How is olive oil made
Plump olives are picked just one stage before ripening and stripped of all the unnecessary foliage( stem, leaves and twigs). The olives are then washed thoroughly and crushed to paste in large stone grinders( a more traditional approach) or in steel grinders(a modern way). The paste then goes for centrifugation which separates the water and oil. The oil is collected and packaged and is termed virgin olive oil.
Types of olive oil:
A myriad of olive oils flood supermarket shelves- thanks to the various ways of extracting and processing this oil. The taste characteristics differ depending upon the climate, soil of cultivation, and the stage of ripeness at which the olives were harvested. Here are the most commonly available olive oil variants:
Extra virgin olive oil
Churned out within 24 hours of picking out the finest olives, this is the densest of all the varieties. It bears a strong peppery flavour and is the perfect choice for preparing salad dressings, sauces and dips or any recipe which doesn’t require heating up. Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is extracted in a cold-pressed fashion and sans any chemical solvents- leaving it rich in flavours and nutrients. Given all of the above factors, it comes as no surprise that this variant, which is the heart of the Mediterranean diet, is the costliest of all.
Virgin olive oil
Just like EVOO, the virgin variety is unrefined too. What differentiates it from EVOO is the higher acidity level which is anywhere between 1-4%. It has a mellower taste and can stand low temperatures of heat. Chef Gautam Mehrishi suggests using it for low heat cooking such as stir-frying or sauteing.
Refined olive oil
Refining involves using high heat and solvents to strip the oil of flavour and odour. Many times inferior quality olives are also tossed in because ultimately the chemicals extract out all of the flavour, leaving a neutral taste and smell. “Since it doesn’t have a flavour of its own, it does not conflict with other strong flavours in the recipe. So use it for cooking subzis or tempering dals or in recipes that use strong spices”, suggests Chef Mehrishi.
Pomace olive oil
This is the least expensive of all it’s counterparts as is extracted out of the remaining residue of EVOO. It has a watery consistency and has a higher smoke point (240 degrees Celsius). Being of a low-grade variety it can be used for recipes requiring deep fat frying.
Storing it right
Olive oil gets brownie points, not only because of the numerous health benefits it provides but also because of how easy it is to store. Being rich in Monounsaturated Fatty acids, this heat healthy oil remains fit for use for longer periods. Just remember the basics: Store it in dark coloured bottles. Avoid using metal bottles as they may react with the oil and generate harmful toxins. Keep it away from sunlight and heat. Also, after every use, consciously close the lid tightly so as to avoid oxygen from triggering oxidation.
Scroll and watch the video where Chef Gautam Mehrishi shows us the colour and consistency of different varieties of olive oil.