Twenty years ago a professional cook suggested I use First Cold-Pressed, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. As a young homemaker I dutifully followed her recommendation. It is only now that I am unwrapping what all the verbage means.
Who knew this could be a thing. In the process of my research I discovered that criminal elements influence up to 80% of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil coming from Italy. It is either diluted with an alternate oil or a lower quality of olive oil. The recent 60 Minutes Overtime Exposé gives all the details about the integrity of olive oil coming from Italy.
Apparently this is not news. As Tom Mueller writes in his book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, scams and fraud has overshadowed this industry for centuries.
Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The taste and aroma of Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes it the highest quality oil. No chemical process or heat is used in the extraction of the oil. “Pure” or “light” olive oil along with “pomace olive oil” are to be avoided. Compared to other types of cooking oils and fat, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a “good fat”: high in monounsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and has the antioxidant Vitamin E. It is the better choice!
First and Cold
I have been told the words Cold Press and First Press should be on the bottle. These two terms are associated with the process of extracting extra virgin olive oil but are outdated.
First Press is in reference to the traditional vertical press which have been replaced with centrifugal presses and so there is only a first press –no second.
Cold press (without heat) is in reference to the first pressing of the vertical press which is no longer used. In reference to modern extraction cold press means the oil paste is only warmed not heated to extract oil. Heat alters taste and quality.
Freshness is Key
Olives are a fruit stone. Oil is the juice. Like all other juice, fresh is best. Shelf life and storage are important considerations. The bottle should be dark or tinted glass to protect from light. It should always be stored in dark and cool place and well sealed.
Oil is best within 24 months of harvest. There are typically two types of dates on a bottle.
Date of harvest: Oil should be used within 2 years of that date.
Best by date: If the date is 12 to 24 months away then it will be the fresher choice.
Do note, once a bottle is open it should be used within 8 to 10 weeks to maintain the best of its flavor and benefits.
The Best of the Best
Ultra premium graded oils have comprehensive requirements that include Production, Storage, Transportation, Testing, Chemistry and Organoleptic (panel of skilled tasters- testing bitterness, pungency, and fruity qualities.) Freshness is so important that it cannot be more than 14 months old from Harvest/Crush date. These oils are typically found at olive oil tasting bars. It is worth spending an afternoon tasting and learning. Find your local tasting bar with the Ultra Premium certification.
Just Tell Me What to Buy
If purchasing Extra Virgin Olive Oil from your local grocery store there are some great choices that include Costco’s Kirkland Toscano, Lucini and California Olive Ranch. Here is a complete list of good choices for brands you can purchase at the supermarket.
Where to Drizzle
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only oil in my pantry. It’s what I sauté with, marinade in and use to drizzle on. Read more about cooking with olive oil. I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in all my salad dressings. It pairs beautifully with balsamic flavoured vinegars.
My signature vinaigrette was inspired from a salad I ate in Quebec City during a Christmas holiday. Three simple ingredients are all you need for my Maple Vinaigrette. Drizzle it on mixed greens with berries and sugared nuts. Top with goat cheese. Bon Appetite!
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Sugared Pecans or Slivered Almonds
Place a thin even level of sugar in a non stick frying pan and place on Low to Medium heat. Place nuts in pan. Stir constantly so as to coat nuts with melting sugar. Watch closely as the sugar melts quickly. Be careful not to let it burn. Remove from stove when done and let cool before placing on salad.