Olive Oils 101

How It’s Made

THE OLIVE TREE

The olive tree (Olea Europea), traces its origins back to Eastern Mediterranean countries and the Middle East. It is believed that the first olive trees were planted by the Semite-Hamitic tribes which inhabited the southern slopes of the Caucasus, the Western Iranian plateaus, Syria and Palestine. From there, the cultivation of the olive tree expanded to Egypt and, later, to the Greek islands, in particular to Cyprus, Rhodes and Crete in the Mediterranean, the history of both mankind and the olive tree go hand in hand. Besides being the most important tree, in the Mediterranean, it has come to symbolize this area. The climate which is most suited to growing olive trees is that of the temperate zone, between the 30 and 45 northern parallel and the corresponding belt located in the southern hemisphere. A characteristic of the olive tree is that it must be subjected to a certain degree of cold during the winter months, otherwise it will neither flower nor bear fruit. Olive trees may reach a height ranging between 10-13 meters. The tree is very resistant and stands up well to humidity. If, for some reason, the trunk should die, the tree is able to regenerate itself into a new plant which grows at the roots. The olive tree lives for a great number of years; some have lived for more than 1,000 years.

HARVESTING THE OLIVES

1. Traditional Harvesting Methods

There are two traditional methods of harvesting the olives. The first, is known as the “brucatura” in which the olives are hand-picked using ladders to reach the higher branches. The other method is that which either leaves the olives to fall to the ground either by letting them ripen and fall off the branches or by shaking the trunk or by striking it with bamboo canes causing the ripe olives to fall to the ground. Large nets are laid out below the tree in order to facilitate gathering the olives. The so called “brucatura” method represents the ideal way of harvesting the olives because the olives are picked when they are mature and they haven’t been bruised by falling to the ground. However, this is a very time-consuming and costly method. In fact, in an hour, a picker is only able to harvest 5-6 kg. of olives.

The “raccattatura” method (letting the olives fall naturally to the ground) is the poorest method in that the olives which fall to the ground are usually those which are over-ripe and once they hit the ground they bruise and begin to rapidly deteriorate, resulting in a poor quality olive oil.

2. Mechanical Harvesting Methods
These methods have been introduced mainly in an attempt to lower production costs.

Both the “brucatura” method and the “raccattatura” method (picking up the olives from the ground after having shaken the tree), can be mechanized. One way is by using “combing” machines, which pass large-toothed blades through the branches, literally combing the tree, together with suction equipment which sucks up the olives from the ground and shoots them with a jet of air into the bin. The more sophisticated vacuum equipment separates the leaves and twigs from the olives. However, the most interesting piece of equipment is the “vibrating” harvesting machines. This machine has a long arm which clamps around the trunk of the tree and shakes the tree. In order to facilitate the picking of the olives and to avoid having them fall to the ground and bruise, a sort of upside-down umbrella is placed under the tree. The olives are then sucked up from the umbrella, separated from the leaves and are loaded in trucks to be taken to the olive mill to be pressed This type of equipment is operated by one man and is able to pick 5 q.li (555500 kg.) in 1 hour. The advantage of this machine is enormous, and with the new series of machines the fear of ruining the root system of the tree by repeatedly vibrating the trunks has disappeared. Obviously, the use of this machine becomes more cost-efficient when the olive grove lends itself to this mechanical means of harvesting. However, the quality of the olives is not the same as when the olives are hand—picked because the machine isn’t able to select the mature olives from those which are under or over ripe. On the other hand, the use of this type of machine yields a better product than that obtained by letting the mature olives fall to the ground.

TRANSPORTING THE HARVESTED OLIVES

The way in which the olives are transported to the olive mill is very important. Bruising and crushing of the olives must be avoided by placing them in low wooden crates and not in sacks (whether plastic or burlap). This is important because the crates allow air to circulate. Lastly, the olives should never be loaded freely into the back of a truck as the weight of the olives will crush those on the bottom yielding a poorer quality olive oil.

