Extra Virgin Olive Oil must satisfy the following criteria:
- Healthy, disease free olives that have been processed quickly (generally within 24 hours).
- The oil must be only from olives, mechanically extracted without the use of any chemicals and with a minimum use of heat (28 degrees Celsius maximum).
- The oil must be free of any taste defects.
- The free fatty acid component must be less than 0.8% (should really be about 0.2%)
- Peroxide value must be below 20meq/kg (should really be about 8meq/kg)
There is now an EVOO Code of Practice in Australia that ensures the oil is what it says it is, so look for the logo below when purchasing olive oil. A graphic below shows the difference between the types of olive oil you may be aware of.
So does it matter if its not Extra Virgin? Not really, its still safe to consume however it won't contain any of the health benefits of EVOO, will smoke at a much lower temperature when cooking with it, and will taste pretty ordinary.
So what is the difference between "robust" and "mild" EVOO?
Robust EVOO will catch the back of your throat and will most likely make you cough. It is high in polyphenols (which are very good for you) and is a reflection of the variety of olive used to make the oil. An early harvest, cool climate and reduced irrigation/rainfall will also increase the polypehnol level. A high polyphenol level will also keep the oil fresh for longer. Over a 12 month period though the polypehnol level will decrease by 20-50% and the oil will turn into a "medium" or "mild" oil.
When I taste olive oil what should I be looking for?
First of all, ask for a cup and have a drink. Whilst everyone loves dipping bread into olive oil at the markets you can't really taste it until you drink it. The olive oil should taste fruity and fresh. It should be bitter and pungent (tickle the throat or make you cough). The rest will depend on the type of the oil (variety, production methods, level of irrigation, climate, etc). If the oil contains a defect it may smell like mouldy hay, parmesan cheese, nail polish remover, vinegar or stale nuts. If it smells like the back of a fish and chips shop then it probably has gone rancid and you shouldn't consume it.
Olive Oil Uses
There are many uses for olive oil that extend from the kitchen. Here are 10 ways you can use olive oil, including some you probably haven't heard of before:
1. Salad dressings
2. Dipping fresh crusty bread
3. Pan-frying and deep-frying
4. As a baking ingredient in cakes and biscuits (replace butter with EVOO)
5. Drizzling on grilled fish, vegetables and meat
6. Home-made ice cream
7. Massage oil
8. Furniture restoration
9. To clear up acne or as a general skin conditioner
10. To help clear wax from a blocked ear
Storage of olive oil
Light, oxygen and heat will all make olive oil deteriorate faster than usual. It is important that olive oil is kept away from all three where possible. Once a glass bottle or tin has been opened the olive oil will oxidise within about 4 weeks and may start to turn rancid. The best packaging are the bag-in-box packaging where the oil is completely protected from light and is delivered through a one-way tap so oxygen doesn't come into contact with the oil. You essentially never open the packaging so can keep using for well beyond 4 weeks.
Don't consume an olive oil once it is more than 2 years after harvest (always look for Harvest Date - in Australia harvest takes place in May-July).
Myths and Facts
Myth - you can't fry with olive oil because it has a low smoke point.
Fact - Most "Extra Virgin Olive Oils" you buy from the supermarket (particularly those from overseas) will smoke at about 150 degrees Celsius. This is because they have been sitting around in storage for a long time and therefore have a high level of Free Fatty Acids. Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, with its low Free Fatty Acids will smoke at about 200 degrees Celsius and therefore is a good option for frying.
Myth - Heating olive oil produces trans-fats.
Fact - Whilst technically this is correct, it occurs at such minuscule levels it is not worth worrying about. In fact you would need to drink 200L of heated olive oil to consume the same level of trans-fats as a small french fries.
There are many health benefits to consuming Extra Virgin Olive Oil (over other forms of olive oil). There are also many claims as to its health benefits which are far from proven. I find statements such as "may help with…" very irritating and misleading. I will attempt to uncover some of the truths in regards to its health benefits in a future post.
I hope this clears up some of the facts on Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I'll be providing tasting sessions at the upcoming Currency Creek Easter Market on 19th of April and in the Goolwa Shopping Centre on the 26th of April and I would love to answer any of your questions at either of these events. I am also always happy to receive questions via email.