Olive oil, mediterranean taste
Olive oil history
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the processing of European Olea‘s fruits, the olives. This plant spread spontaneously in southern Europe’s countries and adapted to the Mediterranean climate. For this reason, the best quality olive oil is obtained from olive trees of Spain, Greece and Italy.
High quality oil was produced in Italy as early as the seventh century BC, in the southern territories that were Greek colonies at that time. Thanks to this centuries-old experience on cultivating and processing olives, today’s Italian production is the best in the world, with an average annual production production of 600,000 tons of oil.
The regions that produce the largest amount of italian oil are Puglia (the geographical area with the highest production in the world), Calabria, Sicily, Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany and some areas of northern Italy, such as Liguria where it is used as main ingredient ofthe famous pesto alla genovese.
Olive oil types
Virgin olive oils
The most important olive oil production is obtained through mechanical extraction (squeezing or centrifugating), which allows to obtain valuable oils: an oil is defined virgin only if obtained with these methods, that allows to maintain the nutrients of the olives, resulting in a more marked and appreciable taste.
Moreover, if the extraction takes place only with cold mechanical methods, which means at temperatures below 28 degrees, the oil will gain the classification of extra virgin, but only if it’s acidity does not exceed 0.8%.
These oils’s prices vary from 3€ per liter (virgin oil) to 6€ per liter (extra virgin olive oil). The virgin oils are perfect for cooking use, while extra virgin ones are particularly suitable for raw consumption (for example on bread or salads).
Finally, we talk about organic oil when the production is obtained with at least 95%of olives obtained from organic farming, or an agriculture that complies with strict regulations and prohibits the use of GMO. We recognize them from the label, which can contain the words BIO or organic, the logo of organic products and the codes of the control body. These oils are always extra virgin olive oils and their prices are hardly less than 10€ per liter, but they are the best for raw cooking usage.
Other olive oils
It is also possible to obtain edible oils with physical and chemical methods: in this case the olive oil produced can not be classified and marketed as virgin but will become part of the category of refined oils. Most of the olive oils released on the market are obtained from the mixture of refined oils with virgin oils.
Obviously, those oil’s quality is lower than the virgin ones, their prices are lower than 2€ per liter, and for this reason they are widely used in catering activities.
Olive oil properties
Olive oil is a liquid fat characterized by a high presence of unsaturated fatty acids: these are fats particularly present in vegetables, and defined as “good” because they are useful and healthy for our body. Moreover, those type of fats gives the oil a liquid aspect, in contrast to butter, which has a solid consistency, as it is rich of saturated fatty acids.
In the case of extra virgin olive oil, the amount of unsaturated fatty acids is even higher, with 75% of oleic acid present: this fatty acid helps to prevent hearts attacks risk by binding to the blood cholesterol and promoting its elimination. In this type of oil there are also large amounts of polyphenols, a group of natural antioxidant compounds that fight the “free radicals”, substances that cause cancer and other serious diseases.
As anticipated, olive oil is perfect for raw consumption or cooking at low temperatures, but we advise against frying with it: this because it has a very strong taste and changes the flavor of your fry.
Googling, you will notice that olive oil is highly recommended for frying, as it never burns thanks to its 210° smoke point (the oil that burns becomes toxic). By the way, we recommend to fry with peanut oil, which has a similar point of smoke (180°) but a neutral flavor.