You Don’t Have To Be A Chef To Read An Olive Oil Label

Olive oil has been with us for almost as long as the olive, which is at the very least 6,000 years. It really is mentioned numerous times in the Christian Bible, singled out as holy by Mohammed the Prophet of Islam, and celebrated by the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Considered the best of all oils, it’s the traditional oil for anointing kings, bishops, and temples in western culture.

Olive oil is simple to digest and helps our anatomies assimilate minerals and vitamins. It aids the digestive system by stimulating the gall bladder. Essential olive oil is cholesterol free and comprises of 70% monounsaturated fatty acids, which reduce bad cholesterol (LDL). It contains chlorophyll which aids the metabolism, stimulating cellular growth and speeding the healing up process. Also it contains no trans fats.

The olive tree flourishes in Mediterranean-type climates with hot, dry summers and cool winters. Spain, with over 300 million olive trees, is the number one producer of olive oil with 44% of the planet market. Much of Spanish essential olive oil production is shipped to Italy, both for consumption and to be repackaged for sale abroad as Italian olive oil. The region of Andaluc�a makes up about 75% of Spanish olive oil production.

scholarly articles Selecting the right essential olive oil can be a intimidating task – the terminology used on labels is sometimes confusing and often misleading, and the differences between oils are often not made clear. Here is everything you need to learn to choose the right olive oil for your table or kitchen:

Grades – Olive oils which come from countries which are members of the International Olive Oil Council (of which Spain is, needless to say, one) stick to strict regulations regarding labeling and packaging. The grades defined by the IOOC are the following:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil originates from the initial pressing of the olives, has an acidity of no more than 0.8%, and contains been judged to have superior taste. Extra virgin olive oil can contain no refined oil.
Virgin Olive Oil comes with an acidity of less than 2% and has been judged to have good taste. Virgin olive oil can contain no refined oil.
Pure Olive Oil is really a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil, and has an acidity of no more than 1%.
Ordinary Olive Oil can be a mixture of virgin and refined olive oils, and has an acidity of no more than 3.3%.
Olive-Pomace Oil is very rarely found in markets, but is sometimes found in restaurant cooking. Created from the residue of the production of higher grade olive oils, olive-pomace oil is fit for consumption but not very tasty.
It is important to remember that these grade definitions apply and then olive oils stated in countries which are members of the IOOC, meaning that American olive oils may or may not meet these criteria. The USDA doesn’t recognize the above terms, instead using terms like “fancy” and “choice” as they have been since 1948, so you might put the words extra virgin essential olive oil on a tub of strawberry pudding but still be legal in the US provided that the ingredients list is correct.

Notice that taste is only considered for classifying extra virgin and virgin essential olive oil. These are the only two grades you would desire to use when the flavor of the oil is essential to the outcome of the dish.

Other things you might see on an essential olive oil label

100% Pure Olive Oil – It is a bit misleading unless you know what it means. Pure olive oil is in fact the lowest grade obtainable in retail stores, although word pure might lead some to believe it is the highest. No question, pure essential olive oil is an excellent choice for a few uses, which we will get to shortly.
Made from refined oils – The word refined is often connected with increased purity, but in the case of olive oil this means that the taste and acidity were altered by artificial means. Refined oils invariably start with lower quality olives, and have problems with a lack of the real taste of the olive. They undergo thermal and chemical treatments to reduce acidity, subjected to an exceptionally fine filtration process to remove any residual chemicals, and fortified with handful of virgin or extra virgin oil to give them some flavor and color. The agricultural equivalent of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Lite Olive Oil – or Light ESSENTIAL OLIVE OIL. All olive oils have 120 calories per tablespoon, lite olive oils included. Lite olive oils are refined olive oils that have not been fortified with virgin or extra virgin oil, and for that reason lack any semblance of taste or color. This type of oil can be utilized for baking or other styles of cooking where you do not want the oil to flavor the food at all. Just don’t expect it to help you lose weight.
From hand-picked olives – There is no evidence that manually picking olives produces better oil compared to the traditional tree-shaking method. The implication is that there are no olives picked off the bottom (“windfall olives”) used in the making of the oil, which is a excellent thing since windfall olives raise the acidity of the oil and require more washing of the olives before pressing, and that the olives are hand selected after being inspected by the picker – also a very good thing.
First cold press – You will see this on many bottles of extra virgin essential olive oil, because EVOO comes from the initial cold press by definition. Unless you see it, don’t worry about it so long as you trust the brand and believe them if they say the oil is extra virgin. First press means that this oil came from the initial press of the olives – some companies use a second press for lower grade oils. Cold means no additional heat is applied during pressing.
Estate Grown – All the olives in the oil come from the same grove. This typically means less time to transport the olives to the mill, this means less time from picking to pressing, which results in superior oil.
Unfiltered – Most olive oils are filtered to remove sediments that occur naturally during pressing. Some, however, retain the sediment in the ultimate product. That is thought by many to strengthen and improve the flavor of the oil, plus some connoisseurs seek out oils with the most sediment in the bottle. If nothing else, unfiltered oils undergo one less step in processing and so are therefore one step nearer to being an unadulterated product. The sediments can go rancid over time, so use unfiltered oils within 3 – 6 months of buying them and store them in an awesome, dark place.
Blended Oil – The olives in a particular grove can transform in flavor from year to year. To experience a frequent flavor, manufacturers will blend oils from various kinds of olives. Sometimes olive oil will undoubtedly be blended with canola or vegetable oil to improve the flavor or for marketing purposes. These oils should be clearly labeled.
Flor de Aceite – Flower of the Oil in English. This is usually a process where the olives are crushed but not pressed, and the oil is decanted through gravity alone. It takes doubly many olives per liter to create oil in this way, that is one reason this method is rarely used.
There is also the problem of the bottle itself. Some olive oils can be found in clear bottles, others in green bottles or even cans. How come this? One reason a manufacturer may choose not to use clear glass is that there surely is some evidence that this may enhance shelf life – same reason some beers come in dark bottles. Unfortunately, this prevents you from seeing the oil before you get it. Using green glass also gives the appearance of deep green colored oil, which many see as an indicator of higher quality.

Which brings us to color. Green oils are from olives picked early in the harvest and have a peppery, fruity, ripe flavor in addition to higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. Gold oils are from later in the harvest and are generally smooth and mellow. Green oils have a shorter shelf life than gold oils – figure around 8 to 9 months instead of 12. Color isn’t an indicator of the grade of the oil, though it does have a value all its.

So, which olive oil if you undertake? Depends on what you will use it for.