A Guide to Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There is a simple kitchen secret we are going to share with you…a good extra virgin olive oil will change your life. Not only does it have immeasurable health benefits, but it also has the ability to transform even the most basic dish into a magical fusion of flavors.
Here is our guide to extra virgin olive oil and what to look for when choosing a good one.
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What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is the pressed juice of crushed olives. Just like different varieties of grapes make different types of wine, different varieties of olive will bring different characteristics to oil and with over 1,000 varietals in the world, the variations are endless.
Although extra virgin olive oil is produced all over the world, Italy, which grows more than 700 olive varieties, is known for its diverse and high-quality oils, the best of which are difficult to find abroad.
Choosing a Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There are several factors to check when selecting and purchasing a good extra virgin olive oil, remember to take into account the following:
Color is important but not that important. Good olive oils range from deep grassy green to emerald and on to lighter golden greens, depending on the variety of olive. Often fresh, new, oils will be opaque or cloudy. Often oil tastings are conducted ‘blind’ to ensure that there are no preconceptions about the quality of the oil due to its color. The important thing is that the color is intense and not in any way translucent or weak.
Sniff the oil under your nose. Good olive oil should smell pungent and fruity while bad oil will smell rancid and stale. Often bad oils will smell like motor oil, crayons, or rotting fruit, in any case, something you wouldn’t want to eat!
Taste the olive oil by sipping a little and sucking it through your teeth. There should be a little spiciness (which may cause you to cough in the back of your throat-this is a good thing!) along with a fresh herby fruitiness and a touch of bitterness on the tongue. Good olive oil will not leave a greasy or oily residue in the mouth but will leave it feeling clean.
Any kind of heat treatment changes the properties of the olives and causes an acidic taste. Cold-pressed oils are carefully treated to maintain the fresh elements of the olives so will ensure a better quality oil. Look for the indication that the oil has been cold-pressed on the label, or even better cold extracted.
Like most things, with olive oil, you get what you pay for. Cheap supermarket oils are cheap for a reason and will never match up to quality extra virgin oil from a good producer. It is worth investing a little extra for a fabulous oil, it will immeasurably improve the flavor of everything you eat and a little goes a long way, making it much better value in the long run.
The oil bottle or container should be dark glass or metal as exposure to light will also cause rancidity and bitterness. Once you buy your olive oil, make sure to keep it away from sunlight to ensure it keeps its fresh flavor. If in doubt, wrap bottles in aluminum to make sure the olive stays protected and use the oil within a maximum of two years.
Extra virgin olive oil is a superfood, packed with antioxidants and vitamins, and is an integral part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Anything sold as a ‘light’ or ‘diet’ extra virgin olive is unnecessary and in no way comparative to the real thing.
Once you enter the world of extra virgin olive oil you can never go back. Experimenting with different oils becomes as exciting as pairing wines as you understand how the attributes of different oils enhance the foods they are matched with. Any good Italian kitchen will have two or three different olive oils used for different purposes so invest in a couple of great bottles and let your palate enjoy!
Buying Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
As mentioned above, excellent Italian extra virgin olive oil can be hard to find outside of Italy as many of the best suppliers do not ship overseas. However, you are in luck as our favorite olive oil shop in Rome ships an incredible selection of over 150 olive oils all over the world. Buy them now and get 5% discount on all of your orders!
To learn more about the wonderful world of Italian extra virgin olive oil, join our very own olive oil sommelier at our fabulous rooftop location for an Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting in Rome.