Daily Archives: July 20, 2013

  • Learning how to taste olive oil

    If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then how many words is a taste worth? In order to appreciate the range of flavors in olive oils, one must go beyond reading about oil and be willing to experience the act of tasting it.

    Flavors in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors including the type of olive (varietal), ripeness at harvest, growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), handling of fruit from tree to mill, and the milling process itself. For example, oil made from predominantly unripe (green) olives contain flavors described as grassy, artichoke, or tomato leaf, whereas riper olives tend to yield softer flavors often described as buttery, floral, or tropical.

    The above descriptions are associated with good olive oil quality, but trained tasters also learn to identify negative characteristics. Flavor defects in olive oil are associated with problems with the olive fruit (olive fly, frozen conditions), improper handling of olives during harvest (dirt, wet fruit, prolonged storage prior to milling), certain milling conditions (unsanitary equipment, excessive heat), and improper or prolonged storage after milling (oxidation). An oil that is determined to have flavor defects is not of genuine extra virgin quality; according to the International Olive Council extra virgin oils must meet both chemical and organoleptic (flavor) standards that include the absence of flavor defects.

    The first step in learning how to taste olive oil is to understand how our senses work. Perception of flavor relies on both our senses of taste and smell. The ability to taste is quite limited; receptors on our tongue can only discern sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami (the flavor of protein). All other information that we think of as flavor is actually perceived by smelling food through the back of our nostrils (retro-nasally) while it is in our mouths. To illustrate this fact, think about how little flavor we perceive when we have a cold – this is because one cannot smell food retro-nasally when one’s nose is stuffed up.

    TASTING
    When tasting olive oil, much of the oil’s characteristics are perceived through the sense of smell. Though most people enjoy olive oil with other foods, the following steps allow us to focus on the olive oil’s flavor without distraction:

    – Pour a small amount of oil (about 1 tablespoon) into a small tapered (wine) glass.
    – Hold the glass in one hand and use your other hand to cover the glass while swirling the oil to release its aroma.
    – Uncover the glass and inhale deeply from the top of the glass. Think about whether the aroma is mild or strong. You may want to write down descriptions of the aromas that you detect at this point.
    – Next you slurp the oil; this is done by sipping a small amount of oil into your mouth while “sipping” some air as well. (When done correctly, you will make that impolite noise that would cause you to be scolded when you were a child!) Slurping emulsifies the oil with air that helps to spread it throughout your mouth – giving you the chance to savor every nuance of flavor with just a small sip of oil.
    – Finish by swallowing the oil and noticing if it leaves a stinging sensation in your throat.

    Each of the above actions focuses our attention on a specific positive attribute in the oil. First we evaluate the olive fruit aroma (fruitiness) by inhaling from the glass. When the oil is in our mouths we further evaluate the aroma retro-nasally as well as determine amount of bitterness on our tongues. Lastly we determine the intensity of the oil’s pungency in our throats as we swallow it.

    Perhaps you noticed that the oil’s color is not addressed during sensory assessment. The reason is that contrary to the common belief that golden oil is mild and dark green oil is robust, color is NOT an indicator of either the oil’s flavor or quality. In fact, in scientific assessments, we sample from specially designed blue glasses that obscure the color of the oil. Tasting from a dark glass prevents us from having preconceptions about the flavor of the oil before we actually smell or taste it.

    TRY THIS EXERCISE
    Once you are comfortable with the above tasting method, try the following exercise. Select three oils labeled as extra virgin, including an inexpensive imported brand from the supermarket. In between samples, clean your palate by eating a small piece of tart, green apple (preferably Granny Smith) and then rinsing your mouth with water. Consider the following as you evaluate each sample:

    Is the aroma pleasant or unpleasant?
    Is the aroma mild, strong, or somewhere in the middle (we’ll call that medium)? When assessing the second and third oils, note if the aroma’s intensity is weaker or stronger than the previous sample.

    Note 3 words (or phrases) that describe the aroma.
    Is the oil bitter, which is primarily sensed towards the back of the tongue? Would you describe the bitterness as mild, medium or strong? Is the intensity of the bitterness in balance with the intensity of the aroma?

