- What to look for when tasting your olive oil.
- What makes olive oil ‘extra virgin’?
- Look for darker bottles that protect from light.
- A closer look at the label:
- The pressing or harvest date
- Meaningless terms to avoid
- Adulterated olive oil
- Using olive oil for cooking.
- A healthy supplement to everyday foods.
AS MODERN CONSUMERS, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the vast selection of products and goods available to us on supermarket shelves. However, convenience and the surplus of choice come with the importance of knowing how to select quality olive oil.
Walking into the cooking oil aisle at the local grocery store, consumers are stared down by rows upon rows of seemingly identical cooking oils; from olive oil to canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, the list goes on.
For those looking to venture into the Mediterranean diet, there is no alternative substitute for the incontestable kitchen staple – Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO).
However, studies performed on extra virgin olive oil products available on supermarket shelves, show that nearly 70% of extra virgin olive oil in the United States fails to meet internationally accepted ‘extra virgin’ standards.
So where to from here? How does one go about finding quality extra virgin olive oil amongst all the frauds? Before adding it into your shopping cart, be sure to check it against the following information to help you select a quality bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
What To Look For When Tasting Your Olive Oil
AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF YOUR EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL IS ITS TASTE.
Whether you are drizzling a light amount of olive oil on your salad or using it in your everyday cooking, the flavors of the olive oil are inherently an important experience for your senses.
A good way to test your olive oil is to taste it. Annie Paterson, the creator of Nullamunjie olive oil tells us that extra virgin olive oil should be “herbaceous, and fresh, but not too oily.”
While the last point may seem odd, Paterson explains that “if an oil tastes oily, it’s because it doesn’t have the fruit flavors that you want coming through.” After all, olive oil does flow from the olive fruit.
The first step of her recommended tasting method is to swirl the olive oil around in a glass, and to then put a small amount of the olive oil on your tongue; inhaling through your mouth and using oxygen to push the olive oil across your tongue, coating your palate in order to get the full spectrum of flavor that the olive oil has to offer.
As the bitterness and sweetness receptors of your tongue are located in different parts, it is important to coat your tongue with olive oil to get the full range of flavor and aromas.
An indicator of good, fresh olive oil is, first and foremost, the taste. Paterson’s recommendation for tasting olive oil consists of gathering good friends together to do a group tasting.
What Makes Olive Oil ‘Extra Virgin’?
NO HEAT AND NO SOLVENTS TO CHEMICALLY CLEAN THE OIL.
The label ‘extra virgin’ is applied to the first pressing of olive fruits and it means that the oil does not go through a process of using heat or solvents to chemically clean the oil. Olive oil that has been treated with heat and chemical processes helps to extend its shelf life, however as processed olive oil is stripped of its delicious taste and health benefits. As a result, the cost of producing extra virgin olive oil is much higher than that of regular processed oils.
Quality extra virgin olive oil is healthier and more flavorful than refined olive oils. Unfortunately, shoppers may be unwittingly purchasing and consuming extra virgin olive oil that is not truly “extra virgin”.
Look For Darker Bottles That Protect From Light
HELPS TO KEEP YOUR OLIVE OIL FRESH.
When light comes into contact with olive oil, it promotes the oxidation process within the bottle. The natural chlorophylls in the olive oil begin to produce oxygen, which accelerates how quickly the oil turns rancid.
A good way to avoid the oxidation process for as long as possible is to go for the darker, preferably UV-protected bottles of olive oil. These tinted bottles can help prolong the shelf life of your olive oil when you bring them home.
If you always want fresh-tasting olive oil, another recommendation is to purchase a smaller bottle of olive oil at one time. Thus if you do not consume olive oil regularly enough to finish a large bottle, you can purchase new and fresher olive oil as needed, minimizing the loss of freshness and taste.
A Closer Look At The Label
ALWAYS CHECK FOR THE PRESSING OR HARVEST DATE TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR OLIVE OIL.
