As I’ve gotten a lot more intentional about the foods I buy to nourish my young family the fats I’ve chosen to include in our diet have changed. I’d replaced all of the fats and vegetable oils with CA olive council certified olive oil (I buy this brand which I love and I got a great BOGO deal on at a local supermarket), organic expeller-pressed coconut oil, local raw butter from grass-fed cows, and lard I rendered from the fat of a wood lot raised pig we bought from local farmers.
When it comes to fats in the kitchen, its comes down to finding the right tool for the right job. And, for me, choosing which fats to use and buy for each job comes down to balancing the health benefits of the fats, the cost, and the local impact of each option. For all these reasons, I was super excited to receive a free sample of Susquehanna Mills non-GMO, expeller-pressed canola oil which hails from only about 40 miles away from where I live. I received the sample from a friend who asked me if I would review the oil on the blog, but all opinions are my own.
First off, let me admit that canola oil and vegetable shortening (think Crisco) were the first fats to be entirely eliminated from our whole foods diet. And although I still think vegetable shortening is god-awful stuff that shouldn’t be available for purchase, the jury is still out for me on the health benefits or detriments of canola oil.
But I think that Susquehanna Mills canola oil IS healthy for me and my family. Here’s why: According to this Weston A. Price Foundation article there are some possible negative side effects associated with canola oil possible due to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. In the studies cited by the article, “[w]hen saturated fats are added to the diet, the[se] undesirable effects of canola oil are mitigated.” So if your diet, like my family’s, contains saturated fats, like coconut or palm oil, or animal fats, including meat, dairy, eggs, lard, or tallow, you probably do not need to worry about excluding canola oil from your diet. On the other hand, if you are a vegan and do not eat tropical oils, or you subscribe to a very low-fat diet, you may want to do more research about canola oil.
The above article goes on to explain how the normal industrial process for making canola oil renders much of its supposedly healthy fats into trans fats. Years ago, I was shocked to learn about the high heat and solvents used in processing most conventional liquid oils, which was one of the reasons I stopped buying conventional vegetable oils. Fortunately, Susquehanna Mills oil is expeller-pressed at low temperatures, instead of using high heat and solvents.
Lastly, the last concern in the article is about GMO canola. Since about 90% of US canola is genetically modified, if you buy canola oil or see it as an ingredient in some other food that isn’t organic, you are likely consuming the GMO stuff. The problem that I and many others have with GMO products is that they are untested and not proven safe to humans or the environment. Susquehanna Mills canola oil is not GMO, so it scores another point here for safety and healthfulness.
So how does it taste? Well, canola oil can be used for both cooking and salads, but because I really wanted to see what it tasted like, I opted to use it in a main dish curried rice salad, recipe via the cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. I wish there was another similar recipe on the web but if you can get your hands on a copy of this cookbook, this recipe is really good! The way I make it, it is brown rice steamed with bone broth and spices, mixed with celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and raisins, then tossed with a very flavorful dressing of canola oil, honey, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin, coriander, and salt. I’ve made this salad before with olive oil, but the Susquehanna Mills canola oil gave it a light, fresh taste that is very different from my rich, fruity, olive oil. It was very, very good and the fresh, local canola oil made a big difference.
Would I buy this again? Definitely, although I need to get through the several gallons of lard that I rendered before I buy any more fat. But if anyone is interested, Susquehanna Mills has a new Kickstarter campaign to kick off their artisan oil CSA. Whether you live in PA or elsewhere, this may be the best (or only) way to get such a high quality canola oil.