Frequently Asked Questions about Olive Oil
What is the best olive oil? Where does it come from?
98% of the world’s olive oil comes from the Mediterranean region, which has a history of olive tree cultivation that stretched back more than 6,000 years.
Most of the world’s finest olive oils come from this area. To say which in particular is best is often a matter of taste, since, like fine wines, the flavors, colors and aromas of aromas of olive oils vary according to type olive grown, as well as climate and soil conditions, and so forth.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is highly regarded, as it offers the widest varieties of flavors and aromas, with a perfect “fruity” flavor. Since it is obtained exclusively by the pressing and centrifugation of crushed olives and is produced in limited quantities, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is less widely available than other grades of olive oil.
Do All Olive Oils Taste the Same?
Not at all. In fact, the wide variety of natural flavors available is what makes olive oil unique among all edible oils. As mentioned above, many nuances contribute to the diversity of flavors, colors and aromas found in olive oil.
Connoisseurs generally categorize olive oil as mild (delicate, light or “buttery”); semifruity (stronger, with more taste of the olive); and fruity (oil with full-blown olive flavor).
The best way to become familiar with the wide range of olive oil flavors is to taste as many of them as possible. One very cost-effective way is to split up a number of large bottles of different oils with friends.
Can you tell by its color what the taste of an olive oil will be?
While it would be nice to be able to generalize that “the darker, more intense the color olive oil, the stronger, more fruity the flavor,” such is not a totally reliable rule of thumb. Again, like fine wines, certain olive oils are blends of various varieties. Moreover, natural changes in growing conditions from year to year can affect color and flavor to varying degrees.
What do “first pressing” and “cold pressing” mean?
The majority of olive oil is produced with only one pressing. These two terms, basically interchangeable and not included in the official IOOC definitions of olive oil grades, were used in the past when less powerful presses made it necessary to have more than one pressing.
Harvested, cleaned olives are initially ground into a heavy paste at room temperature, usually by large granite wheels (although some stainless steel “grindstones” are used today).This paste is then spread over straw mats that are stacked, with steel plates randomly interspersed, in a press which extracts the olive’s liquid B a combination of oil and water. The oil, which is decanted naturally or by centrifuge, is then filtered to remove any major particles.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a Virgin Olive Oil of absolutely perfect flavor, color and aroma that has a maximum acidity, in terms of free oleic acid content, of no more than 1% (1 gram per 100 grams). It is the most expensive of all olive oils, because the best conditions for production, harvesting, processing and storage are not always present and therefore the level of production of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is low, although these are increasing thanks to the efforts of olive growers, olive oil producers and traders. It is the oil with the best sensory qualities.
Of the other two designations of olive oils fit for consumption and covered by the International Agreement, “Virgin Olive Oil” is a Virgin Olive Oil with a good flavor but with a slightly subdued fruity flavor; its free acidity may not exceed 1.5%. During the production and wholesale stages, the qualifier “Fine” may be used with this classification.
What is Pure Olive Oil?
Pure Olive Oil was the designation given to what is now called “Olive Oil,” which is defined as the blend of refined olive oil with Virgin Olive Oil. As from May 1990 (obligatory from January 1, 1991) the International Olive Oil Council eliminated the designation “Pure Olive Oil”; the blend of refined olive oil and Virgin Olive Oil designated “Olive Oil” may bear on the label, beneath its designation, the terms “pure” or “100% pure.”
When Virgin Olive Oil has a faulty flavor or high acidity, it undergoes a refining process which does not effect its initial composition. It does, however, remove its color, flavor, aroma and oxidated elements. Therefore, in order to restore a degree of the refined olive oil’s “fruitiness,” color, aroma, and certain basic elements, especially alphatocopherol (vitamin E), it is blended with Virgin Olive Oil that is fit for consumption. The proportion of Virgin Olive Oil in the blend varies from one producer to another and depending on the desired flavor the producer is trying to create.
The sensory qualities of the Virgin Olive Oil also influence the flavor of the Olive Oil. “Olive Oil” has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams.
Doesn’t olive oil have more calories than other cooking oils?
No. Olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon (9 calories per gram of oil) B no more than any other common cooking or salad oil. But because of its greater flavor and aroma, you’ll probably use less olive oil in cooking than other oils B thus helping you cut fat calories further!
Does olive oil contain cholesterol?
No. In fact, olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which reduces the level of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). Unlike polyunsaturated fats, olive oil does not affect HDL, which protects the arteries from cholesterol build-up.
Does olive oil have healthful benefits other oils don’t have?
Studies indicate that a Mediterranean diet low in saturated fats such as butter, lard, and other animal fats, but rich in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, in addition to grains, fruits and vegetables, helps keep the artery-clogging LDL (“bad cholesterol”) low while maintaining healthful levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”). The HDL has a preventative effect on cardiovascular illness because it may help to eliminate LDL from the blood by carrying it to the liver. In addition, many medical researchers and nutritionists agree that olive oil is a good source of vitamin E which may protect against cancer and heart disease.
If a recipe calls for “olive oil,” how do I know which type to use?
The general rule of thumb to follow is that when you want to taste the full, delicate flavor of any olive oil, it’s best added to cooked dishes in the final stage. But, you should let your own taste preferences be your guide – tempered by what is desired in the end result. For example, light and delicate dishes such as fish or soups may be better served by a milder, less fruity olive oil. Heartier, more robust dishes made with red meat and tomato-based sauces may be better with fruitier, more flavorful olive oil. In the final analysis, though, it’s all really up to what tastes best to you.
Can I fry with olive oil?
Not only can you fry, you can sauté, stir fry and even deep fry with olive oil. You can even filter olive oil and use it many times, since it’s very stable at high temperatures. However, bear in mind the answer above with regard to high-heat cooking and olive oil’s flavor and aromas.
Does olive oil require refrigeration?
Refrigeration, while not harmful, is not necessary and may make olive oil cloudy and thick. If this happens, merely allow the oil to come to room temperature before serving and the thick cloudiness disappears.
What is the best way to store olive oil?
Olive oil should be stored in a cool dark place. The worst place to store olive oil is next to the stove where it may become heated or on a window sill exposed to sunlight. Olive oil will become rancid if stored in a warm, well lit environment. Holy Land Olive Oil is bottled in dark glass to protect the oil from light.
Do Americans use much olive oil?
Indeed they do. In fact, olive oil has become the fastest growing segment within the cooking oil category in supermarkets across the country. Sales have more than tripled in the past 8 years to about $240 million on the retail level – making it the third best-selling type of oil in the United States. Today, over 69% of all olive oil sold in the United States is a blend of refined olive oil and Virgin Olive Oil; about 18% is Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 13% is in the new United States category Extra Light olive oil.