The Pressing Or Harvest Date
Most mass-produced supermarket olive oils will only print the ‘best before’ or ‘bottled on’ date on their olive oils. Whilst this seems quite standard, what it actually means is that the olive oils could be well past their peak condition, as studies show that nutrients such as polysaccharides begin to break down in the bottle six months after the pressing date of the olives.
Quality manufacturers will print the pressing or harvest date on the bottles in the name of transparency so that customers can make an informed choice about the olive oil they are purchasing and consuming.
Meaningless Terms To Avoid
There are certain terms that manufacturers will print on olive oil labels which tend to mislead and confuse consumers. Terms such as light, pure, and refined may sound good to the unassuming consumer, however, it actually means that the oil is a blend of varying amounts of cold-pressed and processed oils – which are sometimes not even olive oil, but other cheaper oils such as peanut or canola oil.
Some bottles will even feature the term ‘first pressed’, which may be a marketing tactic to hoodwink consumers into believing that the oil is extra virgin. The term first pressed refers to olive fruits that have only been crushed once to extract the olive oil. When the olives are crushed more than once, the residual olive oil that remains is of lower quality and becomes what is known as refined oil. Standards set by the International Olive Council, as well as the California Olive Oil Council, state that the olive oil must also be cold-pressed. Thus, if the olive oil is first-pressed alone, it does not qualify as an extra virgin.
Adulterated Olive Oil
According to studies conducted by the UC Davis Olive Center, nearly 70% of olive oils in the United States are adulterated in some way. Because of the higher price point of extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is sometimes blended and diluted with other oils such as hazelnut, soybean, coconut, or refined olive oil. Unfortunately, adulterated extra virgin olive oil is difficult to chemically detect.
Whilst the internet claims to have tests that can determine whether your olive oil is extra virgin and unadulterated, one of the most reliable ways to purchase quality extra virgin olive oil, is to source it locally from small olive growers. These are often families who are passionate about their product and its quality.
According to the United States International Trade Commission’s report, extra virgin olive oil hailing from Australia and Chile both received the highest scores. Australia, in particular, has a highly advanced testing system and the most stringent standards for extra virgin olive oil.
Here is an award-winning extra virgin olive oil from Australia that we have taste-tested and loved:
Using Olive Oil For Cooking
IT’S A SUITABLE AND HEALTHY COOKING OIL.
Contrary to its poor PR as a cooking oil, extra virgin olive oil can be suitable for use in everyday cooking. The misconception comes from the fact that olive oil has a relatively low smoke point compared to other refined oils.
While it is true that olive oil has a lower smoke point, its smoke point sits at around 200ºC. And most methods of everyday cooking do not reach such high temperatures, meaning that extra virgin olive oil is safe for most forms of everyday cooking.
The chemical composition of olive oil also makes it suitable for frying or deep-frying, as it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. These fats contain only one double-bond, meaning that it is relatively stable in comparison to other oils. However, the flavors and nutrients of the olive oil may be lost when exposed to intense heat temperatures.
A Healthy Supplement To Everyday Foods
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL HAS BEEN LINKED TO A VARIETY OF HEALTH BENEFITS.
Extra virgin olive oil consumption has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including improvements in cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory effects, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
A study conducted with over 130,000 women over a 22-year period even showed that consuming approximately one teaspoon of olive oil (8 grams) every day was associated with a lower risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes.
The study also showed that olive oil is a better source of fat and leads to improved cardiovascular health when used in place of butter, margarine, or mayonnaise.
Olive oil consumption has also been linked to lowering blood pressure and aiding general weight loss due to its high monounsaturated fat content. Get the most out of your olive oil by drizzling a touch of it on a variety of nosh, salads, and in your daily cooking.
Next time, when you’re on the hunt for a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, you now have this knowledge at your disposal to make a better-informed selection – and remember, always check the pressing date!