What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is obtained solely by mechanical or physical means from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.). These oils are processed under specific thermal conditions that preserve their quality without any alterations. Additionally, they do not undergo any treatment except for standard processes like washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration.
Furthermore, to be designated extra virgin olive oil, the oil must have a free acidity, expressed as
oleic acid, of not more than 0.80 grams per 100 grams.
What is Free Acidity?
Free acidity measures one of the two main spoiling reactions, known as lipolysis. When there is a loss in integrity in an olive, that fats present in the olive oil get broken down into free fatty acids. Higher values of free acidity in olive oil can be due to use of unhealthy olives, bruised olives, delayed harvesting, and storage before harvesting. With the lowest values of free acidity, extra virgin olive oil aims to avoid these impurities that result in a lower quality olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vs. Regular Olive Oil by Taste
Tasting olive oil is the most reliable way to determine if it is extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil should have a distinct and pleasant flavor, with a balance of fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency. To properly taste olive oil, follow these steps:
- Pour a small amount of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) into a clean, clear glass.
- Hold the glass in one hand, cover the top with your other hand, and swirl the oil to release its aroma.
- Uncover the glass and inhale deeply to smell the aroma. The aroma should be fresh and fruity, with notes of grass, green apple, or herbs.
- Take a sip of the olive oil and let it roll around your mouth. The oil should have a clean taste, without any off-flavors or defects.
- As you swallow, note any sensations in your throat. Extra virgin olive oil should have a slight bitterness or peppery taste, which is a sign of the presence of antioxidants.
If the olive oil has a rancid or musty taste, it may be of low quality or even spoiled. Additionally, if the flavor is too bland or lacks any distinct fruit or herb notes, it may not be extra virgin olive oil.
It's important to note that tasting olive oil requires some practice and training to develop the necessary palate.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vs. Regular Olive Oil by Smell
While the aroma of an olive oil can give some indication of its quality, it is not a reliable way to determine if an olive oil is extra virgin.
The sensory evaluation of extra virgin olive oil is a complex process that requires trained tasters, who can identify specific flavors and aromas that are indicative of high-quality oil. These tasters use a process called organoleptic analysis, which involves evaluating the oil's color, aroma, taste, and mouthfeel.
However, there are some general characteristics that you can look for in extra virgin olive oil's aroma that may indicate good quality. Extra virgin olive oil should have a fresh, fruity aroma, with notes of grass, green apple, or herbs.
If the olive oil has a rancid or musty smell, it may be of low quality or even spoiled. Additionally, if the aroma is too bland or lacks any distinct fruit or herb notes, it may not be extra virgin olive oil.
How to Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a popular ingredient in cooking, as it adds flavor and health benefits to dishes. When using extra virgin olive oil in cooking, it is important to remember that its flavor can vary depending on the type and quality of the oil. For example, some extra virgin olive oils have a mild flavor that is suitable for delicate dishes, while others have a more robust flavor that works well in heartier dishes.
To use extra virgin olive oil for roasting, brush the oil over vegetables or meats before cooking in the oven. Use a high-quality oil with a smoke point appropriate for the roasting temperature. Keep in mind that a little bit of extra virgin olive oil goes a long way, and it can add flavor and nutrition to your roasted dishes.
To use extra virgin olive oil for grilling, brush a thin layer of the oil onto the food just before placing it on the grill. This will help prevent sticking and add flavor. Be careful not to use too much oil, as it may cause flare-ups or smoke.
Finally, the most common way is to use extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, pouring a small amount of the oil over the dish just before serving. This will add flavor and enhance the presentation. Extra virgin olive oil works well with salads, pasta dishes, grilled vegetables, bread, and even desserts such as ice cream. It is very important to use a high-quality oil for the best flavor and aroma.
How to Store Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Proper storage of extra virgin olive oil is important to preserve its quality and flavor. Here are some guidelines for storing extra virgin olive oil:
- Store in a cool, dark place: Exposure to light and heat can cause the oil to deteriorate and lose its flavor. Store extra virgin olive oil in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
- Keep the container tightly sealed: Oxygen can cause the oil to become rancid and spoil. Keep the container tightly sealed to prevent air from entering.
- Use a dark glass bottle or tin: Light can cause the oil to deteriorate, so it is best to store extra virgin olive oil in a dark glass bottle or tin.
- Use within 6 months: Extra virgin olive oil is best consumed within 6 months after opening. Over time, the oil will begin to lose its flavor and nutritional properties.