The Haight family farm is located on Sleight-Plass Road, which runs east through the Town of Poughkeepsie to Pleasant Valley along the Wappingers Creek. Thanks to the efforts of the Haight family, the farm’s rolling hills and bucolic pastures have been spared from development, and most recently became home to their new agricultural venture, Hudson Valley Cold Pressed Oils.
Cold pressing refers to the temperature of the process (expeller pressing) utilized to extract oil from the seed. Commercially produced sunflower oils are typically pressed at much higher pressures and temperatures or by utilizing chemicals as an extraction agent. Those processes generate higher yields at a greatly reduced cost. The higher temperatures also “cook” much of the nutritional value out of the oil. Cold pressed oils are more costly to produce, but are much higher in nutrients, contain high levels of Vitamin E, are high in monounsaturated fats, and are trans fat-free. They are also noticeably more flavorful.
To press the oil out of the sunflower seeds, the seed is fed through an extruder, which compresses the seed into continuous pencil width strands of sunflower meal and separates the oil into collection vats. (The by-product of sunflower meal is used as animal feed.) In cold pressing, less than 30% of the seeds’ oil is actually recovered, compared to over 90% in most commercially produced oils. In cold pressing, the oil’s temperature never gets above 128 (F) degrees. The collected oil is left to settle for a few days and then pressed again through a series of filters to produce the golden yellow elixir that you find in the bottle.
The Haight’s planted forty acres of their Pleasant Valley farm with sunflowers, and neighboring farms have planted an additional sixty acres to add to the project. One acre of sunflowers will produce approximately one ton of seed. That one ton of seed will yield one hundred gallons of cold pressed oil. (Commercial production at much higher temperatures would yield over three times that amount of oil, which explains, in part, the difference in cost.) You can easily taste the difference, which accounts for the cold pressed oil’s popularity.
Cold-pressed sunflower oil has a very clean tasting neutral flavor when compared to alternatives like olive oil, making it an ideal ingredient for salad dressings and delicate uncooked sauces like aioli. As a cooking agent, the oil is very user-friendly, matching the smoke point of peanut oil (437 F), and is substantially higher than that of olive oil (374 F), or butter (302 F).
Hudson Valley sunflower oil is already popular with area restaurant chefs who focus on local and natural. Retail customers can also purchase 375ml bottles at Adam’s Fairacre Farms locations, Quattro’s in Pleasant Valley, and Walbridge Farms on Route 343 in Millbrook. For more info you can call the farm directly at 845.489.8368, or visit the website at HudsonValleyColdPressedOils.com