PRODUCING OLIVE OIL – Preliminary Phases

1. Storing the Olives

Usually, the olives aren’t crushed right away mainly because it takes longer to crush the olives than to pick them and this creates a back-log. This is a very delicate moment due to the fact that if the olives are not stored properly, the resulting quality of the olive oil produced would be poor due to the increased acidity of the bruised fruit. The olives,
therefore, must be layered no more than 10-12 cm. high in wooden crates. If the storage area isn’t large enough, the crates should be stacked leaving ample room between each crate in order to allow air to circulate and to avoid crushing the olives. The temperature in the storage area should not be more than 1C. Moreover, even in ideal conditions, the olives should not be stored for more than one week. Olives which are very ripe or that have been damaged or bruised must be crushed within a couple of days, at the most.

2. Preparation and Washing of the Olives

The olives are prepared for crushing by first separating the leaves and twigs from the olives and then by rinsing them in cold water in order to rid them of any dirt. This procedure must be carried out immediately before the oil is extracted from the olives.

PRODUCING OLIVE OIL – Extraction

The age old process of extracting the oil from the olives is comprised of separate stages: the crushing stage, the kneading or mixing stage, and the extraction stage. While the crushing and the kneading or mixing stages are carried out the same way as has been done for centuries, the extraction stage may be carried out in several ways. It is crucial, however, that the capacity of all the equipment is such that the process is carried out harmoniously with no delays and without leaving the semi-finished product for long periods. In fact, the olive paste is even more delicate than the olives and is subject to undergo changes which will compromise the quality of the final product.

1. The Crushing Stage

This stage consists in crushing both the pulp and the pits of the olives, which can be done by either traditional granite stones or by more modern mechanical stainless steel hammers. In order to speed up the process, the use of mechanical hammers was introduced; however, the traditional granite stones are still preferred because they yield a better olive paste mainly because the crushing action is not as aggressive as the mechanical hammers and the olive paste doesn’t undergo excessive heating which would compromise the flavor of the oil. The crushed olives pits are important in that they act as a draining material and ease the separation of the liquid part of the paste from the solid part, which is called sansa or pomace.

2. The Kneading or Mixing Stage

This stage consists in the delicate remixing of the olive paste, in order to facilitate the next stage, that of the extraction of the olive oil, by breaking up the beads of oil and vegetable water which are formed during crushing. In some cases, the olive paste is heated by adding hot water.

3. The Extraction Stage

This stage permits the separation of three components from the olive paste: the oil, the sansa (pomace) and the vegetal water contained in the olives.

EXTRACTION METHOD

1. Traditional extraction by pressure (First Cold Pressed/Cold Production)

This is the oldest existing method and today this is carried out by using hydraulic presses.

The olive paste is spread on round vegetable fiber mats (usually coconut fiber) with a hole in the middle. In Italian these are called “fistoli”. The mats are spread with about 3 cm. of paste and are piled one on top of the other and placed on a cylindrical column. A stainless steel disc is inserted every three mats in order to guarantee uniform pressure. The column of “fistoli” is then placed under the hydraulic press. The pressed oil passes through the holes in the stainless steel disc, and is collected in a stainless steel tub. The olive paste is gently pressed in order to avoid heating. Once the oil has been pressed, the small amount of vegetal water left in the oil must be removed by centrifugal force. The residue of the olive paste which remains on the fiber mats undergoes a second mixing and pressing at a higher pressure in order to squeeze all of the oil out of the paste. However, the olive paste usually undergoes only one pressing because the second pressing is too costly.

2. Semi-automatic forced pressure system

With this system the olive paste is placed in a special machine which separates the broken pits from the paste. Special cylindrical containers are then filled with alternating layers of olive paste, and crushed olive pits which allow the oil to drain through. These containers are then placed under the press. The pressure exerted with this system is approximately five times that of the previous traditional method and is therefore much faster.

