Thank you to Smude Sunflower Oil for providing the oils I sampled for this post. As always, all content and opinions are my own.
I do my best to eat local, but it can be difficult once the CSA season ends and farmer's markets close for the winter. That's why I was interested to try Smude Sunflower Oil--unlike the imported olive and coconut oils I usually rely on, Smude produces their oils in Pierz, Minnesota from Minnesota-grown sunflowers.
Smude offers their cold pressed sunflower oil in 8 ounce, 16 ounce, 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon, and 2 1/2 gallon containers. They also have a line of flavored and infused oils, sold in 8 ounce containers. Current flavors include garlic pepper, Italian, lemon, lime, Mediterranean, tomato basil, and hot fiery. All of Smude's oils are unrefined (according to the company's website, this is because the refining process removes the majority of nutrients) and non-GMO. Unfamiliar with sunflower oil? It's listed as a "healthy cooking oil" by the American Heart Association and is high in vitamin E and low in saturated fat.
Smude sent me both the cold pressed sunflower oil and the Mediterranean infused sunflower oil to sample. The cold pressed sunflower oil is more neutral-tasting than olive or coconut oil, but it does have a distinct, slightly nutty taste which added a pleasant flavor to a batch of waffles. However, the nuttiness blends into the background when paired with stronger flavors, like the soy sauce I added to a vegetable stir fry cooked in sunflower oil.
The Mediterranean sunflower oil is infused with rosemary, crushed red pepper, oregano, chili pepper, minced garlic, chipotle oil, and garlic oil. The predominant flavor is rosemary; I couldn't pick out any of the other individual ingredients. The Mediterranean sunflower oil added a delicious depth of flavor to a batch of sauteed asparagus, and I also enjoyed it as a dipping oil for bread. It would pair well with a plate of pasta and fresh tomatoes or serve as an excellent base for a salad dressing.
The takeaway: I found Smude's cold pressed sunflower oil to be an excellent neutral cooking oil, and I enjoyed the nutty taste that came through in simpler recipes. The Mediterranean infused sunflower oil would make a lovely and versatile gift (or a gift to yourself).