When you live in the U.S., gigantic as it is, it’s sometimes hard to take someone seriously when they live in a country like Portugal and say a certain region is “remote.” But trust me, Trás-o-Montes —“beyond the mountains”—is remote. Maybe not by strict distance, but by more important measures, like accessibility or even interest in modernity. The mountainous, rugged region is in the far Northeast of Portugal, tucked under Spanish Galicia, and is still largely occupied by tiny villages that make food the same way they have for centuries.
Food like this olive oil. Acushla is an estate oil grown in the heart of Trás-o-Montes olive oil country. The hills are planted with groves of trees, primarily the native Portuguese varieities most of us—even olive oil veterans—haven’t heard of, like Cobrançosa, Madural, Verdeal and Cordovil. The olives are picked and quickly pressed while young, which leaves the telltale green grassy aroma and artichoke bitterness of a great olive oil. There is also a sweetness to this oil, though, and it’s a bit more tender than the big brassy olive bombs of central Italy. That means you can use it on more delicate dishes like fish: drizzle a big splash over steamed cockles like they do in Portugal. Or pour a swizzle on a bowl of hot soup. Dress some roasted vegetables with a swig.
This is our only Portuguese oil. But don’t let its lower-than-Tuscany price fool you into thinking you’re getting less—it’s a solid oil at a great price.
Extra virgin olive oil
Cobrançosa, Madural, Verdeal and Cordovil olives
Smooth and assertive flavors
The most recent harvest from fall 2021 smells like briny green olives and tastes like fresh peppery arugula. There is a noticeable slow-growing warmth of red pepper that lingers.