Rodney Shah, head chef at The Boatbuilders Yard, touts Mount William Olive Grove as one of the best producers of olive oil in Australia. The small grove is a teenager at 13 years old and is in the heart of the Macedon Ranges, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
Seven varieties of olives are grown and the trees begin flowering in late September and are harvested in the frosty cold months of May and June with new season oils available in early August.
Unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil does not get better with age. Generally it is best used up to 12 months after harvest. In most olive oils both taste and health benefits start to deteriorate after this period. Cold climate oils like Mount William tend to have a longer shelf life and hold their flavour longer due to the high levels of polyphenols which are the natural anti-oxides that make extra virgin olive oil so good for you.
The secret to cooking with olive oil is that “fresh is best”. The colour and flavour of olive oil is never more intense than just after harvest. A tip is to keep your olive stored in a dark, cool place the flavour and shelf life will last longer.
Rodney Shah uses the olive oil in all the salads and to finish off the pastas at The Boatbuilders Yard. If you want to go back to basics, simply serve olive oil neat (like a good whiskey!) with some crusty bread – a great way to start the day!