A Short Guide to Understanding Olive Oil

Source: A Short Guide to Understanding Olive Oil

I recently read Peggy Knickerbocker's mouthwatering book Olive Oil: From Tree to Table, and I was completely blown away by all of the things I learned about my very favorite ingredient. As it turns out, there is so much that goes into the processing of olive oil, and we should be rather selective in choosing our oils. Here are a few interesting facts:

  • Olive trees thrive in Mediterranean climates, and therefore in locations such as Spain, North Africa, Italy, Greece, and California.
  • The term "cold-pressed" olive oil signifies that no heat was applied during the pressing process.
  • Any olive oil not labeled "extra-virgin" is a combination of extra-virgin oils and refined virgin oils. This blend of oils is best for any cooking process that requires high heat and doesn't need the distinct flavor of olive oil.

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  • For any Mediterranean oil to qualify as "extra-virgin," it must be made from the mechanical extraction of olives, be cold-pressed, exhibit an acidity level of less than one percent, and possess a superior taste.
  • Oils from different regions tend to have different flavor profiles. For example, Tuscan oils are known for being bold and peppery, while oils from Provence are light and fruity.
  • Olive oil may be used in place of butter in most recipes; for each teaspoon of butter, substitute 3/4 teaspoon olive oil.
  • To store your olive oil, keep it in a cool, dry place that's shielded from large amounts of light. We recommend storing bulk oil in old red wine bottles, as the green glass filters out light.
What are your top-choice olive oils?

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