Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
The term “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is worded very specifically. It is a classification of olive oil. In order to be called Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the product needs to have been cold-pressed, one time. It needs to never have been heated or refined in any way, and it must not have any additives or have any other kinds of oils mixed in with it.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has a smoke point of 410F according to the most recent study conducted by the International Olive Oil Council. That is approximately med-high heat on your stovetop. EVOO does not break down and form carcinogens, even if its smoke point is exceeded.
A note on how to cook with olive oil, from The International Olive Council (2013): "Olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid. Its high smoking point (210ºC) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (180ºC). Those fats with lower critical points, such as corn and butter, break down at this temperature and form toxic products." Click here to read more.
When fresh, EVOO has a flavour profile specific to each species of olive tree that was harvested to form the oil. Its flavour can typically be described as grassy, fruity, or even floral, with a bitter characteristic, and then a peppery aftertaste. For more on EVOO tasting techniques, please scroll down.
When combined with other foods or ingredients, EVOO acts as an flavour-enhancer, richly provoking the natural flavours in food. It is a favourite among chefs due to its stability when cooking; many chefs choose to fry in it, and then add butter for flavour if desired, as the EVOO stabilizes the butter and increases its smoke point when cooking. From garden-fresh veggies, to bread and cheese, to pasta and sauce, meat and more, EVOO is a wonderful pantry item, pleasing to any palate.
Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Healthy?
Yes, it is! In fact, the healthful properties of this remarkable substance are substantial. It is a healthy source of fat, lowers bad while upping good cholesterol, rejuvenates and protects our skin, possesses pain-reducing anti-inflammatories, and much more. So it can be an excellent choice to add to our diet!
Ingredients, Nutritional Info and Special Diets
Our Extra Virgin Olive Oil is gluten-free, carb-free, and sodium-free. All our EVOOs and Infused Olive Oils are all-natural and completely free of dyes, artificial flavours, additives or preservatives. Our ingredients lists are so simple, they are included in the label. Lemon Olive Oil includes Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a pure lemon extract. Chipotle Olive Oil is chipotle peppers steeped in EVOO, and then sieved out. Any of our Infused Olive Oils flavoured with extracts mean they are using the natural oils extracted from the ingredient through expression or maceration, not through chemical processes.
Our only misleading label is our Butter Olive Oil, which actually has no butter in it. It is vegan-friendly and dairy-free, making it a perfect choice for those with lactose-free needs. It is made with a patented herb that actually makes the EVOO taste very much like melted, unsalted butter. We invite you to stop in and try it!
Regarding nut or soy allergies, while a very small amount of our oils and vinegars are made in the same manufacturing facility as tree nuts, sesame, and soy, they are made in a separate part of the building, using different production lines.
Olive Oil Categories
There are different classifications of olive oil you might see in the grocery store. Here is a brief explanation of the most common grocery store olive oils.
Refined Olive Oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams (0.3%) and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. This is obtained by refining virgin olive oils which have a high acidity level and/or organoleptic defects which are eliminated after refining. Over 50% of the oil produced in the Mediterranean area is of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product. Note that no solvents have been used to extract the oil but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. An obsolete equivalent is "pure olive oil"
Olive Oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 1.5% acidity, and lacks a strong flavor.
Pure Olive Oil or Olive Oil is usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil. Over 50% of the oil produced in the Mediterranean area is of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product. No solvents used used to extract the oil but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters
Virgin Olive Oil is produced by the use of physical means and no chemical treatment, has an acidity less than 2%, and is judged to have a good taste. Over 50% of the oil produced in the Mediterranean area is of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. Extra Virgin Olive Oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries.
Super Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a new category of Extra Virgin Olive Oils that have been tested by an independent food laboratory (the independent food laboratory our distributor uses is in Austria). They verify that the EVOOs have never been cut with any other oils or heated or refined in any way. Then they test for the exact health components that make up Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Each oil is also tasted by a professional olive oil taste tester—yes, there is such a job—who provides a passing grade based on criteria of bitterness, fruitiness, creaminess, and more. If any of our distributor's chosen EVOOs do not pass any one part of this testing process, they are rejected.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Chemistry Definitions
Oleic Acid - Oleic Acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Olive oil is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats. The range found in Extra Virgin Olive Oils is between 55-83%. Extra Virgin Olive Oil high in oleic acid has a greater resistance to oxidation. Our average is 77%.
FFA - Stands for Free Fatty Acids. Free fatty acid speaks to the condition of the fruit at the time of crush. The higher the FFA the greater the indication of poor quality fruit such as damaged, overripe, insect infested, overheating during production or too much of a delay between harvest and crush. Based on International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards, the maximum limit for free fatty acid in Extra Virgin Olive Oil is 0.8%. Our average is 0.18!
Peroxide Value - Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which create a series of chain reactions that generate volatile substances responsible for typical musty/rancid oil smell. These reactions are accelerated by high temperature, light and oxygen exposure. A very low peroxide value is desirable. Based on IOOC standards the maximum peroxide value for Extra Virgin Olive Oil is 20. Our average is 3.2!
