Ripe olives

Whizz up the tastiest salad dressings, add a finishing flourish to soups or use as a dip for a bruschetta.

Made from the very first pressing of olives, extra virgin is the most flavoursome as it’s not been diluted and has had minimal processing.

In a similar way to wine, olive oil has a complex variety of flavours to look out for, expect a balance of fruit, spice and pepper; however, unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age, so use liberally and look for a dark glass container to store in as light can rapidly diminish the oil quality.

Extra virgin olive oil has a low burn point which if reached can break down the nutritional benefits and produce harmful chemicals but used correctly has featured heavily in the healthy Mediterranean diet.

Scientific studies indicate that olive oil, among all the oils, is the healthiest one.

Unlike other products for seasoning, extra virgin olive oil is the only one obtained solely through a mechanical extraction process such as centrifugation or dripping or squeezing in order to obtain a real fruit juice.

According to the European rules, is considered extra virgin oil when cold-pressed mechanically and have some peculiar characteristics.
Through the “panel test”, an organoleptic analysis also regulated by strict European standards, is evaluated the taste, colour, smell and appearance of the oil.

In the extra virgin olive oil, the beneficial components for health are the polyphenols, responsible for the characteristic taste of the oil: the more there are and the more it is spicy and fruity.
Polyphenols are a family of strongly revalued chemical compounds because:

  • antioxidants, therefore they act as inhibitors of the “free radicals” of the organism able to activate tumour forms and other diseases;
  • reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) circulating in the blood, which thus remains smoother and with less risk of a heart attack.

Among other things, with their antioxidant action, they lengthen the life of the oil, whose alteration is mainly due to the action of oxygen.
The other beneficial components of the extra virgin olive oil are unsaturated fatty acids, in particular oleic acid, which is monounsaturated, present for about 75% and can be defined as the “guardian” of the arteries as it binds to cholesterol in the blood dragging it away.
Given that its acidic composition is similar to mother’s milk, extra virgin olive oil is recommended as an aid for the weaning of children; it is also useful to take it in old age because it helps the assimilation of calcium and its mineralization, helping to prevent osteoporosis.

As for wines, even among the various extra virgin olive oils, there are those PDOs recognized by the European Community as high-quality oils.
Oil producers who come from a PDOs production area must scrupulously respect the production regulations, their olive groves must be registered in the olive-oil-producers register and must also submit the production report to the Chamber of Commerce, providing the guarantee that the entire spinneret of production (processing, storage and bottling) takes place in a certain designation of origin.
The quality of extra virgin olive oil depends on the cultivation of the olives, the agronomic technique, the environment, the harvesting period, the processing technology and the conservation of the oil.

What does extra virgin mean?
The “virgin” attribute for the oil indicates that the extraction process is carried out exclusively with physical and mechanical methods, without the use of solvents that characterize, for example, the extraction of many seed oils and without mixing with oils of other nature.
The olive oil is extra-virgin when, in addition to being mechanically extracted, it has an acidity lower than 0.8% (the good quality oils have a much lower acidity).
Up to 2% acidity, the oil is considered “virgin”, over the oil can only be traded after its refining in which it is deacidified with chemical processes and sold as “refined olive oil”.
Olive oil without specific attributes is instead a mixture of refined oils and virgin oil in an indeterminate percentage with a total acidity of less than 1.5%.

Buying guide
Extra virgin olive oil is not a product for which to save; many of the oils sold in large-scale distribution are made up of mixtures of oils and have prices that are slightly higher than the cost of the bottle and the cap which, by themselves, make us realize that the quality of the product is poor.
Recognizing a good extra virgin olive oil from the perfume and taste may require a minimum of training, but the low cost of the oil can be a first exclusion criterion.
Find your oil with experience using these suggestions.

Firstly, in an extra virgin olive, is the smell of the olives to be able to say that it is “fruity” oil, an oil, i.e., in which the scent of the fruit (olives) is perceived in a well-defined way.
The oil must be free from defects in the production chain such as rancid, mould, sludge, etc.

The colour of an extra virgin olive oil can vary from yellow to green, with infinite shades in between.
Contrary to what many believe, a greener oil is not necessarily better or more genuine because its colouring is given by the degree of ripeness of the olives at the time of harvest and their variety; a greener oil has a greater presence of chlorophyll, usually due to less mature olives, more yellow has instead the prevalence of carotenes, if the colour tends to orange-reddish, it is likely that the oil is oxidized.
Whatever the colour, the extra virgin olive oil must have one: if the oil appears colourless or transparent, it is better to desist from the purchase.

Why does the new oil pinch and is bitter?
Those who are not experts in freshly pressed olive oil tend to exchange the pinching and bitterness of the new oil as defects. In reality, it is not at all like this, they are invaluable characteristics that help us to distinguish a good extra virgin olive oil from one of dubious quality.
The acidity of extra virgin olive oil can not be perceived through taste; in its chemical composition, there are no perceptible acids, not even salts or sugars.
Bitter and spicy are both dependent on the type of olive that will be used, the type of processing and the degree of ripeness.
An extra virgin olive oil that does not pinch has probably lost these substances, proving more vulnerable to oxidation and ageing, as well as less healthy for our body.

Purchase period:
The ideal season for buying the extra virgin olive oil in autumn, since it is at this time of year that olives are harvested and cold-pressed, without any thermal alteration or chemistry: only this procedure, in fact, allows to obtain the term Extravergine to the olive oil, characterized by precise organoleptic qualities.

Extra virgin olive oil must be kept in dark bottles to protect it from light; like all fats, extra virgin olive oil must be protected from oxidation and contact with polluting substances as well as odours as it absorbs them easily, a feature that makes it perfect for the production of perfumes, essences, balsams and aromatized oils.
The ideal storage temperature of the oil is 15 ° C (the cold does not alter the structure of the oil and does not affect its preservability): if you do not have a dry and well-ventilated cellar, look for the coolest (and darkest) point of the house.
Experts recommend to consume the oil in the same production year, because the antioxidant content that preserves it from rancidation fades over time, but remains edible up to 20 months from the squeezing: it can therefore be said that the content of natural antioxidants of an extra virgin olive oil together with the way in which it is conserved, defines its duration.

Cost of extra virgin olive oil:
How many olives do you need to make a litre of oil? The olive oil yield is a fairly variable parameter: different varieties of olives give different yields but in principle to make a litre of oil it takes about 6-7 kilos of olives.
The cost of a single litre of extra virgin olive oil is estimated according to its type and type of processing, the costs of cultivation of the olive grove (ploughing, pruning, harvesting), milling and packaging costs (labelling, cans, bottles packaging), advertising and transport as well as olive yield depending on the vintage and the variety.
The cost in Italy for 2018 is estimated between 5 to 10 euros per litre, with higher peaks due to particular oil excellences.