Have you ever wondered how to choose a great extra virgin olive oil?
Yet it is the food that is never missing from our pantries, which we use every single day and cannot do without to prepare our everyday dishes and sumptuous Sunday lunches.
Is our beloved Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ever-present on our pizzas of which every region boasts of producing the finest really that important in the kitchen?
I would say it is not only important, it is essential, and to do without it could be considered a criminal act.
How it is produced
I don’t want to bore you by describing the many methods of harvesting, pressing, and processing olives to produce oil, but it is only fair to give you some basics.
After harvest, the olives are weighed, divided into groups and washed while waiting for the actual extraction stage.
Regardless of the quality and cultivar chosen, this is an extremely delicate stage and must be carried out as quickly as possible and under the best conditions (humidity and temperature) to preserve the fruit and prevent spoilage.
The next stage is the
, the olives are literally “crushed” and crushed, obtaining an emulsion composed of skin pulp and stone parts and a liquid part containing oil and water.
This is an extremely delicate phase.
For small-scale production of quality extra virgin olive oil, the
or stone mill. The slow action of this process makes it possible to obtain an emulsion with greater “separation” between water and oil and consequently suitable for the production of oil with very high quality, on the other hand, the extreme slowness of the process can create a certain oxidation of the product with a lower concentration of polyphenols if not performed properly.
For industrial production, on the other hand, the crusher is preferred, which is faster and more manageable than stone milling.
Now the next step is to separate the water from the rest of the compound, this process is called
You may have heard of
, which occurs within 27°C and
where it is possible to go as high as 30°C, let’s understand together what these are.
The cold method is applicable only if milling is done with a muller, due to the greater initial separation of water and oil in the emulsion, and the containment of temperatures during the process allows for the highest quality products.
For higher emulsion oil pastes, it will be necessary instead to use the method of hot extraction with higher temperatures that will inevitably compromise the final quality of the product. The higher the temperature at which the kneading will take place, the worse the quality of the extracted evo oil will be, which will suffer a deterioration in taste and a lowering of the concentration of polyphenols and vitamin A.
Must extraction and water separation
After all these steps (yes I know I promised not to dilate) we got a mush composed of
(pulp, husks, crushed stones) and oil must which are to be separated either by literally squeezing the mixture with special presses or by centrifuging it as we do at home with vegetables.
The resulting liquid is almost our coveted oil; it will just need to be further centrifuged to remove the last remnants of water.
Properties and benefits
EVO oil is a fat so it is bad for you and fattening. I have heard this a thousand times, and to such a statement I always prefer to ignore and not respond.
But let’s do a quick analysis. An extra virgin olive oil is 99.9 percent fat; think of the much-feared butter having only (so to speak) about 80 percent.
But then where is the trick? Why do we recommend the use of olive oil in a balanced diet and try to avoid butter? Simple, fats are not all the same and each has a role, positive or negative for our body.
A good EVO oil contains about 73 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (what are called good fats) and only 13 percent saturated fats (butter exceeds 50 percent), to wit, the ones responsible for raising blood cholesterol levels and directly linked to problems such as artery occlusion, atherosclerosis, and myocardial infarction.
In addition, we should not overlook its important concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as Omega-9, which are responsible for reducing blood cholesterol levels and can prevent cardiovascular disease, and its content of phenolic antioxidants, natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Among vegetable oils, extra virgin is probably the one with the best balance of fatty acids and is the ONLY one that is produced
exclusively by pressing olives
, without the help of chemical solvents or other industrial interventions, as is the case with other vegetable oils.
Differences between oils
Does Olive oil have the same properties as extra virgin olive oil?Let’s assume that olive oil is not olive oil and see in detail what types of oils can be obtained from olives:
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (or EVO oil) is the purest and most natural product that can be obtained by pressing olives. Extra virgin is defined as when:
- Is obtained directly from olives and only by mechanical processes,
- its chemical and physical analyses meet a long series of parameters required by EU regulations, for example, acidity, which must be less than 0.8 percent
- Its organoleptic analysis, carried out by a panel of 8 or 12 tasters to minimize errors gathered in a Panel Test, must detect the absence of defects concerning
, color, on the other hand, is considered insignificant.
Virgin olive oil
When an extra virgin oil has tasting defects and its chemical parameters are not satisfactory, it cannot be classified as extra virgin oil and vie cataloged as virgin. Virgin olive oil is defined as a product with barely perceptible defects, but whose acidity must not exceed 2 percent.
Lampante virgin olive oil
Like virgin and extra virgin oil, it is obtained through mechanical pressing. But unlike the latter it has organoleptic defects and high acidity; its acidity index is more than 2 percent and it is inedible.
Rectified olive oil
Lampante oil can be made into refined or rectified oil losing almost completely its fragrance and flavor and can be used in frying.
It is a mixture of refined oils, that is, obtained by exposure to chemical agents, and virgin olive oils. However, the acidity of the resulting mixture must not exceed l’1%.
It is made from the residue of pressing and is extracted through chemical solvents. It is not edible but can become edible with the addition of a certain amount of virgin oil.
Best extra virgin olive oil
Evaluating an Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not an easy task at all, experience, sense of taste and smell are needed, but it is possible to follow some guidelines to be able to appreciate its merits and flaws.
