Consider the olive. These fruits and their precious oils are some of the most ancient foods still in daily use. Tracing its cultivation back to 5000 BC, the olive tree symbolizes peace and glamour.
Despite their long and storied history, many (if not most) of us are beginning to explore olive oil's true breadth, depth, and benefits. Olive oil is delicious and incredibly healthy--packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
However, the world of olive oil can be a little confusing, and navigating the maze of labels requires some knowledge. In this article, we'll explore the different types of olive oil and familiarize you with the terms used to describe them.
Different Types of Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extracted from the initial pressing of olives, this variant has a distinct green hue and minimal acidity (not exceeding .8%). This oil is perfect for dressings, dips, pesto, and marinades because of its robust flavor and high quality.
Virgin Olive Oil
While also created from the first pressing of olives, this oil has slightly higher acidity, although not beyond 2.0%. Virgin Olive Oil is highly nutritious, yet doesn't cut the "extra" label.
This common variety is often a refined and virgin oil blend. The refined oil is heat-treated, and the virgin component lends the flavor that the former lacks. It's a versatile oil for cooking because of its higher smoke point.
Light Olive Oil
Not lighter in calories but in flavor and color, this oil is from later pressings, each resulting in a progressively lighter, less robust oil. It's ideal for frying or sautéing due to its high smoke point.
Pomace Olive Oil
After pressing, the final oil bits are extracted from the leftover flesh and pits, often using solvents and heat. The resulting oil is refined for human consumption and, while fit for use, may lack the depth of flavor found in less refined oils.
Descriptions That Matter
Early Harvest means the olives were picked while still somewhat underripe. This results in an oil revered for its slightly bitter, peppery profile and vibrant green color. The trade-off is less oil output from smaller olives, which leads to a higher price point.
In contrast, Late Harvest Oil is pressed from fully mature olives and delivers a smoother, subtly sweet, fruity oil.
Cold Pressed: This implies that the oil was extracted without heat. Hot-pressed olives release more oil, but the heat can compromise some subtle flavors retained when cold-pressed oil.
Embrace the slow-living journey and savor the nuanced world of olive oils. The journey takes you through thousands of years of culinary history, and the reward is tantalizing and nourishing your body in countless ways. Let the olive oil tasting begin!