3. Continuous method by centrifugal force

With this system, the mixing machine continuously feeds the separator by adding water to the paste. The separator, using centrifugal force, separates the vegetal water/oil mixture from the pomace. The vegetal water/oil mixture undergoes a further spinning in order to separate the oil from the vegetal water and the small particles of olive pulp. The major advantage of this method with respect to the traditional first-cold pressed method is considerable savings in labor costs.

4. Sinolea Method

This is also a continuous method with a slight difference with regards to the previous one; the olive paste is not diluted with water and therefore, its organolectic properties remain intact. The separation of the oil from the vegetal water is carried out by using the different physical properties of both these liquids. This method doesn’t compromise the characteristics of the oil and has a lower consumption than the other method. However, the quantity of oil obtained is lower than that obtained by other methods.

 

THE PRODUCTION OF OLIVE OIL – Final Stage

1. Filtering

The oil which is obtained from the paste must be filtered in order to get rid of any small particles of pulp and vegetal water which is a natural component of the olive. This is done by decanting the oil and transferring it to clean stainless steel tanks. Once it was necessary to transfer the oil three or four times in order to obtain a clear oil. Nowadays, with the aid of the centrifugal separator, the oil needs to be transferred only once. The filtered oil isn’t necessarily transparent, in fact, a characteristic of the more prized oils is the opaque color.

2. Storage

Traditionally the olive oil was stored in terracotta jars which were enameled on the inside. These jars were called “orci”. Today, almost all large bottlers use stainless steel tanks which are much easier to clean and tend to block out more light which can be detrimental to the olive oil causing it to go rancid. Olive oil has a shelf life of 18-24 months as long as it is protected from direct light and temperatures which are either extremely high or extremely low. The ideal temperature for olive oil is around 14-15 C.

3. Bottling

The best containers of olive oil are those made of either colored or transparent glass and aluminum or stainless steel tins. Out of these, the bet choice is probably glass as it satisfies both hygienic needs as well as those pertaining to the marketing and selling of the product because it is important that the potential customer can see the olive oil through the glass bottle.

THE AREAS OF PRODUCTION:

Our Colavita “Green Label,” The Premium Selection line, is produced from extra virgin olive oils from Italy, with the addition of selected oils from Europe, in particular, Greece and Spain, where the olive oil culture has a strong tradition combined with innovative techniques for cultivation, selection, and milling.

Our Colavita “Black Label,” The Premium Italian line, is produced exclusively from olives grown and harvested in Italy. The Black Label items are “100% Certified Italian” by a third party organization and captures the best olive oil Italy has to offer.

Our Colavita “World Selection” Extra Virgin Olive Oils are oils carefully selected from distinct countries of origin: Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Greece, Australia, and United States, (California) to represent the best olive oils those producing nations have to offer.

 

THE TYPES OF OLIVE OIL

By law, olive oil may be classified as follows, each representing a different processing method:

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the result of the simple crushing of the olives which have been washed and separated from the leaves. This is by far the best product offering the widest range of perfect flavors and aromas with a maximum acidity of 1% (1 gram/100g of free oleic acid). Extra Virgin Olive Oil must meet the highest standards of flavor and aroma.

2. Virgin Olive Oil results from pressing olives which are over-ripe or have been bruised, and therefore have a high acidity, ranging from 1% to 4%. This type of oil has not been treated chemically.

3. Ordinary Olive Oil (sometimes know as “Pure”) is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. Refined olive oil is an oil which has undergone chemical manipulation in order to render it fit for human consumption. This is blended with some virgin olive oil (usually 10%).

4. Olive Pomace Oil: The olive paste, which is left after the oil has been removed, still contains a small amount of oil which is extracted by using chemical solvents. The resulting oil, after having been treated to remove any chemical residue, is then blended with virgin olive oil.

