Olive oil is a healthy liquid fat obtained from olives.
The highest quality olive oil is extra virgin olive oil which must be totally unprocessed and kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times during the mechanical extraction process. It must also meet strict chemical criteria as defined by the International Olive Oil Council and adopted by the European Union and USDA, but must also have perfect flavor and aroma as determined by a certified tasting panel.
The first important step is to collect the olives from the tree. The traditional way of harvesting olives is to shake the tree or beat its branches with sticks to make the olives drop to the ground. However, if no net is used to catch the olives before they hit the ground, this process can result in bruised olives the crushing of which produces a lower-quality oil.
Carefully picking the olives is necessary in order to ensure the quality of the end-product.
After the olives have been picked, washed, and any leaves and twigs removed, then it’s time for crushing. Crushing was traditionally done using stone wheels but stainless steel rollers are much more common today.
Water is slowly stirred into the resulting paste in order for the oil molecules to concentrate.
The mixture is finally centrifuged to remove the water. What is left is olive oil.
The Different Types of Olive Oils
Not all olive oils are created equal: extra virgin olive oil is the only cooking oil made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
highest quality, rich flavors & aromas
Extra virgin olive oil is the freshly-squeezed juice of the olive fruit. It has strong flavors and aromas, it is by far the healthier cooking oil and the only one made without the use of chemical solvents and industrial refining. Producing extra virgin olive oil is more difficult a process than most people realize. Beginning with the care of trees and carefully harvesting and picking the fresh olives, down to thoroughly monitoring every single step of the entire production process. During the mechanical extraction, the temperature must be kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. But even after the oil has been bottled, it is important that it is kept away from heat and light.
Virgin Olive Oil
An unrefined olive oil of lesser quality. While free from chemical refining, virgin olive oil’s acidity levels make it a considerably subpar option to extra virgin olive oil.
The label "Virgin Olive Oil" can be found commonly in Europe, however it is not typically sold in U.S. stores.
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Refined Olive Oils
poor quality - avoid consumption
Refined olive oils are typically made from rancid and oxidized olive oil that has been chemically and thermally treated to eliminate unpleasant flavors and to neutralize the free fatty acid content. This allows producers to use olives in poor condition or to blend in low quality oils. This heavily processed oil lacks most of extra virgin olive oil's health benefits, and has no natural colors, flavors, or aromas.
If a bottle or tin is labeled only “Olive Oil”, the oil inside has likely been refined. Refined olive oils also go by other names to make them more appealing to the unsuspecting consumer:
Lite Olive Oil: While supposedly representing itself as light in flavor, too often customers mistake it for a healthier product, when it has the same calories as extra virgin olive oil and almost no health benefits.
Pure Olive Oil: Often mistaken for a healthy option because of the word “pure”, it contains around 80% refined olive oil.
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poor quality - avoid consumption
Olive pomace oil has nothing to do with quality olive oil and should be avoided just as much as vegetable oils. Olive pomace oil is extracted from the solid material left after the initial oil extraction.
The process involves using petroleum based solvents, mostly hexane and heat. The same exact method of extraction is used on the production of soy, sun flower, canola, and most other seed-derived oils.
Ever tried squeezing oil out of a corn kernel?
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Learn More About Extra Virgin
the only oils that we care about at Olive Oil Lovers!
True EVOO’s acidity levels cannot be over 0.8% and the lower the acidity the higher the quality. Some extra virgin olive oils may have as low as 0.1% acidity! Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t stay “extra virgin” for ever. Even in perfect storage conditions, the oil will degrade over a 2-year period and lose its freshness, its flavors, and aromas.
Learn more about extra virgin olive oil:
How To Buy Olive Oils
And Get the Quality You Paid For
How To Buy
While extra virgin olive oils found in supermarket shelves may be inadequately labeled or even sometimes labeled as “extra virgin” when in fact they are not, you are still better off going with a mislabeled extra virgin olive oil rather than settling for the much lower-quality vegetable oils or even the low-quality types of olive oil such as “pure” or “lite”. Of course, it is advised that you buy olive oil from a trusted source in order to avoid falling victim to mislabeling in the first place.
Always look for the harvest date on the bottle and make sure it is at least within the last year. Olive oils are usually harvested between October and December. This means that if you shop for olive oil in April 2018, an olive oil with a Fall 2017 harvest date would still be considered “new harvest”. Note that many imported olive oils have their harvest and “best by” dates in EU format. In such cases, 4/10/2017 would mean the oil was harvested the 4th of October 2017 and NOT the 10th of April 2017.
Storing conditions are very important when it comes to maintaining the good condition of extra virgin olive oil after it has been bottled. Heat and strong lights destroy even the highest-quality extra virgin olive oils. Where does your local grocery store or supermarket keep their olive oils? Is it dark and cool where they are on display - are there strong lights nearby?
The only way to be 100% sure an olive oil is truly “extra virgin” is to conduct a chemical analysis even though a tasting expert can usually tell with a sip or two. Since you can’t do a chemical analysis at home, it is important that you buy olive oil from producers or merchants that you feel like you can trust.
If you know a producer / brand to be 100% legitimate and trustworthy then you could buy all of your olive oil from them. However, that would probably limit your options as there are many varieties, each with unique taste and characteristics, and most producers only use their local olive varieties to make their oils.
If you’re the type seeking culinary adventures, then variety is what you want. Find a merchant selling high-quality extra virgin olive oils that also carefully stores the oils to avoid damage from heat and light. This is important since it is often the case several months will have passed till the olive oil reaches your doorstep after it’s been harvested and bottled.
High quality extra virgin olive oils are rich in fruity aromas, as well as pleasantly bitter and pungent, due to the abundance of natural nutrients found in fresh healthy olives.
Just like wine, there are hundreds of varieties, each with its own unique taste and character. You can also find thousands of designer varietal blends and many naturally flavored olive oils.
Extra virgin olive oil is the only 100% natural cooking oil that never receives any chemical processing. Studies suggest that olive oil consumption can help avoid strokes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
There are numerous other health benefits, but most importantly, when you choose extra virgin olive oil you avoid the health risks associated with consuming vegetable seed oils and other low-quality cooking oils.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fraud
Olive Oil Fraud
69% of imported olive oil samples and 10% of California-made olive oil in circulation in the United States have been reported to fail the international and USDA standards in a 2010 report by the UC Davis (University of California).
To make matters worse, even a true extra virgin olive oil can be completely destroyed if exposed to heat and strong overhead fluorescent lights such as those found in supermarkets.
Why Does It Cost More?
And Is It Good Value For Money?
Why the Cost?
High quality extra virgin olive oil is very hard to make. A lot of effort goes into collecting and picking fresh, healthy olives and that adds to the final cost. But, that’s also what makes it 100% natural food with the massive health benefits it has grown famous for. Lower quality olive oils are made without the same level of care when it comes to picking the olives to crush. Thus, they need to be thermally and chemically treated to eliminate the bad flavors resulting from oxidized olives.
Any comparison between extra virgin olive oil and canola, soy, sunflower, or any other cooking oils would be unfair and like trying to compare a supercar with a cheap 800cc car without safety belts and no airbags.
But good extra virgin olive oil isn’t just a healthier oil but an ingredient that can be used to elevate your dishes to a brand new level. There are many different varieties to choose from and much like wine, each has its own flavor and aromas. The health benefits and the strong fruity flavors of extra virgin olive oil are why it is great value for the money. But why don’t you just find that out for yourself?