    When you swallow the oil, how does it feel in your throat? Did the oil leave a mild impression, or did it sting your throat or make you cough? Is the intensity of the oil’s pungency in balance with the oil’s aroma and bitterness?

    When you have completed the above exercise, take a few moments to review your notes. What were the characteristics that you enjoyed the most? Were there any characteristics that you didn’t enjoy? How did the supermarket brand compare to the other oils? Even without an experienced taster sharing their thoughts about the oils with you, there is much you can learn by tasting olive oils on your own.

    Using this same tasting method, you can sample another set of oils on another day, and still be able to compare your responses to the first set; this is how we build our personal olive oil “vocabulary”. You will begin to recognize flavors and may even discover which varietals produce the flavors you prefer. You will learn to compare the level of intensity for fruity aroma, bitterness and pungency, and will begin to identify oils as mild, medium and robust (intense). It’s a good idea to organize your tasting notes in a binder so you can review your past tasting experiences with new ones.

    Worldwide over 1,000 varieties of olives are grown, which should give consumers a wide range of flavor possibilities. Taste is personal, so not everyone will agree on which varietals, and other factors, produce the best oil. However, tasting oils in a methodical fashion will help to educate your palate, and you will be able to select oils with flavor characteristics that you enjoy and enhance your meals.

    SOURCES
    Nancy Ash, Strictly Olive Oil
    olivadivita

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    If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then how many words is a taste worth? In order to appreciate the range of flavors in olive oils, one must go beyond reading about oil and be willing to experience the act of tasting it. Flavors in olive oil are determined by a wide range of... 
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  • In the kitchen with Olive Oil

    Usages of Olive Oil

    Dipping
    As done often in restaurants, Olive Oil is served in a small dish and bread is dipped to add flavor and moisture to every bite taken. This can be done in the place of butter Just make sure to catch those drips!

    Dressing
    Olive oil is best consumed in its raw state. Make salad dressings, drizzle it over fish, steamed or boiled veggies and pasta. One of the simplest most delicious combinations is to mix lemon juice and olive oil together.

    Marinating
    A marinade is a seasoned liquid mixture that both adds flavor to and tenderizes meat. Marinades are a fast, easy way to create delicious meat dishes — especially with less expensive cuts of meat. A marinade must contain an ingredient to break down the meat fibers and let the flavors penetrate. This can be an acidic substance (vinegar, wine, spirits, lemon juice, etc.) or a natural tenderizing enzyme such as those found in fresh papaya, ginger, pineapple and figs. A small amount of oil is added to the marinade mixture to help ingredients adhere better to the meat and to aid in browning during cooking. Of course marinades can also be used to flavor fish and vegetables. Lesser involved marinades are made simply, with few ingredients and are applied with a cooking brush to meat, fish or vegetable just before they are barbecued.

    Cooking
    How to Heat Olive Oil
    Whether you are sautéing, stir-frying, pan-frying, or deep-frying, use Olive Oil and this advice to make your high-heat cooking great:

    Add Olive Oil to your pan and let it heat up to just below the smoke point before adding your food. This should take about 30 seconds, depending on the heat of the burner and quality of the pan. When you place food in the pan, it should sizzle; if not, the pan and oil are not hot enough.
    Always pat food dry before putting it into hot oil; otherwise, it will sputter and a layer of steam will form between the food and the oil, making it difficult to get a good, seared, crispy exterior.
    When grilling or broiling, brush meats or vegetables with Olive Oil to enhance flavor, seal in juices, and make the outer surface crispy.
    Use the lower-quality Olive-Oil-grade stuff for pan-frying, stir-frying, and deep-frying. Although it doesn’t have much flavor, it does hold its heat well.

    The smoke point of oil is the temperature at which it smokes when heated. Any oil is ruined at its smoke point and is no longer good for you. If you heat oil to its smoke point, carefully discard it and start over. Olive Oil has a higher smoke point than most other oils (about 400° Fahrenheit, or 200° C).

    In these cholesterol conscious times it can replace butter on vegetables, butter for shallow frying, and lard for basting.

