10 ESSENTIAL TIPS ABOUT OLIVE OIL Did you know...?

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Olive Oil, the hero ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet

• The acidity in olive oil does not affect the flavour; the acidity indicates the level of free fatty acids
• Infused/flavoured olive oils can easily be prepared at home
• Olive oil is an indispensable ingredient in the best bakeries and patisseries

Consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of healthy eating and for this reason, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most frequently recommended for those who wish to lead a healthy lifestyle. However, while olive oil is a product with a rich tradition, some of its most important qualities are not necessarily widely known about.

Below explained some of the key characteristics of olive oil which has become a fundamental ingredient for cooking and preparing food:

10 Essential Tips about Olive Oil:

1. How many different types of olive oil are available?
There are three principal types: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil and ordinary Olive Oil. The type is always indicated on the packaging. It is important to note that the quality of the oil in all these categories does not depend on the variety of olive from which it is made.

a. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The highest category of olive oil is obtained directly from the olives, using solely mechanical processes (washing, milling, centrifugation or pressing, decantation and/or filtering). This type of olive oil has an excellent aroma and flavour and under 0.8% acidity (current legal requirement).

b. Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil obtained directly from the olives, extracting the oil by mechanical processes (washing, milling, centrifugation or pressing, decantation and/or filtering). This type of olive oil has a pleasant aroma and flavour, and under 2% acidity (current legal requirement).

c. Olive Oil: Olive oil containing a mixture of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. This grade of olive oil contains only oils that have been refined (which affects the aroma, colour and acidity content) and oil obtained directly from olives using mechanical processes (washing, milling, centrifugation or pressing, decantation and/or filtering). This oil has an acidity content of below 1% acidity (legal requirement).

2. How much does the flavour of Olive Oil vary?
Like wine, Extra Virgin olive oils vary considerably. Their colour and flavour depends on the type of olives from which they are made and external factors such as climate, altitude and soil type.

3. How many types of olive can you find?
In Spain alone, more than 260 varieties of olive are grown. The most important varieties include: Picual, Hojiblanca, Abequina, Cornicabra, Empeltre, Blanqueta, Manzanilla, Manzanilla Cacereña, Verdial, Carrasqueña, Lechín and Gordal.

4. What is the acidity content of Olive Oil?
The acidity is one of the chemical parameters of Olive Oil which indicates the level of free fatty acids in the oil (expressed in % of oleic acid). The acidity is a chemical parameter. It does not necessarily determine the quality of the olives nor does it have an effect on the flavour. Low acidity indicates that a virgin olive oil has been made using healthy olives, produced under optimum conditions throughout its production.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – no more than 0.8 % acidity Virgin Olive Oil – no more than 2 % acidity
Olive Oil – no more than 1 % acidity

5. What is the best way to store Olive Oil?
Olive oil should be stored in a cool place, at 15-20oC, and out of direct sunlight. Each oil should be consumed within a few month of purchase, as when young it is at its most flavoursome and nutritional. Most olive oils are sold in glass bottles, tins or plastic bottles. These types of containers are used because they help to keep the oil in its best condition.

6. What is the best Olive Oil variety for salads, dips and dressings?
The most popular for salads, dips and dressings is Extra Virgin olive oil, owing to its wide variety of flavours. This oil is perfect for dipping bread, and as an accompaniment or dressing for hot or cold food where you want the flavour of the oil to come out in the food.

7. What are Infused Olive Oils?
These are olive oils flavoured with herbs or spices such as basil or truffles. They are perfect for drizzling over salads or hot plates. Infused oils can easily be prepared at home, using Extra Virgin olive oil as the base oil.

8. Which are the best Olive Oils for general cooking?
All types of olive oil can be used in cooking, and enhance the flavours of a wide variety of ingredients. Olive oil is ideal for frying, dressings, pastas, rice dishes, grilling meat or fish, etc.

9. Can Olive Oil be used to make desserts, cakes or breads?
Yes. The Mediterranean Diet uses olive oil for sweet and savoury dishes. Olive oil is an indispensable ingredient for making a variety of breads, and combines perfectly with sweet ingredients such as chocolate.

10. Where is Olive Oil produced?
Spain, Italy and Greece are the principal producers in Europe. Europe produces 75% of the world’s olive oil. Olive oil has become a highly valued product wordwide owing to its links with the healthy Mediterranean lifestyle and its many culinary benefits and uses.

Article source interprofesional de oliva

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