Castella Imports
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the shelf life of the cheeses/extracts/olives/olive oil/spices/vinegar?

CHEESE
As long as our cheeses are kept properly refrigerated from 32° to 40° F, the harder varieties will last from 3 to 4 months and the softer kinds will be good up to 2 weeks. If stored in the freezer, 0°F and below, the hard cheeses will last up to 6 months and the softer cheeses, up to 4 months.

EXTRACTS


Extracts, except Vanilla, have a shelf life of approximately 1 years. 

OLIVE OIL
There has been much debate about the shelf life of good olive oil. Generally, it is agreed that it is past its best after 12 to 18 months. Olive oil can be kept over two years, longer than any edible oil. It should be stored in a cool place away from sunlight and heat. Olive Oil should be stored in a dark, closed space at room temperature. Storing the oil in the refrigerator can cause it to partially or completely solidify. However, it does not affect the quality of the oil.



OLIVES
Olives are best kept in a sealed container. Neither of our jars or tubs of olives need to be refrigerated. As long as they are submerged in their brine and kept out of direct heat and sunlight, they will last up to 6 months at room temperature. However, olives marinated in ingredients other than brine need to be refrigerated after opening to prevent rancidity. Most are good for 1 year if unopened.

SPICES & HERBS
The shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 2 years. Spices and herbs do not spoil, but they do lose their strength. Old seasonings however, will not flavor your meals the way they were intended.



VINEGAR
Vinegar should be clear and look clean, not cloudy. Vinegar sold commercially is pasteurized. Therefore an unopened container should last indefinitely if it is stored in a cool and dark place.  Any sediment that develops can be strained out. If mold develops, throw the vinegar away.
 
2. What are the differences among Greek cheeses?




Feta is one of the most famous cheeses in Greece. It is made in various sizes, often as a loaf-shape. Feta is solid, but crumbly with some fissures. Pure white, it has a milky fresh acidity. Feta was originally made with either ewe's milk or a mixture of ewe's and goat's milk, but today most feta is made with pasteurized milk and tastes of little besides salt.

 

Graviera is one of the most popular cheeses in Greece. This wheel-shaped cheese is made from the mixture of cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. Graviera has a sweet and fruity taste. The hard, cooked rind has a crisscross pattern derived from the cloth in which the cheese was drained.



Pale yellow in color with a mild, buttery flavor and a springy kneaded texture, Kaseri is a versatile, multi-purpose cheese made from sheep's milk with the remainder goat's milk. There is no rind but the white crust is smooth, creamy and springy. Quite salty and pungent, with a dry feel in the mouth, it has an underlying sweetness due to the sheep's milk.
 This hard, pale golden, yellow cheese has a tang flavor and a sharp aroma, reminiscent of Italian Pecorino Romano.

Harder and saltier than Kaseri, Kefalotyri is generally served grated over cooked dishes. The color varies from white to yellow, depending on the mixture of milk. The cheese ripens in two to three months and has a fat content of approximately 40%.



One of the most popular Greek cheeses of various sizes and shapes, Manouri is made either from sheep's or goat's milk. This is a cheese without a rind. It is very smooth and has a fresh, milky, slightly citrus flavor.



A cheese made from whey of Feta and Kefalotyri, Mizithra is available both fresh and aged. Fresh Mizithra is soft, similar to cottage cheese. Aged Mizithra is shaped like a ball and is firm and pungent.

 
3. How do I store spices?




To preserve peak flavor and color, store spices and herbs in a cool, dry place away from exposure to bright light, heat, moisture, and oxygen. If possible, avoid storing spices and herbs too close to the stove, oven, dishwasher or refrigerator, where rising steam or heat can come into contact with them. Dampness can cause caking or clumping of ground spices. Store herbs and spices in airtight containers, such as glass jars, plastic containers or tins, to protect against moisture and preserve oils that give spices their flavor and aroma. 

4. What are the different grades of olive oils?



EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
EVOO is the top grade of olive oil with an extremely fine taste. It is derived from the first cold pressing of olives without refining. The olives are handpicked, cleaned with pure water and finally cold pressed. The virgin oil produced from the mechanical pressing may be called "extra" if it has less than 1% free oleic acid in accordance to European Legislation, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. The color of the oil can range from pale champagne to green-gold; the deeper the color, the more intense the flavor. "Extra" is not only the highest grade of olive oil, it's also the healthiest.

PURE OLIVE OIL
Pure Olive Oil has a good taste and its acidity level is no more than 1.5 per cent. It is usually a mixture of refined and virgin or extra-virgin oils.

OLIVE OIL
Ordinary Olive Oil is actually a  blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 2% acidity. It tends to lack a strong flavor, but before the resulting product is sold, the producer blends into the refined olive oil a percentage of quality virgin olive oil to provide color and taste.  Suitable for cooking.

OLIVE POMACE OIL
This is the residue oil that is extracted from previously pressed olive mash. Like ordinary olive oil, refined Olive Pomace Oil is enriched with virgin olive oil prior to sale. It has a more neutral flavor than pure or virgin olive oil, however, it has the same fat composition as regular olive oil, giving it the same health benefits. It also has a high smoke point, and thus is widely used in restaurants as well as home cooking.

OLIVE OIL BLENDS
Olive Oil Blends are sometimes used as a more economical substitute for olive oil (but not as a substitute for extra virgin olive oil). In an olive oil blend, the producer uses a base of a less expensive vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil) to which it adds a percentage of virgin olive oil. These products have proven particularly attractive to restaurant and institutional purchasers where the small savings per tablespoon results in big savings due to the large volume purchased.


5. What makes a food product kosher?

The word kosher is an adaptation of the Hebrew word meaning “fit” or “proper.” It refers to foodstuffs that meet the dietary requirements of Jewish Law. It is a misconception that in order for food to be kosher, the Rabbi must bless it. There is no blessing which can make the food itself kosher or un-kosher. However, it is a set of biblical dietary guidelines followed by people of the Jewish faith, Muslims and other Christian groups. Kosher certification depends on two criteria: the source of the ingredients and the status of the production equipment. Interestingly enough, statistics show that the majority of kosher consumers are not Jewish. A large amount of the population believes that kosher foods are cleaner and healthier.