Polyphenols - Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods. Recent studies indicate that these potent phenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Phenols in olive oil decrease over time or when exposed to heat, oxygen and light. Consuming fresh, well made Extra Virgin Olive Oil with high polyphenol content is crucial when looking to obtain the maximum heath benefits commonly associated consuming extra virgin olive oils. Polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and Hydrooxytyrosol also impart intensity connected with pepper, bitterness and other desirable flavour characteristics. Polyphenol counts are measured in Parts Per Million (PPM). Polyphenol counts of 230PPM or higher are considered EXTREMELY high in healthy antioxidants. Approximately 75% of our EVOOs are above 230, and we very often have EVOOs over 450. We have had one varietal over 700 which was exceptional! Our EVOOs that are below 230 are still considered Super Premium, and are brought in to appeal to those desiring an exceptionally mild taste.
Oleuropein - A type of polyphenol that has been linked to several pharmacological effects among them the strengthening of the immune system.
Oleocanthal - A type of polyphenol that has been found to be have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is suggested that long-term consumption of small quantities of oleocanthal from extra virgin olive oil may be responsible in part for the low incidence of heart disease associated with a Mediterranean diet. It has been demonstrated that oleocanthal shows potential as a therapeutic weapon for the treatment of inflammatory degenerative joint diseases.
Hydrooxytyrosol - A type of polyphenol that is believed to be one of the most powerful antioxidants. Its oxygen radical absorbance capacity is ten times higher than that of green tea. Hydrooxytyrosol is used for medical purposes, including its immunostimulant and antibiotic properties which stimulate the immune system and kill or slow down the growth of bacteria.
DAGs Test/Score - Measures the proportion of two forms of diacylglycerol: 1,2 and 1,3. In oil freshly made from sound olives of good quality, the prevalent form of DAG is the 1,2 form where the fatty acids are bonded to a glycerol molecule in the 1 and 2 positions. The bond on the 2 position is weak and easily broken, leading to the migration of that 2 position fatty acid to the 3 position. This results in the much more stable 1,3 DAG. This makes the ration of 1,2 DAGs to the total DAG’s a good indicator of the quality of the olive fruit and the processing. It is also an indicator of the age of an oil, since the migration from 1,2 to 1,3 DAGs takes place naturally as the oil ages. Warmer storage temperatures, and higher free fatty acid levels will both accelerate this process, but DAGs are not affected by the short exposure to high heat that is characteristic of deodorizing (refining).
PPP Test/Score - This test was developed to measure the degradation of chlorophyll in olive oil. This degradation of chlorophylls to pyropheophytin was found to take place at a predictable pace, making it possible to gain information about the age of an olive oil. The rate at which the degradation occurs can be accelerated by even short periods of high temperatures – such as that which is utilized during the deodorizing or soft column refining process – making it a useful indicator of the presence of deodorized olive oil as well as the age of the oil.
Tasting Techniques for Extra Virgin Olive Oil
EVOO does have flavour. If you are tasting one that doesn’t, it is either an extremely mild varietal, or it is old and no longer carries forth its flavour or its health benefits (they evaporate over time).
Similar to the culture surrounding wine tasting, there is actually a technique that has been developed to taste olive oil to detect and enjoy its different notes and health benefits. Professional olive oil tasters sip olive oil straight, from a small glass vial similar to a shot glass. They cup the glass to heat the oil just slightly, thereby increasing its aroma and detectable flavour profile. This is important if you are sampling olive oils that may have only subtle differences.
The next step is to sniff the oil to contemplate its pungency and any different aromas it might carry. Then, when sipping the oil, it is beneficial to think about three different areas of taste:
Flavour. Is the EVOO grassy, or fruity, or maybe nutty? How much flavour does it have? Does it taste fresh? Does it taste pleasant?
Bitterness. A certain amount of bitterness should be present. Fresh olives themselves are distinctly bitter, so if your oil is not bitter, it’s actually not a good sign. Bitterness doesn’t have to be a negative quality, and certainly when you use EVOO with other ingredients or food, the bitterness is tempered. So bitterness level should be noted. Is it mildly bitter or distinctly bitter?
Aftertaste. The aftertaste is very interesting as it is typically described as peppery. A high degree of pepperiness or warmth in the back of the throat indicates the amount of polyphenols present in the oil. It is common to feel your throat warm up, and even give a little cough, if the EVOO is high in polyphenols.
Other tasting characteristics to note include mouthfeel, creaminess, sweetness, acidity, and more. Check out this article from the Olive Oil Times on tasting EVOO.
Our EVOOs range from mild to robust in these areas, which means there is very likely an EVOO out there that will be pleasing to your palate. Whether you desire something mild that will blend in with all your cooking and baking, or something robust for a prominent flavour in your salad dressings or marinades, a tasting room like ours is the best way to find an EVOO that is right for you. So come on down to enjoy a tasting experience at Prairie Oils today!