Highlights from Jaén: Land of Liquid Gold

Exploring the Olive Groves of Jaén and Tasting a Passion

Jaen olive groves

I grew up using olive oil. My father’s family was Italian and they wouldn’t use anything else. Apart from baked goods (which my mother made with copious amounts of butter or vegetable oil) I always knew my virgins from my extra virgins, or so I thought…

Olive oil Tasting

We’d just returned from TBEX Girona when I noticed a strange email in my inbox. It was in Spanish, and I almost deleted it as spam. Luckily, curiosity got the best of me and I clicked open. I was surprised to see that Ale and I were invited to the council of Jaén’s Second Annual Blogger Encounter. Fifteen Spain based food bloggers would be transported to Baeza, Jaén for a long weekend of learning about and tasting the region’s pride and joy: extra virgin olive oil. A gastronomic dream come true, we were thrilled to say yes to learning more about Jaén’s olive oil and to promoting a lesser visited part of our beloved Andalusia.

welcome to Jaén

I’d wanted to visit Jaén since first moving to Spain, but somehow it never happened while living in Seville or Cadiz. Believe it or not, it’s faster driving down from Madrid than over from Cadiz (Andalusia is huge!). I dreamed about the sprawling olive groves and the rich cuisine that would surround such an important product. Jaén produces 70% of Spain’s olive oil, and I wanted to discover the people and places involved in the process.

oro bailen
We soon learned that the people involved with olive oil are passionate for what they do!

As we headed down to Baeza, we could barely see the olive trees through the thick fog and heavy rains. The weather gods weren’t on our side for our weekend normally sunny Andalusia. But we arrived, and the weather didn’t stop us from being immediately struck by the enthusiasm of the tourism board and of our trip leader, Jesús Zafra Ocaña. Jesús’s job is promoting Jaén and he is an expert in their local gastronomy. But his intense passion for extra virgin olive oil was both unexpected and contagious. We immediately felt welcome and ready to learn. 

Rainy Baeza
Rainy Baeza as seen from inside our bus!

Over the next two days we were treated to outstanding food, in-depth factory tours, and various presentations and classes by local experts. We learned what to look for when buying a good extra virgin olive oil, and how to properly taste olive oil. We also learned that much of what we’ve been buying is absolute crap! We’ll be writing about each part of our visit in much more depth over the next few weeks, but for now I leave you with a sneak peek at our time in Jaén.

Aceite Jaén 2012: A Sneak Peek

chef plating a dish
We attended a cooking class at the Laguna Hospitality School where the chef’s taught us how to make some excellent dishes featuring olive oil.
olive oil casks
We toured one of the coolest olive oil factories in the world at Cortijo Angulo!
Olive oil dessert
We were wowed at Los Sentidos Restaurant with dishes like this amazing fried dough with ice cream, custard and lots of olive oil!
bright green olive oil
We tried the freshest olive oil of our lives at the gorgeous Castillo Canena– it had only been made 48 hours prior! It was also the greenest oil I’ve ever seen!
Zeitum restaurant
We enjoyed chef Anselmo Juarez making the best Bloody Mary cocktails we’ve ever had at Zeitum Restaurant.
Multicolored olives
We were able to see the olive harvest at Oro Bailen and appreciate the hard work that goes into every drop of oil.

Stay tuned for more posts about each part of our Aceite Jaén 2012 experience. What do you cook with olive oil?

Our stay in Jaén was provided by the Diputación de Jaén, but all opinions are our very own!

Comments

  1. When you asked on Facebook to guess what it was I did mean to write “olive oil” but I didn’t because it was too green to be true 🙂 I try to use olive oil as much as I can because I think it’s much healthier than other oil, but at the same time it’s by 1/3 more expensive.

  2. CRAZY jealous of this. I’ve always wanted to get to Jaén, too. I’m thinking an after Xmas trip (will be stopping in Madrid for a few days with my parents, too!). Excited to hear the rest!

  3. What? I was just in Baeza two days ago (10/29)!!! I’m living in Úbeda (working as auxiliar) for this school year and am loving Jaén very much. Looking forward to your treatment of the province and an in-depth look into olive oil production! I haven’t had a chance to visit an almazara yet but your post makes me more interested.

  4. I’m excited to hear about your trip in greater detail! Can’t wait to learn more, especially the part about “much of what we’ve been buying is absolute crap”.

    And–wow, I would love to try olive oil that had only been pressed 2 days before!

  5. I wouldn’t touch an olive until I visited Spain and have since now become obsessed with them and have this wonderful country to thank. You cal it liquid gold, but I like to refer to olive oil as the nectar of the gods.

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