Olive Oil’s Rich Flavor
For at least 6,000 years the rich flavor of olive oil has enjoyed world wide acclaim. There are presently dozens of brands of olive oil on grocery stores shelves. Consumers are becoming choosy about which olive oil they will bring home, almost as much as deciding which fine wine to purchase. Like wine grapes, no two olives are alike. It all depends on the soil, climate, olive variety, age and the processing method. Olive oil can be nutty or spicy, delicate or mild and the color can range from clear to pale green, to golden, to deep olive green. When olive oil is properly processed, the flavor, aroma and vitamins are maintained. It is widely believed that the oil obtained from the same variety of olive tree cultivated in the same growing region can very greatly.
There are four basic types of olive oil available.
• Extra virgin in which the oil’s acidity level has to be under 1%. The olives are cold pressed without any refining. Olive oil that is unfiltered is preferred by some people for its full-bodied flavor.
• Virgin is when the oil’s acidity is between 1% and 3%. It has a slightly sharper taste.
• Pure olive oil has a greater than 3% acidity level and must be processed further with chemicals and bleaching clay. It is then mixed with virgin oil to produce “pure” oil.
• Lampante olive oil or “light” olive oil has the same amount of fat and calories as other olive oils. This oil does have a tendency to lack taste.
The natural acidity of the oil at the time of packaging and testing is done by at least eight testers who determine how the olive oil is classified, using smell, sight and taste. The smell test figures the intensity of the oils’ scent while visual analysis clarity, density, and color of the oil. The oil is required to have a good balanced flavor and to note if there is any unpleasant aftertaste.
In many regions, the olives are still picked by hand using wooden tools or the olives are beaten from the trees with poles and caught in large nets. The entire olive is used to make olive oil and they are crushed using stainless steel grindstones. This paste is then mixed with water and placed on circular hemp mats where it is stacked and pressed. Oil and water is produced and later separated. The cold press method allows olive oil to maintain its flavor, color and nutritional value.
In order to remove sediment and produce extra virgin olive oil a filtration process is used. If the oil is more than 1%, extra refining is done to remove almost all traces of color, aroma, taste and acidity. This process results in extra light tasting olive oil. To produce pure olive oil, extra virgin oil is added to the extra light, thereby achieving the desired level of flavor and aroma. Fine wine is graded by tasting and measuring acidity before bottling. So is it with the many varieties of olive oil.
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