What is 'Extra Virgin': Demystifying Olive Oil

by The Unrefined Olive


 

Olive Oil has been produced for thousands of years. Originally, olive oil was used as lampante or lamp oil. Production mainly took place in the Mediterranean, Turkey, and North Africa. Olive oil production now occurs across the globe; from Italy, Spain, Chile, Australia, Uruguay, South Africa, the United States; and even a small little grove in British Columbia!

There are over 700 varieties of olives. The northern hemisphere crushes olives in October to December while the Southern Hemisphere crushes in May and June. With so many types of olives, climate differences, and mills it is important to taste the olive oils in order to select the ones that you enjoy! Branch out and try something new, remember places like California have been producing olive oils for over 500 years.

When it comes to good quality olive oil, there are a few basic elements to keep in mind. Most consumers are familiar with ‘Extra Virgin’ or ‘Cold Pressed’. In fact, the term ‘Cold Pressed’ was coined by the Romans to stop the practice of throwing hot water onto the olives before, and during crushing. The process of throwing hot water on the olives meant that more fat (and therefore, olive oil) could be extracted, but the quality of the oil was significantly decreased.

Independent tests from The University of California Davis have shown that up to 75% of olive oil on store shelves is expired, rancid, or blended with other flavourless and odourless nut and seed oils. So how do you safeguard yourself as a consumer?

Olive oil must fall within specific chemical parameters, and must not have any taste faults. In order for an oil to be considered truly ‘Extra Virgin’, olive oil must possess a taste profile of fruitiness, pungency and bitterness. Olive Oil should be tested at the time of crush by an independent third party laboratory, with a specific focus on the levels of Free Fatty Acids (quality of fruit at the time of crush), Peroxides (the level of post-production oxidization in the olive oil), and finally Polyphenols (naturally occurring anti-oxidants).

While olive oil may have a complicated history and chemical profile, buying olive oil doesn’t have to be complicated. Consumers should look for date of production, not expiration, UV protected bottles, as direct sunlight is one of the biggest enemies of fresh olive oil, and most importantly, a trusted and certified purveyor of olive oil.

Olive oil should, at the very least, should be fruity, bitter, and pungent. It should always have fresh tastes and smells like herbs, grass, tomatoes, and fruits. It should never be heavy or greasy in your mouth. Olive oil is simply delicious fresh pressed fruit oil.

The Unrefined Olive proudly takes all of these steps as well as tastes the olive oils with the owner, Elizabeth Kilvert, having her Oleologist accreditation. (Think sommelier for olive oil.)

Our producers are focused on nutritional density, so high levels of polyphenols, taste profile and the highest standards possible. We always sell these beautiful oils within one year of production and recommend you consume them within one year. These oils can be used for finishing or raw preparation; but remember our olive oils have a smoke point of 425 degrees Fahrenheit so cook, roast, and grill with abandon!

Fresh, quality olive oil has been positively associated with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and even decreasing the risk of coronary disease. It is delicious, nutritionally dense, and easy to use. Drizzle it on salads and vegetables, dunk bread into it, roast and grill foods, bake with it, and sauté to your hearts content.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated and good quality olive oil is a key staple in your kitchen! Come into The Unrefined Olive and choose an olive oil that is to your taste preference or enjoy a recommendation from one of our team in the Glebe or Kanata!

 

Written by: Elizabeth Kilvert