• Canola From Farm to Table

    You know what poppy seeds look like, right? Canola seeds look much the same. They are brownish-black, hard, round and tiny — not exactly promising if you are hunting for edible oil. But in fact, the canola seed is more than 40 percent oil, a healthy resource that careful processing can release. By comparison, soybeans are about 20 percent oil.

    Farmers plant either spring or winter canola, depending on their environment and location. In Western Canada, farmers sow canola in May and harvest it in September. The stunning yellow blooms come in July. In the U.S. and Eastern Canada, farmers can plant both spring and winter canola. Winter canola is typically planted in October and harvested in June. After harvesting, the seed is sent from the farm to a crushing facility, where it is graded and cleaned to remove any extraneous plant debris. Then the seed is prepared for oil extraction by heating and flaking it. Some moisture adjustment may be needed as well.

    The heat-conditioned canola seed relinquishes its plentiful oil when run through continuous screw presses or expellers and a further extraction process. With its clean, neutral aroma and flavor, this standard canola oil is a global kitchen staple. The remaining solids, known as canola meal, serve as a nutritious livestock feed. 

    Expeller-pressed canola oil, derived from the first press, uses as much as 15 tons of pressure per square inch to squeeze the oil from canola seeds. That process generates heat, so expeller-pressed oils can't be considered cold-pressed. Their color, flavor and nutritional profile compare to standard canola oil, which differs only in that it undergoes additional extraction.

    Some chefs and consumers seek out cold-pressed canola oil because it has more robust aroma and flavor. To produce it, canola seeds are ground with heavy granite millstones or modern stainless steel presses. The process does produce some heat through friction, but as long as the temperature does not rise above 120° F (49° C), the resulting oil is considered cold-pressed. Any impurities are removed by allowing them to settle naturally. Cold-pressed canola oil has a golden color and slightly nutty taste. It is produced in much smaller volume than standard canola oil and available primarily in specialty food stores.

    Watch Chef Almir demonstrate the use of canola oil in a vegetarian "Ceviche" with Oyster Mushrooms.

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