Difference between filtered and unfiltered oils

Extra virgin olive oil may be consumed either in a filtered or unfiltered state. Filtration is the process by which the microscopic bits of the fruit of the olive are removed from the oil. Unfiltered oil will be cloudy until it settles to the bottom. Some consider unfiltered oil superior because of the added flavor from the fruit, while others say it shortens the oil’s shelf life. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference.

Are all extra virgin olive oils the same?

Extra Virgin olive oils are not all the same. Like wines, extra virgin olive oils can vary dramatically in taste, depending upon the type and quality of the fruit that is pressed, the time of harvest, the weather during the growing season, and the region from which the olives were produced.

Connoisseurs generally use the following adjectives in appraising extra virgin olive oils: mild, semi-fruity and fruity depending on the flavor of the olive that can be detected. Further, some oils, such as the finer oils from Tuscany and Southern Italy, have a peppery finish that many appreciate. COLAVITA is proud that its extra virgin olive oil is the choice of many of the finest chefs – both in restaurants and in home kitchens around the United States.

Baking with Olive Oil

Olive Oil Tips

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OLIVE OIL AND THEIR USES

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “Extra” is the highest grade for olive oil–the best you can buy. The virgin oil may be called “extra” if it has less than .8% free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the “extra” in extra virgin olive oil means “premium,” or simply, “the best.” This unadulterated oil contains the higher levels of polyphenols, antioxidants which are often linked with better health. While we encourage using Extra Virgin Olive Oil for nearly every application in the kitchen we find that most people prefer to use evoo in cold dishes and for finishing so that they can enjoy the flavor of the oil. This includes using the oil to dip bread in, salad dressings, as a finishing oil for antipasto platters or to drizzle over finished pizza. These applications allow the oil to truly shine. If you want to see more creative uses then visit our Olive Oil & Food Books (for example, did you know you could bake a chocolate cake with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as well?)

Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil Ordinary “olive oil” is actually a blended oil product. Olive oil producers start with low quality virgin olive oils. For these oils to be fit for consumption, they must be refined using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The resulting “refined olive oil” is largely colorless and tasteless. Before the resulting product is sold as “olive oil,” the producer blends into the refined olive oil a percentage of quality virgin olive oil to provide color and taste. While it is safe to fry with Extra Virgin Olive Oil many people prefer to use pure olive oil for their frying needs because of the mild flavor. It can also be used as a substitute for butter in baking.

“Light” or “Mild” Olive Oil. Light olive oil is a variation on ordinary olive oil. Producers of this product use a highly refined olive oil, and add less quality virgin oil than that typically used to blend olive oil. The only thing “light” about light olive oil is the taste and color; it has the same caloric and fat content as other oils. The makeup of Light Olive Oil and Pure Olive Oil is very similar, it’s the flavor that’s the biggest difference. Light Oil has less olive oil flavor and is favorable if you want to make to swap out butter in a baking recipe. The flavor is extremely mild and you won’t get any of the cholesterol that butter has.

Olive-Pomace Oil. Olive-pomace oil is the residue oil that is extracted by chemical solvents from previously pressed olive mash. This oil must be highly-refined to remove chemical impurities. Like ordinary olive oil, refined olive-pomace oil is enriched with virgin olive oil prior to sale.

Olive Oil Blends. Olive oil blends (e.g., canola oil enriched with some virgin olive oil) are sometimes used as a more economical substitute for olive oil (but not as a substitute for extra virgin olive oil). Because the production of good olive oil is labor intensive–the olives must essentially be picked by hand–the resulting product is more expensive than other vegetable oils. To offer a more economical product with some of the goodness of olive oil, some companies make olive oil blends. In an olive oil blend, the producer uses a base of a less expensive vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil) to which it adds a percentage (e.g. 25%) of virgin olive oil. These products have proven particularly attractive to restaurant and institutional purchasers where the small savings per tablespoon results in big savings due to the large volume they purchase.

