Food, Food Artisans

Amazing Séka Hills Olio Nuovo at the Creamery

Zingerman’s Creamery has just received a shipment of Séka Hills Olio Nuovo olive oil!

Olio Nuovo is the very first pressing of the estate olives, which translates into very fresh oil. If you’re a fan of the “green” and peppery notes of  fresh oil, Séka Hills is for you!

[Excerpted from Ari’s essay “Olive Oil in America,” in the September/October 2014 Zingerman’s Newsletter]

Blue Skies and Golden OilOil Seka Hills Final

Coming back to the beginning of this piece, I’ll share another label with you. This one is new, designed a few years ago by Jim Guerard for the Séka Hills olive oil. While this label shows no image of a Native elder praying for a good harvest, it was actually produced by Native Americans. In this case, it is a product of the work of Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation near the town of Brooks in the central valley of California. In case you aren’t familiar, the Yocha Dehe Wintun are one of the Native Nations of in the area. Where they once lived across the lands outside of what is now Sacramento, they suffered enormously as Europeans imposed their rule through enslavement, disease, government forced relocations, and confiscation of their traditional lands. They were essentially decimated. There are fewer than one hundred members of the tribe left.

The good news—if one can frame violent devastation over a four hundred year period in a positive light—is that the Yocha Dehe Wintun are now doing great things. Through gaming legislation they have turned their economic fortunes around in recent years. Through the insight and forward-thinking vision of their leadership, they have taken most of the money their casino has created and turned it back into sustainable work to ensure a positive and enduring future for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. A major part of this work has been to plow a great deal of effort and economic resources into local agriculture. Through return and repurchase, the tribe now owns 13,000 acres of farmland, of which 1389 are being farmed, much of it organically. A big piece of their work is this olive oil project. Growing Arbequina olives (originally from Spain), they’re making a very nice oil that we’re privileged to purvey at the Zingerman’s Creamery. It’s got a mellow, accessible flavor with the hint of green apple that’s characteristic of Arbequina oils. And like most Arbequina oils, its shelf life isn’t as long as more those with more pronounced levels of polyphenols like those from Tuscany. Which is why, given all that we’ve learned about olive oil in the last thirty years, we’re now waiting somewhat impatiently to get word from out west that the new crop oil is ready to ship. Because of our connection with the oil, we’ve been able to arrange a special shipment that should get to us within a few weeks of this season’s harvest—we’re hoping to have it on the Creamery shelves by late October. (We have it!)

On this positive note—the resurgence of a Native Nation and the production of a high quality oil by native peoples—I should mention that the word Seka, in the Yocha Dehe Wintun’s Patwin language, is a reference to the color blue, a description of the shading that the mountains of the region take on in the afternoon sun.

The oil is golden green, the hills are blue, and the future is delicious. I’m honored to be a part of it all!