Olive Oil in the Texas Hill Country (podcast)

Oct 27th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Articles, podcast
Joh and Cara Gambini int he tasting room sampling olive oil.

John and Cara Gambini in the tasting room at their Texas Hill Country Olive Company. Image courtesy of Fotohogg

Extra Virgin olive oil is a favorite among home and professional cooks worldwide. Extra virgin is pure olive “squeezings” devoid of defects such as being rancid, musty or fusty.

John Gambini and his daughter Cara Gambini oversee operations of the Texas Hill Country Olive Company’s certified organic olive orchard and mill in Dripping Springs where they grow more than 2,000 trees on 17 acres, and mill award-winning extra virgin olive oil. None of which tastes rancid, musty or fusty.

The Spanish originally brought olives to North America in the 1500s, and planted trees in Mexico and California because those terrains reminded Spaniards of European olive growing regions. John Gambini felt the same way about Central Texas as the Spaniards did about California and Mexico, saying the Hill Country reminded him of Italy and Sicily with its limestone geology and dry, hot climate.

In 2008, John Gambini, who spent more than 40 years as a general contractor, bought 17 acres of land in Dripping Springs with his brother-in-law and founded the Texas Hill Country Olive Company; he said always wanted to pursue a business that resonated with his Sicilian heritage. He thought he’d pursue wine, but by the time he was ready to get started, Texas already had 162 wineries in operation.

The olive industry, meanwhile, only started getting traction in the 1990s.

Although, the Texas olive oil industry is about 30 years old, olive trees have been growing in the Winter Garden region of Texas since the 1930s. Earnest Mortensen of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station planted those first trees because he wanted to see if they would survive in Texas; and they did and they do. Some of the original trees are still living.

Cara, who worked in the oil business before joining forces with her father, said their goal from the beginning was to make olive oil…and for that they needed trees that would thrive in Central Texas. In addition to the Spanish Arbequina, which does well in Central Texas, Cara says they have experimented with Italian varietals, too. She says the Leccino has been successful, but the Coratina, one of the most important varietals in Italy’s Puglia region, has been a bit of a problem child. Yet, Cara Gambini says it’s just a chance they had to take.

And the chances they’ve taken are paying off. Their Miller’s Blend oil and Sola Stella have won gold medals in New York and the Los Angeles Olive Oil Competitions.

The Gambini family may have passed on growing grapes and making wine, but olive oil is nearly as complex as any wine available today.

John and Cara Gambini invite the public to visit the Texas Hill Country Olive Company’s orchard and mill for tours, including time in the tasting room, where visitors can help themselves to samples of the oils as well as their balsamic vinegars. Their bistro serves dishes that highlight their oils—including olive oil gelatos!

NOTE: This is an encore broadcast.

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  1. I use olive oil when making salad dressings and as a baste for roasting veggies, especially cauliflower. yum!

  2. I use it to bake frenchfries and Brussel sprouts. Throw them in a bag with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper and bake for 20 min.

  3. I love using olive oil when roasting veggies. Delicious!!!!

    I have been to the Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Company several times and I love the olive oil gelato. Everyone must try it!!!

  4. When Using olive oil I relive memories of my mother, grandmother and aunts making Sunday pasta, meatballs, and salad. The men were in the small den talking about politics, football, baseball, or their waistlines while waiting to be called to the dinner table. The children, me included, ran amuck through the house until called to the kitchen to help grandma to set the table or carry platters to the table.

    These memories always start with olive oil today.