HOW TO TASTE OLIVE OIL

Oil’s taste is a reflection of a variety factors including how the olives were harvested, where they were grown, the type of olive and the crop conditions. Additionally, what are normally negative qualities in other oils are actually desirable qualities in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and are indicative of good quality evoo. Examples include bitter, pungent, grassy and peppery. Buttery, fruity, nutty and sweet notes will also be present depending on the variety of Extra Virgin Olive Oil being sampled. These are examples of good quality oil as well.

To taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil first pour a tablespoon of the oil into a small, stemless wine glass or a short plastic tumbler. Place one hand underneath the bottom of the glass and the other over the top. Gently swirl to allow the aroma of the oil to fill the glass. Remove your hand from the top of the glass and bring the rim of the glass towards your nose. Take short, deep sniffs to inhale the aroma. Think about what you smell; is it mild or very aromatic? At this point you may begin to associate the scent of the oil with freshly cut grass, flowers, nuts or olives.

Finally, slurp the oil. Yep- slurp. While your mother my not approve it is essential to proper oil tasting. The “slurp” will allow you to pull both oil and air into your mouth and enhance your ability to detect different flavor notes.

HOW TO SELECT OLIVE OIL

Before you go out and purchase Olive Oil think about how you intend to use it in the kitchen. Will you be pan frying, deep frying, sautéing, roasting, making a marinade, making a dressing, drizzling over hard cheese, drizzling over soft cheese or using to dip bread in?
Then, head over to our Olive Oil and Food Pairing Chart to find out which of our Oils will best complement your meal.

Finally, always check the best by date and make sure the seal on your oil hasn’t been tampered with.

HOW TO STORE OLIVE OIL

For best flavor, olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, olive oil can keep for at least two years. It is, however, at its peak within a year of production, and is its most flavorful for the first two months.

Olive Oil’s worst enemies are heat, light, and air. You’ll notice that the vast majority of Colavita Olive Oils are stored in either metal tins or dark colored glass bottles. We take these steps to protect the oil from the light in order to preserve the quality of our product. When you take it home just be sure to store it in a cool, dark place and keep the cap tightened when you are not actively using it and you’re good to go!

Olive oil should not be stored in the refrigerator. If chilled, olive oil will become cloudy and eventually solidify or crystallize. Should this happen, the oil is perfectly fine; just leave the oil at room temperature for a time to restore it to its natural state.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL

Consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is linked with a variety of health benefits including, lowering the risk of heart disease, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and reducing cholesterol levels. Click here to find out the other ways Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil can improve the health of you and your family!

HOW TO PAIR OLIVE OIL WITH FOOD

When you’re pairing Olive Oil with food it’s best to think about what you want to prepare first and then select the appropriate oil. We usually recommend picking a protein (or veggie) that you’d like to use and the cooking method involved (baking, sautéing, etc.). This will help to lead you to the right Olive Oil. Once you have those two details ironed out go over to our Olive Oil & Food Pairing Chart where we’ve taken care of the rest.

Enjoy your meal!

HOW TO REMOVE OLIVE OIL FROM CLOTHING

How to remove oil from clothing
Sometimes it takes just one stray olive oil droplet to ruin your favorite item of clothing. While it may be sad, it isn’t totally hopeless. If you act quickly then you can still save that salmon colored blouse that looks great on you.

First things first, remove the item of clothing and place a paper towel or clean rag between the layers of fabric so the oil stain doesn’t seep through the back and into the next layer. Next, take a clean, white paper towel and blot the stain. Repeat until the paper towel is no longer soaking up oil.

Afterwards take some baking powder and gently pat it into the surface of the stain. The baking powder will draw out any of the oil that the paper towel wasn’t able to soak up. Let the baking powder sit for 20 minutes then scrape it away. The baking soda will turn brownish due to the oil. Repeat until the baking soda no longer changes color.

