Last week, Helen Buket and her partner Sabo visited the Fethiye Mayor’s office to tell him some good news. Helen, a local producer of olive oil called TLOS OLIVE had won not one but two medals in an International Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Quality Competition. Mayor Behçet Saatci was so impressed, he visited her at Tlos Olive.
Quality from branch to bottle
When asked what sets apart their EVOO from the rest, Helen Buket replied: “Every stage of the work is carried out in minute detail and supervised by me. The harvest is meticulously made by hand so that the delicate fruit is not damaged before the juice is extracted.”
The olives arrive at the mill within hours but never more than six hours of being harvested. The rigorous cold extraction work is performed with great care and attention.”
An olive oil centre of excellence
Helen’s olive oil production centre is in Çamköy, a district on the outskirts of Fethiye. There, she explains, ” All of the products are made using organic farming methods.” Here she becomes a bit technical. “The strong point of TlosOlive is the diversity of its extraction line, which allows it to adapt the technicalities of extraction to the olives’ variety and grade of maturity, making it always possible to obtain oils of intense fruit and balance.”
The science of olive oil
Unless you are an olive oil expert yourself, this probably needs explaining, so here comes the science behind this extraordinary oil…
During the last decade, new evidence about the extreme restorative powers of extra virgin olive oil has come to light. A specific antioxidant called Polyphenol (a wide array of different combinations of oleic acids -hence the ‘poly’) that is present in yet un-ripe (green) olives, when the oil is properly cold-extracted from the fruit mechanically (without the use of any chemicals or heat) can be captured and stored in cold air-less stainless-steel tanks.
The level of Polyphenols needs to be above 200-240 to effectively heal damaged cells in our body. Until recently one had to import from Europe any EVOO with 400 phenols for medical purposes.
Tlos olive oil hits the mark
What all this means in simple terms, is that Helen and Sabo, through their careful efforts, were not only able to reach the 400 mark, but were able to extract EVOO with 500+, 600+ and a small quantity of about 22 liters of 700+ phenols!
They won the Gold medal for their 400+ specimen. Of course other factors (both measured and sensory) went into the judging process.
We congratulate them for their achievement.
Learn the lingo of olive oil labels to identify the best
After salt and pepper, extra-virgin olive oil is the ingredient we can’t do without in the Mediterranean kitchen. To help us choose among the hundreds of oils, we sat down with our award winning pro – Helen Buket: an engineering geologist, mother of two, lover of everything green, resident of Fethiye.
FT: What’s on an olive oil label?
Helen: Things to look for when examining a label in a store:
- Independent Lab certification ― this verifies that the oil has passed the chemical and sensory standards that qualify it as extra-virgin, the highest grade.
- Style or varietal ― some makers give information about the flavours to guide your choice. (See below.)
- Harvest date ― more useful than sell-by date. “Olive oil is freshest and most flavorful within 18 months of harvest,” says Buket. (she harvests her south Aegean olives from October to December, and immediately mills them into oil.) “Don’t save it!”
- Award seals ― the most prestigious olive-oil competitions are the L.A. International, Good Food Awards, and New York International. Helen’s EVOOs just won both a Gold and a Silver medal at the 10.International EVOO Quality Competition.
Mild or bold?
(Light/Medium – Hafif/Orta vs. Medium/Intensive – Orta/Yoğun)
Helen: A good olive oil balances fruity, pungent, and bitter flavors, but intensity varies depending on maturity and variety, where fruit is grown, and miller style.
Mild. Later-harvest oils taste more buttery. In terms of varieties, Arbequina and the Turkish, North Aegean Bay area varietals, Ayvalık and Edremit are a great beginner’s oil, mellow with almond-y overtones.
Bold. Oils from early-harvest fruit taste greener and more bitter and pungent. Tuscan-style varietals, like Frantoio, Leccino, and Maurino or the Turkish, South Aegeian varietals, Memecik and Dilmit, fall into the bold category.
Oil’s worst enemies?
Helen: Air, heat, and light degrade oil over time. When you are buying olive oil look for dark bottles, and buy a quantity you can use up in a few months. At home, keep oil in a dark, cool cupboard.
Want to upgrade to better EVOO?
This local (internationally awarded) small-batch producer, Helen Buket can help! Some of you might already know her as ‘Zeytin Hanım’ (the Olive Lady).