Notes On Olive oil


I adore olive oil and the oil I mostly use is extra virgin and I shall attempt to explain why.Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It is important to know that all extra virgin olive oils are far from being equal, and for me life is too short to use bad oil.
Although I do at time use walnut, hazelnut or almond oils, it is extra virgin olive oil that is really prominent in my kitchen.
Knowing that an olive oil is extra virgin should only be the starting point to choosing good quality oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the oil or juice from fresh olives extracted purely by mechanical means. To be considered as extra virgin olive oil; on testing the oil must be found to contain less than 0.08 per cent free fatty acids, measured as oleic acid. Within this definition there is a huge range of flavour profiles; from the fruity to the aromatic, pungent and robust, yet beautifully balanced. At the other end of the spectrum one finds oils that are mellow, bland and everything in between.
The level of the free fatty acids in olive oil is a result of the degree of ripeness of the olives. Oil from the early season olives contain the least amount of free fatty acids, and great care is taken in handling the fruit between harvest and oil extraction. The quality of the extra virgin olive oil is as a result of this, combined with the length of time between picking and crushing, the cleanliness of the olive crusher and the temperature at which the crushing process is carried out.
The olive varieties used, as well as the terroir; that wonderful term that that signifies the characteristics of the growing environment, which covers elements such as the position, the soil quality and prevailing weather conditions, all have an impact on flavour quality.
Producers continually strive to get the balance right between picking early for longevity, but with sufficient maturity to give flavour. Although half ripe fruit yields less oil, which is less economic for the grower, the resulting oil has a greater quality, integrity and longevity. Riper fruit yields far more oil, but results in a rapid decline in quality a few months after the harvest, whereas oil made from earlier picked fruit, assuming that it meets all other necessary conditions for quality, is still fresh and sound a year after harvest.
Rancidity, the most common fault in extra virgin olive oil, is usually a fault of bad storage and / or the age of the oil. It is easy to detect once identified. Think of butter left uncovered in the fridge that has absorbed every ‘off’ odour around it.
Virgin Olive oil
This is simply olive oil that did not quite make the grade of extra virgin. Its free fatty acid measurement is between 0.8 and 3 percent and should be used soon after it is crushed. It will have less flavour and a much shorter shelf life than extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil
Bottles of oil branded Olive oil, often referred to as ‘pure’ olive oil, is almost at the bottom of the range in terms of quality. This olive oil is the result of industrial processing, deemed necessary because the oil has not met the criteria for virgin or extra virgin olive oil. In this process the olive oil is refined, using chemical treatment in which peroxides and free fatty acids are removed to make it suitable for consumption. The oil may also be bleached and deodorised to remove any ‘off’ flavours, at the same time removing many of the natural flavours and antioxidants that are characteristic of extra virgin olive oil.
‘Pure’ olive oil may be suitable for cooking where a less dominant flavour is required, as it still contains some of the fatty acids that make olive oil nutritionally attractive.
Light olive oil
Aimed at the weight conscious, but the only thing light about this oil is that it is light in character totally lacking in flavour, colour and aroma. It has exactly the same number of calories or kilojoules as extra virgin and other olive oils but, as it is refined, it lacks the health-giving antioxidents and polyphenols of extra virgin oils, as well as the flavour.
Choosing and using extra virgin olive oils
As a rule of thumb, only buy an extra virgin olive oil if it displays its year of harvest and you are buying within that year. This does not automatically mean the oil is no good if its over a year from its harvest date, but it does mean that unless it has been picked early enough and has enough of that assertive character at the beginning, it will begin to lose its freshness and vitality after a year, and will become ‘flat’ and more prone to rancidity as it gets even older.
Choose robust, fruity oil for the majority of food where the olive oil flavour dominates. Use a less expensive extra virgin olive oil that declares its year of harvest that is fresh and fruity to use when serving delicate dishes or for cooking with. It is important to note that high temperatures dissipate the flavour of extra virgin olive oil to some extent.
In summary: buy the finest extra virgin olive oil you can afford and use it generously rather than keeping it for the best. Keep a good extra virgin olive oil on the table at every meal; use it in vinaigrette or simply drizzle over hot vegetables; use it to drizzle over salads, pasta and soups. This wonderful oil adds a superb dimension that lifts the flavour of food to another level.
Use the more mellow, everyday extra virgin olive oil for sweating onions, coating foods for a marinade or grilling, and although it may sound extravagant, using extra virgin olive oil for deep frying not only imparts crispness and flavour but also provides the food with a wonderful crunchy coating that acts as a seal and prevents excess oil from penetrating further.
Storing extra virgin olive oil
In order to maintain quality, extra virgin olive oil should be stored properly. It should be kept away from light and ideally stored in dark glass bottles, or tins to protect it from light, heat and oxygen. When cooking, don’t place the bottle of oil close to the heat of the stove.
Once you open the bottle of extra virgin olive oil, never leave it without a stopper, as exposure to oxygen leads to rancidity. Use it frequently; even the smallest amount added to a dish can make such a difference to its flavour. Saving oil for ‘that special occasion’ is to my mind rather silly.
Although one should refrigerate nut oils after opening I never refrigerate my olive oil as it changes the structure. Although this reverts to a certain extent if the oil is returned to room temperature, in  my opinion there is a loss of flavour and texture.
Acknowledgement: Researched and extracted from the writings of Maggie Beer Notes on Olive Oil

6 thoughts on “Notes On Olive oil

  1. Suki x

    Thanks for all this information on Olive oil, but it has alwas made me wonder how some thing can be extra virgin – I thought Virgin ment pure and unadulterated in fact the ultimate, so how can it be extra virgin!!   I am sure one of your commentators will come up with the answers
    love Suki x

  2. Judex

    Hi Kate,
    I like olive oil. Feel younger all the time.
    What is the maximum amount recommended per day ?  Often, I just drink a little from the bottle.
    Take care,
    Judex. xxx

  3. Kenneth

    "OH"…Dear me.    After reading this I now know why they call it "extra", I have always thought it was because there was more in the bottle.
    Drinking it…???     I don’t think so.

  4. LAIRD

    . . . . and I just got used to sampling red, white and rose wines. Whatever happened to good old lard for cooking ? Chips have not been the same since they used oil for cooking and stopped wrapping them in newspaper.


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