There’s more than one way for producers to get extra mileage out of their olive oil.
“Italy is the biggest exporter of olive oil but they’re also the biggest importer,” says Cushing. “(Some Italian producers) go to places – not just Greece – but other spots in North Africa where olives are and they don’t have control over the quality of it and they just bring it back to Italy and bottle it as if it’s there’s.”
Kimm Brickman-Pineau, who runs All of Oils – an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting room in Surrey and Langley, B.C. – says that while it’s bad practice, specialty shops and supermarket shelves are rife with olive oils touting their extra virgin status but closer related to lampante – the lowest grade of olive oil better suited for lamps and fuel.
“Our supplier found that something like 70 per cent failed to qualify as extra virgin olive oil, they were blended,” she says. “And this is the stuff you buy on your grocery store shelves.”
The problem with blending grapeseed or peanut oil with virgin olive oil is the lesser oils tend to go rancid faster, spoiling the rest of the olive oil.
Makes Cushing seem quite sane for bringing her own, right?
Out-foxing the frauds
So how do you avoid buying dicey olive oil? Train yourself through samplings, says Cushing.
“Some grocery stores – high end places like Pusateri’s or McEwan or wherever you want to go – will allow you to sample many different oils,” she says.
Good olive oil will have a rich mouth feel and not leave a greasy taste on your pallet.
“One of the things you should always get is a peppery burn in the back of your throat,” adds Brickman-Pineau. “That’s your polyphenols working, that’s the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant portion of your olive oil –when there’s no pepper, your oil is dead, it’s expired.”Really good olive oil smells like grass or fruit as it’s a fruit tree,