Finally pretreat the stain before you throw it in the wash. Take a damp sponge and either dish soap or 2x concentrated detergent and work it into the stain until it lathers. Wash the item of clothing in the hottest water possible without damaging the garment. Let air dry and assess if the process needs to be repeated again.

Olive Oil Conversion Chart

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is the best choice when it comes to adding flavor to just about any type of food. But did you know that leading health experts and top medical journals tell us that Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or EVOO) can also help to improve your health?* Here’s a list of what they say about having Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your daily diet.

*Based on information provided by the Olive Oil Times

REDUCES CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

If Olive Oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy? Olive oil contains more Monosaturated (MUFAS) “good” fats per serving than any other cooking oil, which helps to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

HAS NO TRANS FATS

EVOO contains none of the harmful trans fats found in many processed foods. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels and don’t provide a boost to good HDL cholesterol; so stay clear!

HEALTHIER THAN BUTTER

A tablespoon of olive oil contains just 1.8 grams of saturated fat compared to 7.2 grams in a tablespoon of butter.

HELPS LOWER THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE

EVOO, from the first pressing of the olives, contains the highest levels of antioxidants (known as polyphenols), which help increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Ordinary olive and vegetable oils don’t provide the same benefits because the polyphenols are removed in the refining process.

HELPS PREVENT BREAST CANCER

Research has shown that consumption of olive oil, the richest dietary source of oleic acid, helps suppress the action of a cancer-promoting gene found in about a third of breast cancer patients.

REDUCES ALZHEIMER’S RISK BY 40%

A four-year study of over 2,000 men and women found that those whose eating habits most closely followed the Mediterranean pattern – high in fruits, vegetables, beans, and unsaturated fats from olive oil and fish – were least likely to develop the disease.

KEEPS DIABETES UNDER CONTROL

For people with diabetes, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of fat because it reduces bad LDL cholesterol, raises good HDL cholesterol, and adds only a small amount of saturated fat. In addition, regular consumption of olive oil can reduce the chances of developing insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

RELIEVES PAIN AND INFLAMMATION

EVOO contains a compound that mimics the pain-relieving action of ibuprofen. Regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil may therefore help decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and some dementias.

EASES COMMON INTESTINAL PROBLEMS

A tablespoon of olive oil consumed on an empty stomach acts as a soothing, nutritious laxative. It can help relieve upset stomachs and heartburn as well. Olive oil also helps defend against ulcers because it protects the stomach and intestinal linings from gastric acid.

ENHANCES SKIN, HAIR AND NAILS

Repair split ends and add luster to your hair by massaging a few tablespoons of EVOO into the hair and scalp. Cover with a plastic shower cap and leave on for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, then shampoo as usual. Gently rub a small amount of EVOO into skin whenever you need softening and moisturizing; apply extra oil to rough or cracked areas and stretch marks. See our recipes on page 51.

Olive Oil FAQ’s

ARE OLIVES FRUITS OR VEGETABLES?

Olives are fruit, grown on the olive tree, olea europaea. Olive trees have been cultivated for thousands of years, and were already plentiful during biblical times. Plucked from the tree, the olive is extremely bitter, and virtually inedible. Prior to eating, olives are typically cured, either in brine,water or in oil. (Some prefer to cure them further–in the bottom of a martini glass!) Freshly picked olives can also be stir-fried to remove some of the bitterness before eating.

WHERE ARE OLIVES GROWN?

Major olive producers in the world include countries which border the Mediterranean Sea (e.g., France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey), as well as California and in South America. It is reported that Thomas Jefferson tried but failed to cultivate olive trees in his native Virginia.

HOW MANY OLIVES DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A LITER OF OLIVE OIL?

Generally it takes over 1,000 olives weighing between 4 and 8 kilograms to make one liter of extra virgin olive oil. A large tree can yield enough olives to produce five 1 Liter bottles of olive oil.

HOW IS OLIVE OIL PRODUCED?

