The olive oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the recently harvested fruit of the olive tree (olea europaea) called olive. The olive is not usually eaten directly from the tree because of their extreme bitterness resulting from the presence of phenolic components. This taste, however, is reduced during the curing processes.
The oil is extracted from the olives aged around six to eight months, just when its oil content is high. The olives are crushed to extract their juice; the quality of the oil depends, greatly, upon the subsequent processing. This explains why the growers watch this stage very attentively. The quality of the oil is assessed according to its organoleptic properties and its free fatty acid contents.
The different qualities of the olive oil are determined, among many factors, by the different quality of the olives, the various collecting methods, their transportation and elaboration, to name a few.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL:
This is a top quality type of oil, directly obtained, by mechanical means, from the matured olives that yield an outstanding flavor and smell, free of any defects with an acidity level lower than 0,8º. The organoleptic grading, granted by a highly qualified panel of expert olive tasters, should be equal or higher 6.5 points. There are three subtypes:
- Monovarietal: obtained from a single type of olive.
- Coupage: produced from different varieties.
- Protected designation of origin (P.D.O.) name of a specific region or place used to designate the specific region or place where the olives are grown and elaborated.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL:As to its elaboration, this oil shares the same quality standards as the extra olive oil. The difference being that its acidity level should be lower than 2% and that the grade should be equal or higher than 5.5 points.
OLIVE OIL:Is a blend of refined olive oil obtained from refining the defected oils which have not met the quality standards mentioned above, and virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil (around 10% and 20%). As we can see, the designation has lost the term “virgin”, this is due to the fact that during the elaboration process of the refined oil, other chemical and thermic processes were used to impart some flavor, color and aroma into the blend. The acidity level should not be higher than 1.5º.
OLIVE POMACE OIL:This oil is obtained from the residues of the olive after all the oil and water has been extracted with organic solvents. The vegetable fat obtained is blended with a certain proportion of virgin olive oil, where the resulting oil acidity grade must not exceed 1.5º.
PROPERTIES AND BENEFITS OF THE OLIVE OIL
The olive oil shares some properties with all the vegetable oils; however there are some characteristics that are typical of the olive oil. One of the principal properties derives from its high content of oleic acid (reaching 75%). The properties depend, to a great extent, to the varietal of the olive used, the processing and storing methods applied to produce the oil. The oil acidity of the olive oil is determined by its free fatty acids (that is to say, those that do not conform a lipid compound) and is expressed by grams of oleic acid per 100 grams of oil. These grades do not correspond to the intensity of its flavor; however, they categorize the olive oils. Here are some advantages for olive oil consumption:
- It contains vitamin E: it has anti-oxidizing properties and prevent the oxidization of LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”), which can cause atheromatosis which prevents the correct blood flow through the artery system. Due to its richness in vitamin E and its anti-oxidizing effect on the cellular membrane, the olive oil is especially recommended for both children and the elderly.
- Polyphenoles are an important functional component of the olive oil for they have an anti-oxidizing effect that delays the aging process and prevents the formation of cancerous substances.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids contribute to the reduction of LDL cholesterol.
- It helps to reduce the blood glucose levels in diabetes, for it lowers the administration of insulin.
- The amount of extra virgin olive oil entrained in the food is little, since the chemical variations produced in the frying process are minimal and slow. It also forms a crust which seals and retains its nutrients thus making olive oil the best oil for frying.
- It helps to increase bone mass which results in a positive effect on the elderly.
- It prevents cholesterol build-up and helps to assimilate fats, for it favors liver synthesis of the bile salts.
- It neutralizes any gastric acid that passes from the stomach to the duodenum, thus minimizing the risk of gastric ulcers.
- The amount of fatty acids fully satisfies the nutritional requirements.
Extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive and lampante olive oil are classified according to their organoleptic properties, for this reason they should meet the minimum standards set by the experts who must, in turn, comply with the rules of conduct set forth by the Commission under regulation 640/2008. The color of the virgin olive oil may vary from gold to dark green, depending on the variety of the olive used; however, this does not imply good or bad quality. As to its taste, there is a wide array of attributes the tasters may consider positive or negative:
- Positive attributes: fruity (either green or ripe), bitter and pungent.
- Negative attributes: muddy sediment, moldy and musty, winey or vinegary, acid-sour, metallic, rancid, burnt or heated, hay-wood, rough, greasy, fusty, brine, esparto, earthy, grubby, cucumber, wet wood.
- Geranium Bourbon (pelargonium graveolens)