Not only does olive oil taste delicious, but it is good for you, too.
A basket of crusty bread was passed around, so we could dip into each bowl and compare the flavors.
Each selection was labeled according to region of origin, as well as grade.
Like selecting wine, taste is a matter of preference. Grades are based on the methods used to harvest and press the olives, acidity, and flavor.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are the finest on the market. The highest quality olives are harvested by hand and cold pressed, which means they are processed at a low temperature. Many people believe that this makes the oil taste better and contain less toxins.
With an acidity of less than one percent, the virgin oils are best used in dressings, dips, or other uncooked dishes, so that you may experience and enjoys the robust aroma and flavor. Use in leafy salads where the oil can assist in drawing out all of the healthy compounds.
Premium extra virgin and other extra virgin varieties have the best taste, while virgin can be used for cooking, yet it tastes good enough to enjoy uncooked.
Oils that are further processed after the first pressing are no longer considered virgin. They are sent to be refined via the introduction of chemicals, heat, and filtration techniques.
These lower quality varieties are referred to as semi-fine, refined, and pure. Each grade has its place in the kitchen. Lower grades are often used strictly for cooking purposes.
Olives are grown throughout the Mediterranean region and other areas of the world. Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and California are top producers.
The flavor and color of oil will vary according to a region’s climate and soil. Olives from different regions can be blended together to produce different varieties, which is economical, yet still high quality. Other producers will use olives from one region alone, producing unique flavors.
- Spanish – yellow, fruity
- Italian – dark green, herbal
- Greek – green, robust
- French – pale yellow, mild
- Californian – light yellow, fruity
Drizzled over vegetables, splashed atop spaghetti, infused with herbs, or stirred into soup, olive oil is an essential ingredient to have on hand.
About Jennifer Swartvagher
Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.