The traditional method of extracting olive oil from the fruit is virtually the same today as it has been for thousands of years. At harvest time, which varies from region to region, olives are harvested by hand, and collected in nets placed around the foot of the tree. A day or two thereafter, the olives are taken to the mill. Giant stones weighing several tons are used to crush the olives and pits into mash.

The olive mash is then spread onto thin mats. These mats are stacked, and placed into a machine “press.” As the press applies several hundred pounds of pressure, oil and water from the mash seep out of the mats, and drip into collection vats. In the traditional method, no heat is applied in the pressing–hence the term “first cold pressed.” The oil is allowed to settle, and any vegetable water is removed either by centrifuge or decantation.

Oil extracted from the mechanical pressing of the olive is described as “virgin” olive oil, because it is pure, unrefined and unprocessed.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXTRA, ORDINARY AND LIGHT OLIVE OIL?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “Extra” is the highest grade for olive oil–the best you can buy. The virgin oil produced from the mechanical pressing described above may be called “extra” if it has less than 1% free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the “extra” in extra virgin olive oil means “premium,” or simply, “the best.”

Olive Oil. Ordinary “olive oil” is actually a blended oil product. Olive oil producers start with low quality virgin olive oils. For these oils to be fit for consumption, they must be refined using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The resulting “refined olive oil” is largely colorless and tasteless. Before the resulting product is sold as “olive oil,” the producer blends into the refined olive oil a percentage of quality virgin olive oil to provide color and taste.

“Light” or “Mild” Olive Oil. Light olive oil is a variation on ordinary olive oil. Producers of this product use a highly refined olive oil, and add less quality virgin oil than that typically used to blend olive oil. The only thing “light” about light olive oil is the taste and color; it has the same caloric and fat content as other oils.

Olive-Pomace Oil. Olive-pomace oil is the residue oil that is extracted by chemical solvents from previously pressed olive mash. This oil must be highly-refined to remove chemical impurities. Like ordinary olive oil, refined olive-pomace oil is enriched with virgin olive oil prior to sale.

Olive Oil Blends. Olive oil blends (e.g., canola oil enriched with some virgin olive oil) are sometimes used as a more economical substitute for olive oil (but not as a substitute for extra virgin olive oil). Because the production of good olive oil is labor intensive–the olives must essentially be picked by hand–the resulting product is more expensive than other vegetable oils. To offer a more economical product with some of the goodness of olive oil, some companies make olive oil blends. In an olive oil blend, the producer uses a base of a less expensive vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil) to which it adds a percentage (e.g. 25%) of virgin olive oil. These products have proven particularly attractive to restaurant and institutional purchasers where the small savings per tablespoon results in big savings due to the large volume they purchase.

WHAT ARE THE NUTRITIONAL COMPONENTS?

A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Seventy seven percent (77%) of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and nine percent (9%) is polyunsaturated fat; fourteen percent (14%) is vegetable-derived saturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as the phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol.

WHAT MAKES OLIVE OIL A SUPERIOR PRODUCT TO OTHER OILS?

Three things make olive oil superior to vegetable oils: taste, nutrition and integrity.

Taste is the most obvious difference between olive oil and the commercially popular vegetable oils such as corn, soybean and canola oils. These oils are tasteless fats. You would not want to eat a piece of bread dipped in vegetable oil; for the same basic reason, many chefs refrain from adding tasteless fat to the foods they prepare. When you cook with oil, get the most flavor and texture you can.

Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, adds a flavor and textural dimension lacking in other oils, making it a suitable substitute for butter and margarine in almost any recipe. In fact, more and more restaurants are serving extra virgin olive oil, both plain or flavored with salt and pepper, as an alternative to butter for bread.

Nutritionally, olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any of the popular vegetable oils. For more information on the nutritional qualities of olive oil versus other oils and fats.

