Olive oil 101

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How to recognize a good olive oil in the supermarket?

A word of warning

Olive oil is about the most expensive of all current vegetable oils. That’s why some companies fiddle with their olive oil. For instance a few years ago in Naples, Italy, a gang was caught offering olive flavored soya bean oil as genuine extra virgin olive oil. This can happen because the threshold of being caught is so low and the rewards are so high. There is simply not enough government money available to pay for policing olive oil. Don’t think that all big companies are honest. Many of them make use of clever labeling to disguise olive oil of inferior quality. Read about olive oil quality for more information. All bona fide producers of olive oil know this and are truly unhappy about these practices.

The exasperation of Roger Briesch, former president of the European Economic and Social Committee, regarding the fraudulent practices of olive oil swindlers, as expressed in articles 2.7 through 2.9 of his EU Regulation no. 827/68 from 2004, is illustrative and informative in this regard.

The supermarket

As a matter of fact some 80% of all olive oil in the world reaches the consumer through the supermarket. Unfortunately in the supermarket, no knowledgeable advice is offered by attendants and no tasting of samples is permitted. You have to form your own opinion when seeing the containers and reading the labels. 

Some good advice

  • Read and compare the labels carefully and with an appropriate amount of distrust. Additives are not good.
  • Pay attention to the expiry date. Stay at least 8 months on the safe side.
  • Don't go for the cheapest olive oil, but be suspicious of beautifully shaped bottles and fancy labels at high prices. A glass bottle containing half a litre (17 oz) should cost around € 15,00. A tin of 3 litres (5 qt 5,4 oz) no more than € 60,00.  
  • If the olive oil in the bottle looks bright and shiny, it has been filtered with diatomaceous filter sand, which soaks up tiny and healthy fruit particles full of flavor.  However, the olive will be rendered transparent but tasteless.
  • Whenever you see words like  Fine, Soft, Pure, Light, Classic, Delicato, etc. don´t buy. Only the words “Extra Virgin” on the label offer you some guarantee of quality.
  • “Aromatic” olive oils – infused with garlic, herbs or spices – contain low quality olive oil, never extra virgin quality.

Once the bottle has been opened, you will have to trust your taste buds. If the taste is rancid, the olive oil has oxidized too much and should be discarded. The very best thing is to know your olive oil supplier personally. Many Western countries have a growing number of specialized shops where the staff really knows about olive oil. Likewise, chefs in professional kitchens know exactly what to look for, assisted of course by their highly developed sense of taste.

Wish you many culinary delights, enjoy ......!