fu•sti [foo-stee] noun – Stainless steel tank with spigot, often used for dispensing olive oil. Although you may not have known its name, you have probably seen one at a grocery store. Or perhaps your town has an olive oil shop with fustis lining the wall. As a means to expose palates to the wide world of olive oil, these shops serve a worthwhile purpose. But is fill-your-own olive oil the way to go?
The Olive Orchard is partial to bottling extra virgin olive oil at the source – primarily to preserve flavor and nutrition, but also for hygienic reasons. Consider the parallels between olive oil and wine. Like grapes, olives are a fruit, come in many cultivars and have a wide range of flavor profiles. Both wine and olive oil must be stored carefully and are susceptible to oxidation. If you are not attracted to the idea of fill-your-own wine, you may want to think twice about fill-your-own olive oil.
As an educated consumer who cares about the origin and quality of your food, ask these questions the next time you find yourself surrounded by fustis filled with olive oil.
Where was the olive oil produced?
The words imported from are entirely meaningless. Olive oil may be imported from Italy, but produced in Spain. By far, Spain produces more olive oil than any other country in the world. But Italian olive oil garners higher prices. Olive oil may be blended in Italy but actually hail from many orchards across several countries. Seek fresh, authentic extra virgin olive oil from those who are truthful about its origins.
Who made the olive oil?
Listen for a person or family’s name. As with wine, estate olive oil is prized. Estate oil is produced with olives from a single orchard, allowing greater control over quality. Also highly valued are single-origin oils produced with olives from a small geographic area.
Why extra virgin?
Curators of premium olive oil should be able to explain its unique health benefits, why it is so different from vegetable oils and from other grades of olive oil.
What harvest year?
Flavor and nutrition decline over time. Extra virgin olive oil should be consumed within two years of harvest. If not handled properly, this timeframe is vastly shortened.
Which olive cultivar(s)?
Similar to wine, varietal olive oils are generally more valued. A varietal extra virgin, also called monocultivar, contains only one variety of olives, such as koroneiki, arbequina or tonda iblea.
Do you top the fusti with inert gas to protect the oil from oxygen?
Readily available in spray cans, topping tanks with inert gas helps prevent rancidity. This step is especially important if the shop does not sell high volumes of olive oil.
How often do you refill the fusti?
Try to get an idea of how long the current olive oil has been in the fusti. Avoid bringing an olive oil into your kitchen that has been sitting in a half-full fusti for several months. When refilling fustis, oils should not be mixed. Oil should never be put in a tank that formerly held vinegar, or vice-versa.
How often are spigots and fustis cleaned?
Fustis should be cleaned when a different oil is added or at least once per month. Tanks should be emptied and sanitized. Spigots should be removed and cleaned with a wire brush. IMPORTANT: They must be absolutely dry after cleaning because contact with water will cause olive oil to go rancid. A heat gun may be used to thoroughly dry and sanitize.
Are these folded metal or seamless fustis?
Folded metal tanks are cheaper, but the seams form pockets where food particles may become trapped and are difficult to clean.
How is the olive oil stored before it is added to the fusti?
At all times, extra virgin olive oil must be protected from light, heat and air to preserve its flavor and health benefits. Take a peek at the top photo. See the clear plastic container off to the side? No thanks.