited, one gram of pâté has as much phenols as 200mL of olive oil.

The other promising aspect of this is economics. Olive oil producers continue to struggle to survive and olive oil by-products have a great acceptance among savvy consumers. Soaps, lotions, cosmetics, wood crafts, animal feeding, compost, pharmaceutical use. All these can help, even save, olive oil production.

One year I experimented with drying the pomace that is discarded after centrifugation and baked it in a pizza oven, in order to make charcoal. Being so oily, it only took to get in contact with a match flame to start burning. I used them as starters for fires and barbequing.

Since Lorenzo is here, we used the opportunity to hold a couple of educational tasting sessions led by him with a group of colleagues in the California industry.

Once more, we learned so much from someone who comes from that school of tasting and milling that the late Marco Mugelli started in Tuscany, with an uncompromising approach to quality and fact-based knowledge.

Lorenzo does not only come from that experience. He’s been a serious contributor to that lineage and has become a legit ambassador of it. We’re thrilled to have him in California sharing his work.


Posted on Categories Health, Milling