His excellence: olive oil

His excellence: olive oil

Jun 10, 2022


Ilaria Rosa

The origins of olive oil date back to around 4000 BC; the first traces of its production and use were found in Palestine, India and Armenia, but it was the Greeks who spread it in the Middle East, where they significantly increased the cultivation of olive trees.

The oil was produced by pressing the ground olives between two wooden boards with the help of hammers and wedges. In ancient times its use saw it as a protagonist among the most varied uses; among these we know how it, given the absence of soap, was smeared on the skin to clean and soften it; it was taken as a medicine, and was also used to power lamps in homes, public places and temples. Even in ancient Rome it was customary to anoint the body with oil, especially in the ritual of collective baths.

In the 1700s some Franciscan missionaries brought the first olive trees to America, but it was only 100 years later that the marketing of oil began thanks to the expansion of Italian and Greek immigrants. After the 1900s it was largely replaced with cheaper animal fats, but decades later it came back into vogue also thanks to the success of the famous and healthy Mediterranean diet and in the 1400s Italy became the largest producer of olive oil in the world.

Four types of oil are produced mainly with olives: extra virgin oil, virgin oil, refined olive oil and pomace oil.
According to European legislation, extra virgin olive oil must be obtained by extraction with mechanical methods only, and the acidity must never exceed 0.8% on 100 grams of product.

Virgin olive oil is also extracted with mechanical methods but what makes it inferior in quality to extra virgin olive oil and its acidity which can range from a minimum of 0.8% to a maximum of 2% on 100 grams.
Refined olive oil, on the other hand, is produced with inferior olives in poor condition, and is often mixed with other rancid or oxidized oils that are first thermally and chemically treated to eliminate unpleasant flavors. This type of oil is therefore a poor quality product that does not have many health benefits.

The olive pomace oil is obtained from the processing of the waste from the pressing of the olives in the production of extra virgin olive oil, this mixture of residues (skins, pits and fragments) still contains between 3 and 6% of oil. Transported as soon as possible to the pomace factories, the inedible crude olive pomace oil is extracted, which will then be refined with hexane, a selective solvent that solubilizes with oil; subsequently they will be separated again by filtration and distillation and therefore on one side there will be hexane and on the other the refined pomace. The latter will then be mixed with virgin oil with an acidity that does not exceed 1%. Hexane is the main component of petroleum ether and is a saturated aliphatic hydrocarbon, whose molecule contains six carbon atoms.

We briefly illustrated the four types of olive oil that can be produced; you will therefore have understood how extra virgin olive oil is the product towards which consumers should mainly be oriented in order to be sure of tasting a good dressing.

Now we will see how to distinguish a good EVO oil and what we need to pay attention to when buying. It is very important to check that there is the wording "cold pressed" this because the pressing temperature must not exceed 27 °, only in this way the olives will keep their aroma and flavor intact.
To be sure you are in front of a high quality product, by opening the cap of the bottle or can, you will have to smell an intoxicating scent of fresh olives, a sign that the fruits have been crushed shortly after being detached from the plant. It is also essential that the olives are harvested in a workmanlike manner and damaged as little as possible, and are taken to the mill within 24 hours when they are still healthy and very fresh and have not had time to start the very harmful fermentation process.

Then pay attention to the color! A beautiful deep green is not always a sign of high quality and sometimes it changes with the passage of time, so much so that during tastings it is served in blue glasses so as not to influence the evaluation.
The final analysis, but nevertheless the most important, is the taste: the taste must be fruity, bitter, spicy and full-bodied. The spicy sensation is linked to the presence of polyphenols, the precious natural antioxidants of olive oil, and depends on the type of cultivar and the recent pressing.

There are infinite nuances that define the character of an oil, among these we find: the almond, artichoke, herbaceous and fresh leaves flavor.
Extra virgin olive oil is that excellent ingredient that makes the difference in the kitchen, especially on raw dishes, but also cooked, or for healthier fried dishes. Today it is one of the most exported and most loved Italian food products in the world, a millenary indispensable condiment, invariably present on the tables of those who love to eat healthy.
Discover our collection dedicated to Italian oils produced by the best wineries and wineries. Click here
"The fragrant and fruity aroma of good oil is tempered by bitterness, just like the beauty of life". (Tom Meuller)

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