The Magic That Is Olive Oil
Homer called it “liquid gold”. Its mystical glow illuminated history.
Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power.
The olive tree is known as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace. Its leafy branches have been used to crown the victorious in friendly games and bloody war, and the oil of its fruit has anointed the noblest of heads throughout history.
Olive crowns and olive branches are emblems of benediction and purification that were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.
Today we value extra-virgin olive oil for its nutritional and healthful virtues. It is the most digestible of the edible fats: it helps to assimilate vitamins A, D and K; it contains so-called essential acids that cannot be produced by our own bodies and slows down the aging process.
It is also valued for its culinary virtues and sensory properties of: flavor, bouquet, and color.
What is olive oil?
Olive oil is a fat extracted from olives. It is used in cooking to enhance the flavor of foods, as a dressing, and as an oil for sautéing and frying. It is also used as a moisturizer and in soaps. Olive oil is considered to be a healthy fat because of its high content of monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic fatty acid and polyphenols.
How is Olive Oil made?
Olive oil is made from pressing or crushing tree ripened olives. It can undergo a variety of different processes but at its simplest, the olives are picked, the leaves, stems and any dirt are removed and the olives are ground into a paste. A press then separates the oil from the paste and the oil is bottled.
Extra Virgin Olive oil is probably the only oil that can be eaten as soon as it has been pressed from the fruit and the oil retains the flavor, aroma and vitamins that it contained when it was in the raw state of being an olive on the tree.
Types of Olive Oil
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Is the oil that is extracted from the first pressing of the olives. This type of oil undergoes the least amount of processing and therefore has the richest flavor and aroma. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is generally considered to be the
best and is therefore the most expensive. No refined oil is added to this oil.
Is the oil extracted from the second pressing of the olives. It is slightly more acidic than extra virgin. The taste is good but not as flavorsome as extra virgin olive oil. No refined oil is added to this oil.
Is generally a blend of refined olive oil with a mix of either extra virgin or virgin oil.
• Olive oil
Is a blend of refined oil and virgin oil and generally lacks a strong flavor.
There are other types of olive oil such as Olive-pomace oil which is a poor quality blend of refined pomace olive oil and possibly some virgin oil. It is made from the pips and ground flesh after the pressing and although is fit for consumption it may not be called olive oil. Olive pomace oil is often used in soap or for industrial purposes.
Check out the labels when you are buying Olive oil. If the label doesn’t state “virgin” then you are buying a lower grade produce. “100% Pure Olive Oil” is often the lowest quality available for purchase.
Where the label states “Made from refined olive oils” it generally means that although the essence of the olives were captured, the taste and acidity were chemically produced.
Don’t be taken in with a label that states “Light olive oil”. What this really means is that the product is a refined olive oil, not that it has a lower fat content. All Olive oil has a standard 120 calories per tablespoon (34 J/ml).