Extra Virgin Olive Oil? You can see the answer in our pictures above. It comes from caring for your trees from birth….harvesting with reverence and care……processing in a top flight facility……storing properly……honoring the earth. It’s always great to know the technical aspects but just as important is to know the heart and soul…so for all you visual learners…your answer is in the pictures of our 2010 harvest above.
But now….on with the class……..
Does everyone use an Extra Virgin Olive Oil?. Ah…. I can hear the resounding yeses falling from cyperspace.
So what is an Extra Virgin Olive Oil? What…where did you go…wait…I hear some murmurs…..”first pressed”….”cold pressed”….”the best”.
If these were your responses, you are not alone. I have yet to conduct a sensory evaluation class where anyone knows the true definition of an extra virgin olive oil. There are confusing terms on the market as well so I hope to clear it all up for you in our series on “Unraveling the Mysteries Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil”.
First, before we do anything, I need to get “cold press” off of my chest. The term actually stemmed from long ago when the norm was to press olive paste between mats to extract the oil. The second (hot) press would squeeze out more oil from the paste producing a low quality oil which was eventually refined or burned in lamps. Under European standards, the term “cold press” can ONLY be used if the oil was extracted using mats.
Most olive oil in America is produced using the centrifuge process….NOT mats. Therefore, the term, “cold press” doesn’t even apply. Also, to be categorized as an extra virgin olive oil, as noted below, the processing must take place under 86F. So, technically, all extra virgin olive oil is processed at lower temperatures making the term “cold press” redundant at best but really just simply irrelevant.
Two olive oils are sitting side by side on a store shelf. They both call themselves Extra Virgin Olive Oil. One puts in bright letters, “Cold Press” and the other does not. Which olive oil is higher in quality?
ANSWER ………who knows?!!!!! Get it?!
Now let’s get into the actual definition of an extra virgin olive oil.
- Olives are only pressed once
- Oleic Acid content is under 0.8%
- No defects are found in the olive oil
Paul Vossen, UC Davis Cooperative Extension, gives us a more detailed description of an extra virgin olive oil:
- Must be made from fresh olives — extracted from the fruit solely by mechanical means
- Fruit must be of high quality, processed soon after harvest, and with clean equipment
- Temperature during processing can not exceed 86ºF (30ºC)
- No solvents can be used in the process
- Must not be mixed with oils made from seeds, nuts, or pumace (milling leftovers)
- Must meet specific standards for over 20 laboratory tests
- Free fatty acid level can not exceed 0.8% and peroxide value must be
< 20 meq O2
- Contains naturally occurring antioxidants and polyphenols
- Must be able to pass a taste test by an International Olive Council (IOC) recognized panel indicating some fruitiness and zero defects
So this gives you the technical details on an extra virgin olive oil and in my next post, I will attempt to make the definition consumer friendly…so you can navigate the sea of extra virgin olive oil with a decent GPS.
If you have any questions or need clarifications, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments so everyone has a chance to benefit.