What Really is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
- By: Alex Ferrari
My love affair with the liquid gold start a few years back when I was bitten by the EVOO bug. Ever since opening up my own olive oil and balsamic vinegar gourmet company, I’m continually asked what is extra virgin olive oil? What makes olive oil extra virgin? Why can’t it be just virgin...or just olive oil?
Well to make olive oil extra virgin olive oil or as insiders call it EVOO, it's all about timing and temperature. Once the olive is picked from the tree the clock is ticking. The faster a farmer can get the olive from the tree to the olive press the better. Usually within ten hours is best. The longer you wait the more acidic the olives becomes. Really good extra virgin olive oil is like fruit juice. It’s simply squeezed from the fruit of the olive and nothing is done to the oil. There’s no processing on any level whatsoever.
For olive oil to be considered extra virgin it has to meet some technical parameters. The first is the acidity level. This test measures the level of free fatty acids in the olive oil. Free fatty acids are released when fat molecules start to deteriorate and so a measure of their presence gives a good indication of the state of the olive oil. In Europe, the free fatty acid or acidity level must be below 0.08. In California they are a bit stricter with their EVOO having to be 0.05 acidity level or below to be called extra virgin olive oil. The lower the acidity level, the better the oil. Perhaps even more important than the acidity level is the result of the Peroxide test. This measures the degree of oxidation of the oil so far. The closer the result is to the limit of “20”, the shorter the shelf life of the olive oil.
You might’ve heard the terms like “First Pressed” and “Cold-Pressed”. During the pressing process the olives must be the first press of the olives and cold-pressed to be considered extra virgin. First pressed means just that, the first and only pressing of the olives. Many producers will go back and re-press the same olives two, three or even four times to squeeze every ounce of oil they can out of the olives. Doing this creates a low quality olive oil. Cold-pressed mean as the olives are being pressed the temperature must be kept cold and constant so to not damage the olives. The heat created during the pressing can destroy any chances of the oil coming out extra virgin.
What is this Nectar of the Gods called Olio Nuovo?
Olio Nuovo EVOO is quite remarkable, my mouth waters just thinking about it. Olio is the first olive pressing of the harvest. It’s usually available in late October or early November and is only available for a few months out of the year. This is why olive oil connoisseurs, like myself, go crazy at the start of the olive harvest. When olives are first pressed Olio Nuovo is what comes. This beautifully green and cloudy oil full of olive particles is placed in large tanks for the cloudy sediment to settle to the bottom. Then it’s filtered out and your standard EVOO can be bottled. The magic is to drink the Olio before the sediment settles. Depending on the variety of olive being pressed the strength of the oil can vary. It’s truly the healthiest olive oil you can drink.
My company’s Olio Nuovo comes from the Lodi region of California. It’s smooth and buttery with a slight pepper burn in the back of the throat. That burn is the polyphenols or antioxidants in action. The stronger the burn the more antioxidants are in the oil. Once purchased the bottle will last you four to six months or so but most people go through a bottle much faster. We’ve had our Olio up to eight months from pressing and it still held up.
I hope this article shed some light on what EVOO really is. Once you taste real extra virgin olive oil it’s impossible to go back to the supermarket again.
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Alex Ferrari is a writer, director and gourmet food entrepreneur. He co-own Olimila Gourmet Emporium with his wife Maricruz. Alex writes, produces and hosts a weekly gourmet food show called “The EVOO Show” which you can see here: www.youtube.com/olimilagourmet(http://https://articlebliss.com//https://www.youtube.com/olimilagourmet)
Alex and Maricruz found their culinary passion, on their babymoon, amid Napa Valley's rolling hills. Though their trip to Northern California set the couple squarely in the heart of picturesque vineyard country, it wasn't wine that piqued their taste buds, but freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil. Won over by its flavor, they were inspired to start the Olimila Gourmet Emporium to share it with the public. With no retail experience, these crazy entrepreneurs opened up shop and the rest as they say is history.
Olimila Gourmet Emporium: www.olimila.com(http://www.olimila.com)
YouTube Shows: www.youtube.com/olimilagourmet(http://https://articlebliss.com//https://www.youtube.com/olimilagourmet)