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Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome - The Olive Press

We're very pleased to announce the addition of The Olive Press to our Saturday Farmers Market.  They are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about Olive Oil.  Here are a few frequently asked questions that I found extremely interesting!

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is the oil extracted from fresh olives using a mechanical process without the use of excessive heat or any form of additives or solvents. It also must pass chemical tests, including a maximum acidity, in terms of oleic free fatty acid, not more than 0.5 %. In addition, it must be judged defect-free with some olive fruitiness, determined through a blind sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel.

What is the difference between early and late harvest oils?

They are simply different styles of olive oil. As their name suggests, early harvest oils are made from olives picked earlier in the season. As they are made from greener olives, early harvest styles are usually more grassy/herbaceous in aroma and flavor and have higher levels of bitterness and pungency. Late harvest styles are usually milder oils and display riper fruit flavors. Due to their different taste properties the two styles of oil are used in different ways in the kitchen.

How many pounds of olives would be found on an average tree approximately?

This varies but approximately 50-200 pounds are produced from the average mature olive tree. How many gallons of olive oil could be made from an average mature tree? Approximately ½ to 4 gallons of oil per tree OR on average you can expect @ 30-35 gals. per ton of olives, depending on time of harvest / ripeness. There are so many extra virgin olive oils to choose from.

What do I look for?

First and foremost, consider purchasing an extra virgin olive oil that is useful for the culinary purposes you have in mind. Extra virgin olive oils can be intensely flavored and can also be strongly bitter and pungent. Many 'early harvest' styles fit in this category. Others can be very fruity with only hints of bitterness and pepper, while 'late harvest' styles are typically mild with very ripe fruity flavors. As a general rule, oils with a strong flavor suit strongly flavored dishes, and mild oils are used in dishes which are delicately flavored. Check The Olive Press list of EVOO’s, it provides descriptions that emphasize oil style, so it should be of help when making your purchase decision.

Where is the best place to store extra virgin olive oil?

A general principle applies here. Both light and heat are the enemies of olive oil. As such, olive oils should be stored in a cool dark place. Conversely, the worst place to store olive oil is next to the oven where they may become heated, or even worse on a window sill. Olive oils will rapidly become rancid if stored in a warm, well lit environment. Exposure to light also hastens the loss of the health giving vitamin E like compound tocopherol.

How long can I expect my extra virgin olive oil to last?

Extra virgin olive oils are best consumed young as it is at this time when their fresh olive like aromas and flavors, and the health giving polyphenols are at their peak. Unlike wine, olive oils do not get better with age, so the closer to their release date that you purchase and use them, the better. However, the higher levels of natural antioxidants and the higher proportion of monounsaturated fats generally found in extra virgin olive oil mean that they generally remain fresher longer than other edible oils. Mild styles of oil contain lower levels of polyphenols so they tend to have shorter shelf lives. However as a guide, provided they are stored properly, the majority of current season extra virgin olive oils will retain good flavor, aroma and freshness for at least 12 months.

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