Moreover, vegetable oils are industrial, processed foods. Vegetable oils are generally extracted by means of petroleum-based chemical solvents, and then must be highly refined to remove impurities. Along with the impurities, refining removes taste, color and nutrients.

Extra virgin olive oils are not processed or refined. It is said that you do not make extra virgin olive oil, you find it. Extra virgin olive oil is essentially “fresh squeezed” from the fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, and nutrients or vitamins. Because of the integrity of the product, and its antioxidant components, olive oil will keep longer than all other vegetable oils.

HOW DOES OLIVE OIL COMPARE WITH BUTTER OR MARGARINE IN RECIPES?

Butter and margarine are essentially fats like cooking oils. A tablespoon of ordinary butter contains twelve grams of fat, of which 8 grams (66%) are saturated fat. In addition, a serving of butter contains 33 mgs of cholesterol.

Saturated fat and cholesterol have been linked to increased levels of low density lipoproteins (LDLs)–the “bad cholesterol.” Thus, compared to butter, a serving of olive oil contains much less saturated fat (only 2 grams) and no cholesterol. The comparison with margarine is more difficult because the fat breakdown in margarines varies by manufacturer and ingredient. Margarine typically contains approximately 10 grams of fat per tablespoon. However, to solidify the vegetable oils used to make margarine, the oils have to be hydrogenized. In the hydrogenization process, trans fatty acids are created. Trans fatty acids have a double whammy effect of increasing LDLs and lowering the high density lipoproteins (HDLs)–the “good cholesterol”.

HOW CAN OLIVE OIL BE USED TO REPLACE BUTTER AND MARGARINE IN RECIPES?

Yes! Butter and margarine have a pleasant taste, and there are certain uses of butter and margarine for which there is no satisfactory replacement in the American Diet–buttered toast at breakfast comes to mind. But COLAVITA Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been described as “buttery” by many consumers in taste tests. So COLAVITA Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be used in place of butter or margarine in many recipes, such as on vegetables, rice, potatoes, and–yes–even corn on the cob. To try olive oil in your recipe, try our olive oil recipe converter.

HOW DO YOU STORE OLIVE OIL?

For best flavor, olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, olive oil can keep for at least two years. It is, however, at its peak within a year of production, and is its most flavorful for the first two months.

Olive Oil’s worst enemies are heat, light, and air. You’ll notice that the vast majority of Colavita Olive Oils are stored in either metal tins or dark colored glass bottles. We take these steps to protect the oil from the light in order to preserve the quality of our product. When you take it home just be sure to store it in a cool, dark place and keep the cap tightened when you are not actively using it and you’re good to go!

Olive oil should not be stored in the refrigerator. If chilled, olive oil will become cloudy and eventually solidify or crystallize. Should this happen, the oil is perfectly fine; just leave the oil at room temperature for a time to restore it to its natural state.

What exactly does “extra virgin” mean, anyway?

Extra virgin olive oil is essentially the “fresh squeezed” fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, nutrients or vitamins and a fatty (oleic) acid content that does not exceed .8 g per 100g. (.8%). This oil cannot be treated with heat and/or chemicals during the extraction process. On Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil you will see the phrase “first cold pressed”, this is a reiteration of the fact that the only thing we do for our Extra Virgin Olive Oil is press olive to extract the oil. Virgin oils are often darker and more flavorful. Additionally, the oil has higher levels of the antioxidants, polyphenols, which are often linked with better health.

All other varieties of olive oil, including “Light”, “Extra Light”, “Mild”, or even “Pure”, contain oil that has been refined using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. Don’t be fooled! Extra virgin is the only truly natural olive oil product.

“Extra” is the highest grade for olive oil–the best you can buy. The virgin oil produced from the mechanical pressing described above may be called “extra” if it has less than 1% free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the “extra” in extra virgin olive oil means “premium,” or simply, “the best.”

Can I use Olive Oil on my hair, skin or nails?

Absolutely! In fact, you can follow our incredible non-edible body and hair care recipes here

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