The benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a real liquid gold!
Italian Kitchen would just not be the same without Olive Oil. The Liquid Gold - as it has been called by many - is ever-present in traditional Italian Cuisine: it is used for cooking, for seasoning and may also be the main ingredient of some dishes! The country is the world's second largest producer and each region has its own cultivar of olives, its own harvesting methods, and its own microclimate.
The result is a variety of oils which differ in taste but not in quality.
Speaking of quality, have you ever wondered how to recognize a good quality extra-virgin olive, if it goes bad or how to make the perfect olive oil pasta? We interviewed a few small, Italian oil producers who are here to give you some tips.
Olive Oil vs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil:
do you know the difference?
Both Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil are obtained by pressing Olives. The difference between them is not in the origin, but in the process : Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is an unrefined oil and the highest quality you can buy: in fact, to be labeled as EVOO, it must meet really strict standards concerning the acidity and the presence of oleic acid. Unrefined means that it has not been treated with chemicals or altered by temperature.
Virgin Olive Oil has been treated as the EVOO, but has a higher acidity. It is judged to have a good taste, but may include some sensory defects. Virgin oil is rarely found, if ever, however, in grocery stores; usually your choice will be between extra-virgin and regular olive oils.
Olive Oil is typically a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil (that is, oil extracted with a process using heat and/or chemicals). It is a lower-quality oil than extra-virgin, with a lighter color, more neutral flavor, and oleic acid measuring between 3-4%.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil can be used for cooking , however, it has a lower smoke pain , that means, it burns at a lower temperature: for this reason, and for its higher cost, it is always suggestible to keep two bottles of Olive Oil in your pantry: an EVOO for seasoning, dipping, dressing and cold dishes in general, and a Regular Oil as an all-purpose cooking oil.
How to Read the Label:
what you need to know to avoid scam.
Reading the label may be helpful for you to avoid low-quality or fraudulent products: "Cold Pressed" means that the oil has not been treated with heat or chemicals, so it is a good quality one. Another important information to check is the Country of origin of the Olives: Product of Italy means that the Oil has been bottled in Italy, but it can actually come from another Country. To be certain that the olives have been grown in Italy, you have to check the name of the producer or, even better, the presence of a a proof of origin such as PGI or PDO that refer to olive oils with "exceptional properties and quality derived from their place of origin as well as from the way of their production".
Terms such Light and Extra-Light are sometimes introduced by manufacturers in countries that are non-traditional consumers of olive oil to indicate the varying strength of taste to consumer. Contrary to a common consumer belief, they do not have fewer calories than extra virgin oil as implied by the names. Instead, to obtain an oil that's often lighter in color and flavor than virgin olive oils, producers may use chemicals and heat to remove impurities or even blend it with other oils such as canola.
How to recognize a Good Quality
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: the Smell and the Taste
"There are two parameters for understanding if the oil is good or not: smell and taste", says Lorenzo Mazzotta from Agricola Afra . The smell should remind you of the flowers and fruits and should tempt you. At the same time, “an oil that has no smell is a ‘dead’ oil,” says Paolo Boeri from Olio ROI . For an untrained person to detect bad smells or flaws is not so simple, but if you pay attention each time you buy an oil you will eventually become a bit of an expert.
The oil smells are also some of the parameters that help you to distinguish the Oil Varieties. You can recognize light, medium, or intense fruity scents such as those found in green; some other scents you might distinguish are herbaceous, artichoke, almond, tomato, yellow fruits, wild-berries, and so on.
The other important parameter is taste. Many people think that bitterness and spiciness represent a flaw, but actually these are indicators of high quality. These two flavors are present due to the antioxidants in the compounds naturally present in the oil, and they protect it from oxidation.
Various levels of bitterness and spiciness depend on the level of ripeness of the olives. Ripe olives have a less intense scent, with fruity smells that remind one of ripe and dried fruits. Green olives, produce an oil with high intensity; a very bitter and spicy flavor.
Lorenzo Mazzotta from Agricola Afra shares his secrets on tasting techniques. "Take a small glass with a few teaspoons of oil inside, warm it with one hand and with the other hand, cover the glass. In this way, you will concentrate the flavor and smells. Wait a few seconds, take a whiff, judge the high intensity, and recover with your hand."
"Then taste it: put a small quantity of oil on your tongue and with tight teeth take a deep breath to spread out the oil on every part of your mouth and vaporize it in your throat. This process will help you to evaluate the intensity of bitterness on your tongue and spiciness in your throat; both must be present in a High Quality Extra-Virgin Oil.”
Olive Oil Benefits: a liquid gold for our Health!
Although Extra-virgin Olive Oil is a fat, it is an essential energy concentrate, and unlike some other fats, as butter or margarine, it contributes great benefits to your body. Not only does it stimulate digestion and aids the functions of your liver and intestines, but it also helps you to absorb vitamins, preserving you from degenerative diseases and ageing.
Thanks to the presence of important antioxidants and polyphenols it has been showed that Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is a valuable ally in the prevention of diseases such as strokes, diabetes and breast cancer: Interestingly, populations residing in Mediterranean Regions have low rates of mortality from heart disease. While this is due to a combination of factors, their high consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is thought to be a major one.
For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a qualified health claim to recognize its medical effect: Olive oil manufacturers may now choose to advertise their product as a heart-healthy alternative to animal-based fats for cooking and food preparation. What must be clear is that to achieve this benefit, these oils should replace fats and oils higher in saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.
Does Extra-Virgin Olive Oil go bad?
To benefit from the incredible effects of Olive Oil on our health, it must be perfectly fresh.
For centuries, people have sought ways to preserve their food and reap the benefits of the harvest all year long. In many of the countries around the Mediterranean, one of the most natural ways to preserve food was, and still is, with Olive Oil. Olive oil can be used to preserve vegetables, meats, fish, cheese and herbs "sott'olio" that means "under the Oil", since it prevents spoilage by isolating food from the air.
It can be easily understood, therefore, that Olive Oil has a really long shelf life. If stored properly, a bottle can last around 20 Months. But how to store it? Olive Oil should always be kept in a cool, dark place. A Kitchen Cabinet or a Pantry not in the direct sunlight is the best solution. Also, it is preferable to use a dark green glass bottle or, even better, an aluminum can. Making sure the lid is on tight is another way to stretch its shelf life for as long as possible—air causes the oil to oxidize and go bad faster.
When olive oil is too old and has oxidized, it is usually rancid. Smell and Taste test can be helpful if you are uncertain about your bottle of Olive Oil: fresh olive oil has a pungent, fruity smell, while a rancid olive oil has little smell or may smell like crayons or stale peanuts. If you taste it, it may reminds you of a pumpkin and has a bitter taste with no fruitiness.
Where Can I find top-quality Olive Oil?
At this point, you may be wondering: Where can I buy good Italian extra virgin olive oil? .
You may find a good quality EVOO in the Grocery Store, but you can easily be fooled by fake Olive Oil: label and price can be misleading and one can come across products that are expensive and mediocre, too.
You can then opt for a Food Box Delivery straight from Italy: EatTiamo offers a wide range of Food Box including different kind of EVOO: organic, intense, rosemary-flavored...
We are a team of food lovers with an experienced palate, on the continuous hunt for Authentic Italian Food Delicacies. Each Month we select the best products, handpack them carefully in Italy and send our EatTiamo Boxes directly to your doorstep, with all the steps to cook a perfect full dinner for 4 people.
We have a network of Italian small producers and we know them by their first name. We’ve heard their stories and seen the passion that goes into the creation of their Olive Oil.