A staple of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is known for its unique health benefits and ability to raise the taste factor of even a simple dish of fresh tomatoes and basil. One spoonful of this precious green oil is filled with nutrients and anti-oxidants vital for overall well-being. Yet, not all olive oils are made alike. The organoleptic properties of an oil vary depending on the type of olive used and how the oil is extracted from it. Obviously, the quality of the olives themselves have a great impact on the color, aroma, taste and nutritional content of a particular brand of oil. However, the methods used for extracting the oil from the fruit are important as well. Quality extra virgin olive oil should be mechanically pressed from the fruit and not the result of other chemical or physical methods which can alter the basic properties of the oil itself.
When looking to choose a good bottle of oil there are a few indicators which can help in deciphering which olive oil is of better quality or which makes the best match for a particular dish. First of all, Italian olive oils can be labeled as a means of attesting to a particular degree of quality which the consumer can rely on. Denominazione di Origine is a label which certifies that the olives used to make the oil all come from a specific region and are of a certain quality. Two other worthy certifications to keep an eye open for are: DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) and IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) both of which serve as a guarantee that the product is a good quality extra virgin oil. Organic olive oils also make a good choice and come labeled as ‘Da Agricoltura Biologica’.
The degree of fruitiness can vary between one type of olive oil and another based on the type of olive used to produce it. Considering the vast variety of olives found around the world, there is plenty to explore and try while getting to know individual preferences for flavors, aromas and fragrances.
Buying different extra virgin olive oils and trying them at home can be one useful way for exploring the different types of oils on the market and their individual organoleptic properties, such as a fruity aroma. Olive oils can also present flavors that can be bitter or even slightly sharp, two indicators of a high quality oil. This is due to the fact that they are the result of the presence of components in the oil such as chlorophyl, vitamin E, phenols, carotenoids and phytosterols, all of which are beneficial to our bodies thanks to their anti-oxidant properties.
Extra virgin olive oil is excellent used as a condiment or while cooking, but it’s important to remember that certain types of olive oils pair with different types of dishes. A basic guideline to matching food and oil is to choose a lighter fruitier olive oil for dishes with more delicate flavors, and medium or robust olive oils for heavier dishes. The longer a food is cooked, the more intense an oil can be paired with it. Even fried dishes can benefit from the use of a good extra virgin olive oil which brings out the depth of flavors.
Therefore, it’s important to experiment and find the perfect type of extra virgin olive oil for your own personal tastes and the foods you most like to prepare. Once you know, you can be sure that you’re bringing home a high quality product that will only enhance everything you cook. Just be sure to keep the bottle in a cool dark place to keep it at its best.