Olive for Olive Oil

Olive oil, the flavorful oil used for cooking and salads throughout the world, is made by pressing tree-ripened olives. There are a wide variety of domestic and imported olive oils available to today’s consumer. All olive oils are graded according to their degree of acidity. The best are cold-pressed, a chemical-free process that involves only pressure and creates a naturally low level of acidity.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a cold-pressed oil, is only 1% acid and is considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils. “Extra Virgin” is the highest quality because it is produced with the first press of the fruit, has less than 1% acidity, and is judged to have ‘no defects’. Produced in limited quantities, Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually sells at a 15-30% premium to lesser grades depending pm the country of origin and quality.

Products simply labeled Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil are a blend of refined oil (oil chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes) and virgin olive oils. It is lighter in color and does not have the naturally fruity flavor of extra virgin olive oil. Pure oil is excellent for general cooking, especially sautéing, because the refining process raises the smoking point to about 438 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pomace Oil is oil extracted from the pomace using chemical solvents and by heat. Pomace oil does not have an olive flavor and is usually very pale in color. Pomace oil is a popular selection when used for cooking or basting. It still has the health benefits of olive oil, but does not possess the flavor of natural cold-pressed extra virgin oil. Pomace oil has a smoke point of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than either Extra Virgin or Pure Olive Oil because of its refined nature.

When tasting olive oil, look for the following characteristics:
Bitterness: typical for olive oil obtained from green olives
Fruitiness: the degree of fruitiness depends on the cultivar of the olives. The oil should have a pleasant taste of the olive fruit which testifies to the health and freshness of the olives.
Spiciness: although the degrees will vary depending on the olive cultivar, high quality olive oils should have diverse spicy tones.

Some olive oils compliment fresh salads and grilled fish, others make a perfect pairing with pastas, hearty soups and meats. Like wines, olive oils with different levels of intensity should be matched with specific types of dishes.

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