Olive Oil. A liquid fat obtained from olives. Most commonly used for frying and dressings. Right? How much is there to know about olive oils? You wouldn’t think much, but, there is actually a lot to consider. The best, freshest ingredients make a huge difference to the taste of your meals, and olive oil is no exception. Here’s my quick synopsis of olive oil:
To start with there are literally hundreds of different varieties of olives. Like grapes, the variety grown depends on the climate and soil and whether the olives are to be pressed for oil or preserved for eating. All olives are green at first and turn black when they are fully ripe. The olive is one of three core food plants in Mediterranean cuisine, (the other two being wheat and grapes.)
The choice of olive oils on the store shelves can be somewhat overwhelming, particularly because olive oil has an enormous diversity of flavours. The taste, colour and smell is dependant on the country of origin, the soil on which the olives are grown, the variety of the olive the method of harvesting and of course the way the olives are pressed. These factors affect the quality which ultimately reflects the price too.
Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is the best you can buy. Why? This indicates that no heat was used to extract the oil from the olives. Adding heat to the olives allows producers to extract more oil from the olives, but simultaneously destroys the delicate flavors and aromas that are so prized in a good extra virgin olive oil. It also has a lower level of oleic acid than other olive oil varieties and contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives. Note: Check for less than 1% olecic acid.
What is olecic acid?
Olecic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils.
How to store olive oil?
Do be aware, olive oil does not improve with age. It is at its best up to a year after pressing. Store in a dark place and preferably in a glass bottle – like this it will last for up to 2 years. While you can cook with extra-virgin olive oil, it does have a lower smoke point than many other oils, which means it burns at a lower temperature. If you are on a budget save the pricey good quality stuff for dipping bread, dressing, dips, cold dishes, and use the less expensive stuff for cooking and baking.
In terms of my favourite supermarket olive oil I would choose Lucini everyday extra virgin olive. It is produced from 100% Argentinian olives and priced at approximately $22 for 1litre. In that price bracket I have found (in my humble opinion) that it has the best flavour for everyday use!
A short, but hopefully helpful write up about olive oil