    Clean out the oil by pouring it through a sieve and re-use. If it was originally used to cook meat then re-use it for meat and when frying veggies you can re-use with either meat or veggies.

    Preserving
    In countries where Olive Oil is a staple it is also used for preserving things. Once covered in oil and safe from the air just about anything can be preserved: sardines, salt-cured sausages, cheese, herbs, mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini – these last two are normally sliced, julienne style, and pickled first.

    Olive Oil also has the property of absorbing flavors, and this makes it ideal for preserving herbs. If you’ve ever grown and dried basil for later use you’ll certainly have been disappointed with the loss of flavor. A good way around this is to put fresh basil – or any other herb – into a jar and cover it with olive oil. Make sure no air bubbles get trapped between the leaves because mould will form. The basil retains more of its flavor, and as a bonus, when it’s all used up, you’ve got basil flavored oil as a treat.

    Recipes

    Simplest Dressing in the World

    Ingredients:
    1/8 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Juice of half a lemon
    Salt, Pepper, and if you wish a dry herb like oregano

    Pour ingredients into a small jar, seal, shake and tasteIf you have more than you wish to use keep in jar and refrigerate. (*remember to thaw out the jar before using it again- takes about 15 minutes)

    Mama’s Tasty Salad Dressing

    Ingredients:
    1/8 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
    ½ tablespoon red vinegar
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    1 clove garlic mashed or cut finely- however you prefer it
    Salt, Pepper, and if you wish a dry herb like thyme

    Marinades

    Although there are lots of complex marinade recipes available, you really only need 3 things to make a great marinade: a good olive oil, a good vinegar or spirit and a good blend of seasonings.

    1/4 cup of oil, 1/4 cup of vinegar or spirit and 1 tbsp of seasoning will give you enough marinade for about a pound of meat. Don’t be fooled by the small amount. Put it in a heavy resealable plastic bag to make it easy to distribute the marinade over the meat.

    You can marinate for as little as 20 minutes. Seafood should generally not be marinated more than an hour. Other meats can be marinated as much as 2 days in the refrigerator. An easy way to marinate is to put meats directly from the freezer into the marinade and refrigerate overnight.

    REMEMBER! Feel free to divert and play around with the ingredients and proportions to suit your taste

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    Rating: 3.9/10 (10 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
    Usages of Olive Oil Dipping As done often in restaurants, Olive Oil is served in a small dish and bread is dipped to add flavor and moisture to every bite taken. This can be done in the place of butter Just make sure to catch those drips! Dressing Olive oil is best consumed... 
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  • AWARDS TERRAOLIVO 2013 / PREMIOS TERRAOLIVO

    With great success of samples (489) and countries (21) finished in Jerusalem, the International Competition Extra Virgin Olive Oil “Terraolivo” 2013 (Mediterranean International Olive Oil Competition). TERRAOLIVO was held in Jerusalem Crowne Plaza.

    With the presence of renowned judges of Israel, Italy, Argentina, Spain, Greece and the Palestinian Authority, 306 prizes were awarded to the samples submitted, which have been the EVOO that exceeded the minimum mark required to be considered AOVE without negative descriptors. We used a tasting sheet with descriptors, which to date, other contests being implemented.

    This year, the main novelty is that the winners will print their diplomas directly from the Web page, while the stickers of the awards may be requested Mr. Moises Spak director.

    Winners by Awards categorires:

    TERRAOLIVO SPECIAL AWARDS / PREMIOS ESPECIALES 2013

    TERRAOLIVO GRAN PRESTIGE GOLD / GRAN PRESTIGIO ORO 2013

    TERRAOLIVO PRESTIGE GOLD / PRESTIGIO ORO 2013

    TERRAOLIVO GOLD / ORO 2013

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 4.5/10 (11 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)
    With great success of samples (489) and countries (21) finished in Jerusalem, the International Competition Extra Virgin Olive Oil “Terraolivo” 2013 (Mediterranean International Olive Oil Competition). TERRAOLIVO was held in Jerusalem Crowne Plaza. With the presence... 
    Read More →