An oil is an oil is an oil, right? Wrong. There are different grades of oil and it pays to know the difference because they can be used for various things. Here’s a quick layman’s rundown,
About Olive Oil
Olive oil is essentially the pure ‘juice’ from the fruit of the olive.
Each country grows its own predominant olive varieties, which are best suited to the particular climate and typography of the area. Consequently, each country produces an olive oil that has aromas and flavours unique to their region.
Olive Oil Classifications
The International Olive Oil Council has classified Virgin olive oil by its acidity in the general categories set out below. To be classified as Virgin olive oil, it must also be extracted from sound olive fruit by simple mechanical processes of milling, pressing and centrifuging and must meet some basic tests to ascertain that there has been no alteration in the nature of the oil.
A number of different classifications exist, but before one can understand them, we have to understand the differences between virgin oils and refined oils.
Internationally, the word "virgin" when applied to olive oil means that the oil has been extracted mechanically using either a press or (or more commonly) a centrifuge, without using excessive heat, and without the use of any chemical agent or means.
As the name suggests are olive oils of inferior quality that have been subjected to chemical processes.
Refined oils are pale in colour and have little or no olive like taste or odour.
On the Australian market today, you will see, the following types of oils.
Extra light oils are refined oils. As they are refined, they are much "lighter'' in aroma and flavour, not calories, than extra virgin oils. In fact all olive oils whatever they are called have a very similar kilojoule content.
Pure Olive Oil or Olive Oil:
These are the same thing. The word pure is simply a marketing term. Pure olive oil is a blend of refined oil and some virgin olive oil, the latter being used to add some character to the almost flavourless refined oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
As they are of the virgin class, Extra Virgin oils must simply be the mechanically extracted juice of the olive. Extra Virgin oils should all display true olive character on the aroma and taste and be free of any non-olive flavours. Chemically they have a free fatty acidity of less than 1%, which indicates that they have been made from sound olives, processed expeditiously, and made using minimum heat. As such they are premium grade oils.
Extra virgin oils, and particuarly cold-pressed oils are the healthiest choice as the non-chemical extraction process employed in their production, retains the natural antioxidants called polyphenols and vitamin E. These substances have been implicated in reducing coronary disease. All olive oils contain high levels of monounsaturated fats. These as well as being 'healthy' fats, are also resistant to oxidation, so they last longer in storage, and can be reheated more often than many other oils such as canola.
Late / Early Harvest
To make olive oil, the olive fruit are either hand picked or mechanically harvested. The degree of olive fruit ripeness at picking determines to a large extent the character or style of the olive oil that is produced.
Oils made from greener early harvest olives typically display stronger grassy and bitter flavour characteristics. On the other hand, olive fruit harvested later in the season will generally produce higher volumes of softer sweeter oil with less bitterness.
Many olives are harvested at an intermediate level of ripeness. Many producers think that by doing so, the resulting oil will display complex aromas and flavours in the spectrum of green apple and green banana, and will have balanced levels of bitterness and pungency.
‘Country of Origin’
For a truly Australian product, read the package carefully, to ensure you buy 100% Australian oil, owned and grown.
‘Best Before Date’
Olive oil is the fresh juice of the olive. Not surprisingly then that it does not improve with age. Whilst it is best used as soon as possible after production, the high level of monounsaturates found in olive oil means that it can be very palatable and usable one to one and a half years after production.
The Health Benefits
The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil have long been researched and include:
- Rich source of monounsaturated fats, which may reduce risks of heart and cardiovascular disease
- Olive oil contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants that are not found in other oils. They may lower blood pressure
- It is beneficial during pregnancy and whilst breast feeding
- It helps to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes
- An olive oil-rich diet may lead to greater and longer lasting weight loss than a low-fat diet
- It is beneficial for the stomach, pancreas and intestines
- It helps with anti-ageing, osteoporosis and skin damage
- It may help bolster the immune system
- Olive oil ontains a protective element which may assist against certain malignant tumours in the breast and prostate
Cobram Estate Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is pure and fresh, not to mention cholesterol and preservative free. For more information visit www.cobramestate.com.au