EVERYTHING OLIVE OIL
…A land of oil olive, and honey…(Duet. 8:8), …thy children (shall be) like olive plants round thy table…(Ps 128:3), …partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree…(Rom. 11:17), …can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries?… Obviously, the Israelites could relate to olives. The Jews, and the people around the Mediterranean region used olive oil from everything from baking to burning, and not surprisingly, olives and its oil is mentioned throughout the Bible. Today, people not only use olive oil for its complex flavors, but also for their good cooking properties and health benefits. BTW, don’t forget to enter this APPRECIATION LE CREUSET AND VINTAGE OLIVE OIL GIVEAWAY!
Most of the world’s supply of olives comes from the Mediterranean region. Ninety percent of these olives are pressed into oil. For thousands of years the oil is made by crushing the olives, seeds and all, into a paste and then placing a little pressure on the pulp. The oil will drip out and will then be decanted, or the water skimmed off before bottling. This method, known as cold pressing, produces virgin olive oil. Cold pressing utilizes no heat or chemical to extract the oil, preserving more flavor and nutrients. This oil is very low in acid and has the best flavor. Further refinements are then made to get the rest of the oil from the pulp. This subsequent refined olive oil has more acid and fewer flavors, but a higher smoke point (more on that later).
Virgin olive oils, much like wines, possess complex flavors only available from the region grown. Spanish varieties have a nutty, fruity flavor, and a golden flavor, while Italian oils have a more herbal taste and a green hue. These oils, extra virgin being the highest grade, ‘delight the palate’ when drizzled atop meats or salads or eaten with bread. If you are going to invest in some high grade oil, however, be sure to get the freshest possible, because oil deteriorates with age. After your oil reaches 1-2 years of age, the rich flavors will have dissipated and the oil will be best used for cooking instead of eating raw.
“Pure” olive oils are the result of further refinement and mixing of the virgin oils. This should be used for cooking purposes. Some refined olive oils are processed to have a higher smoke point. Extra light olive oil has a high smoke point of 468 degrees compared 375 degrees of extra virgin olive oil. This makes the oil not only great for cooking, but to use as frying oil as well (as in my Fried Green Tomato Recipe). Compared to classic refined frying oils such as corn (450°), canola (400°), soybean (460°), and peanut (450°), extra light olive oil leads the list. This light olive oil gives little flavor to the finished product, so don’t worry about your fried chicken tasting like olives. Further, the three latter oils are genetically modified products; if you are not for that, frying with olive oil offers the best results.
Many consider olive oil to be the healthiest cooking oil. Olive oil contains 73 percent of monounsaturated fats and only 14 percent of the saturated variety. The monounsaturated fats that replace the saturated fats lower low density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol) while keeping or even possibly stimulating the high density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol). The unrefined nature of producing virgin oils also make it high in nutrients.
Olive oil is my oil of choice in most of my cooking, especially on fresh vegetables. There is really nothing like a good olive oil for drizzling over fresh or roasted vegetables. Happy Cooking!