The test to which you will subject the oil you want to test is based almost exclusively on olfactory and gustatory analysis. We often have the bad habit of judging an oil also by its color, but this is not a reliable indicator of the quality of the product unless it has tones that turn toward orange, accurate oxidation indicator.
What you will need is a small tasting glass. Purists use special blue tulip cups about 6 cm high, a 7 cm belly and a 5 cm mouth, but we will be fine with the classic white disposable cup so as to avert visual bias. In short, this oil is not for you to look at.
Pour 15 ml of extra virgin olive oil into the glass, the equivalent of a soup spoon, and hold it in your hands for a few minutes. The oil at about 26 to 30°C releases the maximum of its identifying aromas; you only need to swirl it gently, bring your nose close and inhale slowly and intensely.
What you will need to perceive at this stage is the “fruitiness.” It should remind you of the pleasant scent of a freshly picked fruit at the right stage of ripeness. The notes of the type of fruit you perceive will be determined by the type and area of the cultivar and the degree of ripeness of the olives. These olfactory notes may recall the scents of artichoke, tomato, field grass, almond, apple or berries.
More difficult to explain than to replicate. Take a small sip of oil, the equivalent of half a teaspoon, from your faithful little glass, trying to distribute it perfectly throughout the oral cavity so that all the receptors are fully involved, in this way you will be able to fully perceive the taste parameter (bitterness) and the kinesthetic parameter (spiciness) distinctive features of an excellent product and from the concentration of polyphenols.
But that’s not the end of it, you must now proceed with the
i.e., a series of short and repeated aspirations through the mouth operation that will allow you to perceive the gustatory and kinesthetic parameters even in the volatile components by forced retronasal passage (exhalation). To best appreciate the kinesthetic sensation of spiciness, the oil should be swallowed.
Below I offer a small summary table of the merits and demerits that you may find during the tasting, kindly provided by Olio Guglielmi.
Extra virgin olive oil –
Characteristic flavor of oil obtained from green or slightly pitted olives. It can have different intensities but must still always be combined with the spicy sensation, otherwise it becomes an unbalancing element.
It is the attribute found in an oil that is reminiscent of a vegetable or aromatic plant (artichoke, tomato, sage, mint, etc…).
Characteristic attribute of particularly aromatic oils reminiscent of the scent of flowers.
Sensation of sweet or bitter almond usually combined with the sensation of sweet, although often found in the aftertaste.
It is the scent of olive oil that is reminiscent of this fruit, whether ripe or green.
Sensation reminiscent of freshly cut grass.
Aroma reminiscent of the bitter and somewhat astringent taste of fresh leaf.
Sensation found in an oil with a pleasant flavor, little aroma and in which the attributes of “bitter” and “spicy” do not excel.
It is a sensation that is felt as an aftertaste and greatly personalizes the flavor of the oil and is considered to be an element of considerable value to the product.
It is the term that defines the perfect balance between the smell and taste components of the oil.
A term used to indicate an oil with a mellow body, very graceful, without excessive aromatic peaks.
Typical olfactory sensation of tomato leaf.
Extra virgin olive oil –
Due to oxidation by air. Rancid oil has a smell reminiscent of nutty, yellowed ham fat to varnish-plastic and is very common in old or poorly stored oils.
Flavor reminiscent of vinegar or wine. Defect mainly due to an aerobic fermentation process found in cases where olives of poor quality are processed (because they are overripe and/or damaged) or have waited too long before being processed.
Smell reminiscent of brine . This is a storage defect typical of an oil that has been in contact for a long time with the sludge that settles at the bottom of the container.
Flavor reminiscent of mold. Typical of oil obtained from fruit that has been left heaped for several days and in which abundant fungi and yeasts have developed; evident in the last part of the oral cavity.
Flavor of oil obtained from heaped olives that have suffered an advanced degree of fermentation and reminiscent of that of cheeses.
Flavor reminiscent of metal, characteristic of oil kept in long contact with metal surfaces during milling, graming, pressing or storage.
Extra virgin olive oil –
Cooked or Overcooked.
Characteristic oil flavor due to excessive or prolonged heating during extraction, especially at the thermo-mixing stage.
Hay or Wood
Flavor characteristic of oil from dry olives that have experienced prolonged dry conditions.
Thick and pasty tactile/oral sensation due to old oils.
Flavor reminiscent of diesel, grease or mineral oil.
Flavor of oils extracted from olives preserved in brine.
Flavor characteristic of oil obtained from olives passed through fiscoli (filtering discs of presses) that are new to esparto.
Flavor characteristic of oil obtained from olives soiled with soil, muddy and unwashed.
Flavor characteristic of oil obtained from olives heavily affected by olive fly larvae.
Flavor produced by oil forced into prolonged hermetic storage, especially if in cans.
Flavor characteristic of oil obtained from olives that have undergone a freezing process on the tree.
Creating a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a complex task starting with the extremely delicate raw material, then moving on to its processing and transformation and ending with storage, each stage is extremely important and determines the quality of the final product.
I hope that what I wanted to share with you about my experience with extra virgin olive oil will help you better understand what to put on your plate from now on.
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…And now knead, enjoy and taste!