What exactly is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Italy, which produces nearly a third of the world’s olive oil, is distinguished by the superior class of its extra virgin, made in all regions of the centre and south and in a few places in the north.
The most flavourful and wholesome of edible oils is used raw in dressings or as a condiment for salads, vegetables, pastas, soups, seafood and meats. Chefs find Extra Virgin unmatchable in cooking because it can reach high temperatures before, despite the higher cost. The best oils show distinct character due to terrain and climate, the varieties of olives they come from and methods of harvesting.
Hand picking of under-ripe olives renders oil of deep green gold colour, fruity aroma and full flavour, a touch piquant and bitter.
By law, Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva must come from the first pressing of olives by mechanical (not chemical) means and must contain low percentages of oleic acids – please see the table below for the exact differences between the oils.
Oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions that do not lead to alteration in the oil, which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation or filtration, to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or using adjuvants having a chemical or biochemical action, or by re-esterification process and any mixture with oils of other kinds.
a) Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of 0,8 g per 100 g, the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
b) Virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of 2 g per 100 g, the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
c) Lampante olive oil
Virgin olive oil having a free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of more than 2 g per 100 g, and/or the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
What does “Cold Press” mean?
Logically first cold press extra virgin olive oil means that the olive oil has been produced without elevated temperatures. This method of stone grinding and pressing without adding chemicals nor allowing the temperature to rise excessively (by Italian law no more than 28 degrees Celsius for the cold press) is ancient and was used already by the Romans and the Greeks who hadn’t of course the means to treat their product any less naturally.
It still remains the most natural and less interfering with the composition of the oil, thus the oil keeps its monounsaturated fats and also keeps in tact other beneficial elements such as the antioxidants and vitamins.
This method that hereon will be referred to as “traditional” also guarantees the purest and tastiest product as no other element will interfere with the actual quality of the oil.
Steps of the process of obtaining the oil by hight quality:
Step 1: Olives are hand picked after about 120 days after the flowering of the trees. In Tuscany this usually means the beginning of November, depending a little on the year. A tree produces different quantities of olives every year all depending on pruning, weather, varietals, age, etc.
Step 2: The contents of the baskets of the olive groves will be put into a separator that will separate the greenery from the olives and the olives will get washed. Olives are gently and slowly mashed to a thick paste.
Step 3: The paste is worked around 30 minutes in big boat for prepared the fundamental step of extraction obtaining from the use of 3 big centrifuges.
Step 4: The “new” oil is obtained and will be kept in storage in stainless steel tanks at a constant temperature (12 degrees Celsius). During the first month the oil will settle and obtain a clear green golden color. In Tuscany olive varietals allow 10-15% olive oil per 100 kilos of olives using the cold extraction technique.
Step 5: The dry parts left over after the pressing and obtaining the olive oil are called “sansa” in Italian and contain 3 elements: more oil (but not of first quality), the pit parts and the skin parts. A lot of olive oil mills sell this part to a “sansificio” that separates the sansa in 3 products: “olio di sansa” is obtained by heating up the mass and adding chemicals, the pit/wooden parts are dried and can be burnt in burners to heat houses, and the skin part are sold to animal food factories.
Cold press extra virgin olive oil is highly recommended in its raw use, so to enhance the flavor of all plates as done in Italy: add a bit of olive oil before serving most anything. Use the oil for your bruschetta, fettunta, salads (together with good vinegar, salt and pepper),….