Extra virgin olive oil is made by crushing olives and extracting the juice. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining. It’s ultimately the juice of fresh, healthy olives.
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification in the market. It should have no defects and a flavor of fresh olives. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil.
It’s not that easy to create extra virgin olive oil. A producer must use fresh olives in exceptional condition and monitor every step of the process with great care. Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t stay that way. Even in perfect storage conditions, the oil will degrade over time, so it’s essential to enjoy it within its two-year shelf life.
Expect to taste enjoyable fruit flavors reminiscent of fresh ripe or green olives.
Ripe fruit yields oils that are milder, aromatic, buttery, and floral, while green fruit yields oils that are grassy, herbaceous, bitter, and pungent. Fruitiness also varies with the type of olive.
For the most part, fresh olive oil will have a mostly pleasant acrid flavor sensation on the tongue. A peppery sensation in the mouth and throat is a sign of a surplus if nutrients in good, fresh extra virgin olive oil.
Virgin means the oil was made by pressing olives. It didn’t undergo any of the industrial processes used to make ‘refined’ oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean and the lower grades of olive oil labeled ‘Pure,’ ‘Light,’ and simply ‘Olive Oil.’
Virgin olive oils that have modest taste defects and meets somewhat less strict chemical parameters are labeled ‘Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is usually really hard to come by.
Olive oils that are industrially refined to remove unpleasant tastes are marketed as ‘Pure,’ ‘Light’ and simply, ‘Olive Oil.’ These refined oils are produced on a large scale like seed oils, those such as canola, peanut, soybean and sunflower oils, however refined olive oil is still a monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and is a healthier choice than the other refined cooking oils.
Just like multiple grape varieties used for wines, there are more than 1,000 olive varieties, each with its own unique taste characteristics. Chefs are only beginning to explore the almost limitless possibilities by pairing mono-varietal extra virgin oils to enhance their culinary creations.
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