This post is part of our 'This Is Fire' series, where our editors and writers tell you about the products they can't live without in the kitchen.
California Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a staple at our house but that wasn’t always the case. When my husband, Mike, and I married in our early 20s, the meals we were able to cook could be counted on one hand. In an effort to upgrade our nightly dinners, we started watching cooking shows on PBS and quickly learned that extra virgin olive oil was an important ingredient we were missing. Chefs drizzled and poured olive oil with abandon. It was as ubiquitous as salt and pepper, appearing in every dish.
One of the first recipes we made with our new bottle of olive oil was a homemade marinara sauce. Drizzling what seemed to be a shocking amount of oil into a pan, Mike added diced onions and minced garlic to the hot oil and then when soft, he poured in crushed tomatoes and let it bubble on the stove. It was a big step up from the cans of marinara we’d been using up to that point. The flavor was bold and bright and we raved over the flavor and how those simple ingredients transformed before our eyes.
California Olive Ranch Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Smooth with a minimal peppery kick
Widely available and high quality
Comes in different blends
Only has a 6-month shelf life
Yet, shopping for olive oil felt overwhelming. I didn’t know what to buy or what qualified as a “good quality” olive oil that so many recipes called for. Then, I learned to look for “extra virgin” on the label when shopping because extra virgin is a regulated term and a bottle is only able to be labeled such if the olive oil was made by simply pressing the olives and not treating it with heat or chemicals. Extra virgin also signifies that the olive oil is without defects. Also, I found out that unlike vegetable oil, olive oil has a relatively short shelf life. A good quality olive oil will list the date the olives were harvested so you can tell how fresh the olive oil is. I do my best to use olive oil within 6 months of opening the bottle and store it in a cool cabinet to keep it away from sunlight, as the flavor will degrade over time.
But, the best advice I received, and I honestly hadn’t thought to do this, is to taste it. I’d tasted olive oil mixed with vinegar for vinaigrette, coated vegetables for roasting, and used it for homemade granola, but what I hadn’t done is pour it on a spoon and drink it. Hence how California Olive Ranch EVOO became my go-to olive oil. It checked all the boxes, plus I loved how it was smooth, fresh, and not overpowering. It has a peppery kick at the end but up front it tastes like olive oil should: like olives.
A good quality olive oil will list the date the olives were harvested so you can tell how fresh the olive oil is.
There are multiple different types of California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oils and most I can find on my grocery store shelves for less than $20. Its flagship oil uses olives grown and pressed in California. The Global Blend features olives from Argentina, Chile and Portugal and can be purchased in mild, medium, or robust. Lastly, California Olive Ranch has bottles marked as Reserve that feature single varieties grown by California farmers. Bottles are available in 500 milliliters up to 1.4 liters.
I use California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive daily and when I see the bottle, I remember how far we’ve come since the first time my husband and I poured it into a pan and made our first marinara sauce.
Price at time of publish: $21
Grade: Extra virgin | Processing: Cold-pressed | Origin: California, Argentina, Chile, and Portugal | Sizes: 16.9 fluid ounces, 25.4 fluid ounces, 33.8 fluid ounces
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Rachel Knecht is a recipe developer, food writer, and recipe tester based in Seattle. Her recipes and writing have appeared on Simply Recipes and she began writing for Spruce Eats in 2022.
Oil AO. What’s the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil? Accessed October 24, 2022. https://www.aboutoliveoil.org/whats-the-difference-between-virgin-and-extra-virgin-olive-oil