Sitting in the benevolent shade of a 600 year old olive tree with Jean Paul Mifsud, I get a poetic narration of how his childhood dream to become a farmer became a reality. “I still remember the first time I came to this little paradise,’ he tells me with his jovial smile. “The warm air suffused with the smell of almonds and wild fennel. An amber glow through the dark green leaves of centuries old olive trees greeted me and my family as we drove through the beautiful country road that led to what was to be our future home. The stunning views of luscious green hills that surrounded our abode were balm to my soul for years intoxicated with urban life.”
Jean Paul Mifsud, known more as an investigative TV journalist and social activist, is the man behind the award winning extra virgin olive oil Barbuto. His journalism included covering terrorist attacks, war zones, disaster struck areas and investigative programs ranging from drug and human trafficking to uncovering scandals.
His estates in the picturesque province of Ragusa yield this fine quality oil that was chosen by the iconic high quality store Fortnum & Mason in London as part of its Luxury oils selection. Jean Paul talks with a passion about his oil and the Sicilian culinary tradition.
“This land so intense with life and traditions, vibrant with its food culture was welcoming me in its arms reassuring me that the seeds of my aspirations were already planted in its fertile soil” he said. Not surprisingly the Barbuto Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a gastronomical portrayal of a rustic modest life in the Sicilian countryside tinted with a passion for food, family and traditions. He explains that only the famous ‘Tonda Iblea’ olive is used to create this monocultivar oil.
The meticulous consideration throughout the whole production process starts at the very beginning. All the trees are pruned every two to three years and only natural fertilizers are used for the rich soil that cradles them. Olives are hand harvested very early in the season because machines could bruise the olives ruining its lush and are rigorously selected removing small branches and any leaves. Transported to the olive mill on the same day the Barbuto harvest is washed thoroughly then cold-pressed within a few hours to produce this prized delicacy.
He assures me that before the actual process starts he makes sure that all the machinery is cleaned from previously pressed olives. Nevertheless the initial litres of the Barbuto Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced after every pressing never makes it to the bottling line. All the olive oil is then stored in stainless steel tanks under neutral gas so as to prevent oxidization and keep its freshness. Bottling is also done under very strict conditions in a special bottle of dark glass that provides the best preservation of its taste and its aroma.
Jean Paul invites me to the table to savour the taste of this fine extra virgin olive oil. “I have put passion and devotion to bring this absolute quality olive oil,” he says. “I can affirm that this is a true taste of the ancient Sicilian soil that produces it.”
I cannot agree more while indulging in the true taste of Sicily.