Hello Everyone and Welcome,
The olive is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – over 6,000 years ago. There are over 70 varieties of olives. Olive oil is used with food and cooking, for ceremonial use, used medicinally, helps skin, helps hair, as a soap, heating oil, lamp fuel and more. Learn how this amazing life giving olive oil can improve your health and improve the flavor of your food.
My first memory of olive oil is Mom driving us to a local winery with a large, empty, dark green glass container. They filled it with olive oil. I remember asking Mom about this and she said this winery gave local families discounts if they brought their own bottles plus they had good fresh olive oil. I will always remember the aroma and the flavor.
We always used olive oil, for cooking and for salads. We also used olive oil for stomach aches, ear aches, to make our hair shine, for our skin, nails, even a little in our dog’s food. Of course we had shortening for pie crusts and vegetable oil for some things, but I remember always reaching for the olive oil. When we moved from that area, we bought olive oil at the grocery store. That’s when I learned that olive oil was not all the same. There were big flavor differences. I learned this when I was pretty young. I am not an expert, but I learned back then that there are many kinds and flavors of olive oil. I am always trying new olive oils and have a variety in my cupboard.
My Step-Dad, George, worked in Greece for several years. When he came home on vacation, he looked so healthy. He said it was all the olive oil… keeps you regular. Plus it’s the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil, garlic, lemons, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, olives, fresh fish & seafood, dill, parsley, feta cheese and wine. Not too much meat or dairy. With lots of fresh air, walking, laughter and the sea. Everything was fresh. How could you not be healthy?
Olive oil has so many different flavor nuances. The flavor depends on where the olive oil comes from, the type of olive pressed, how it is pressed, which pressing, how the olive oil is stored, the freshness of the olive oil, filtering, etc. Then there are the blends of different olive oils. Olive oil is not all the same and definitely doesn’t taste the same. Think of olive oil flavors like different flavors of wine. Terroir: is the land, this gives each country and region special characteristics that show up as different flavors and the weather can change the flavor from year to year. This is why foods, including olive oil, taste so different from different parts of the world.
Most olive oil comes from Spain, the largest exporter of olive oil in the world. Of course, you can find olive oil from Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Australia and many other countries, including the US. In the United States, California is the major producer of olive oil. Even so, they produce only about 1% of the olive oil sold here. That means that most of our olive oil is imported.
What Kind Of Olive Oil Should I Buy?
Folks ask me this all the time. This is a hard question to answer as there are so many options, especially if you’ve never used olive oil before. You may not like the same olive oil that I like. You want to buy something you like. You will learn this as you go along. I will try to give you some guidelines I use, to help me choose an olive oil. I will recommend one at the end of the newsletter*.
I don’t think Imported or Domestic influences me too much, I like both. Many of the California Olive Oils come from families who immigrated from Italy, Greece, Spain, and other countries. They still use many of their family’s traditional methods for harvesting and extracting the olive oil. I live in California and do enjoy many California Olive Oils. I go for taste. Some of the best olive oils, (I’m a little partial), come from California. Just know that I have olive oils from Italy, Greece and Spain in my cupboard.
Help Clarify The Different Types Of Olive Oil and What Do I Cook With?
To be called olive oil … it must come only from the fruit of the olive tree.
- The oils must not have been adulterated in any way (e.g. mixed with nut or seed oils).
- They must conform to certain sensory (like mouthfeel) and certain analytical standards.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is the highest quality of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. Note: Extra virgin olive oils vary widely in taste, color, and appearance. The most flavorful and usually the most expensive. This has the most health benefits and is Not refined. You should drizzle it on your food for added flavor. Drizzle it over your pasta, bean soup, on a plate to dip your bread, on salad or in salad dressing. Very low smoke point, so it’s not the best to cook with.
- Virgin Olive Oil: Quality is lower than extra virgin olive oil. Still very good with good health benefits and is Not refined.
- Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil: A blend of low-cost refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. Most of the olive oil sold in the world falls into this category. Different blends are made, with more or less virgin oil, to achieve different tastes at different prices. Oils described as “Light” or “Extra Light” in the United States fall in this category, and are most likely made with a large proportion of refined oil. Usually with a higher smoke point. This is commonly used for cooking.
- Olive-Pomace Oil: Pomace is the ground flesh and pits left after pressing. Olive pomace oil is the oil comprising the blend of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oil. Very mild flavor, more like canola oil. A high smoke point, which means you can cook or fry with high heat.
- Light or Extra Light Olive Oil: This is more of a marketing term than a type of olive oil. This term may be misleading as this has the same number of calories as the other olive oils but the flavors have been altered or processed to take away the strong olive taste and aroma. Many Americans tend not to like a strong olive oil taste or smell. So it is light in taste and aroma, more like vegetable oil.
Interesting Olive Oil Facts…
Per year the average Italian uses 15 liters of olive oil. The average Greek uses 19 liters of olive oil per person. Crete uses the most olive oil, an average of 31 liters per person, per year. Here in the US it is only about ½ (one half) liter per person per year. That’s a big difference.
Note: 1 US quart = .943 liters and 1 US gallon = about 3.77 liters
How you store olive oil is very important!
Olives are a fruit and olive oil is like a fruit juice.
Four things that most negatively affect olive oil are: heat, light, air and age.
These elements can cause olive oil to deteriorate and quickly go rancid.
- Heat: Store olive oil in a cool, dark, place. Find a cupboard away from the stove or heat.
- Light: I try to buy olive oil in dark or tinted glass bottles. This protects the olive oil from light. As long as you store it in a dark cupboard, the clear bottles might be ok, but you don’t know how long it was sitting on a store shelf, with store lighting. I try not to buy olive oil in plastic bottles. I might be old fashioned here, but this is the way I was taught. I do buy big cans of olive oil, as I use it a lot. I know some folks might not like the can idea, but it saves me money and it works fine for me.
- Air: Make sure the cap or seal has not been broken. Air is not good for olive oil. Many folks want to smell the oil before they buy it and the seal might be broken. Always put the cap back on the bottle after you use it, right away. You will see olive oil servers with a spout. This makes it easier to drizzle over your food. Yes, some air gets to it, to a lesser amount because of the design. Understand that these folks use a lot of olive oil, so it doesn’t sit around getting old.
- Age or Time: Look at the date and as a rule of thumb, use it within 2 years or 1 year after it is opened. Write the date you opened it on the bottom. Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. Olive oil does go rancid when it is old or quicker when poorly stored.
Flavor Tip: Unless you use a lot of olive oil you should buy it in smaller bottles. Keep it fresh.
Taste Tested Supermarket Extra Virgin Olive Oils
America’s Test Kitchen Taste Test of 9 Supermarket Extra Virgin Olive Oils revealed these as their top three brands:
- DaVinci was voted The Best All-Purpose Olive Oil
- Pompeian was voted The Best Mild Oil, also scoring high was Whole Foods Brand
- Colavita was voted The Best Full-Bodied Oil, with Filippo Berio also scoring high
Some Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
This statement is approved by the FDA for the olive oil label: “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”
Note: I know this statement says “olive oil” but actually Extra Virgin olive oil is best, as it has the most polyphenols which work as antioxidants to keep your heart healthy and is not refined. (I try to avoid all refined oils, as they have been shown not to be healthy. Use Extra Virgin or Virgin Olive Oils for the most health benefits and flavor.)
Here is a short list of some of the health benefits of olive oil:
- Extra virgin olive oil is high in oleic acid (omega 9) about 55-85 percent of the fatty acids found in olive oil. This helps keep arteries supple. Your coronary arteries are what provide blood to your heart muscle. Extra virgin olive oil is also high in monounsaturated fats, which help keep the arteries clear so that your heart gets enough oxygen and nutrients to keep it pumping.
- Extra virgin olive oil is shown to be good for your heart as it is high in polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant), as well as monounsaturated fats. These help keep your cholesterol levels healthy. It helps lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL cholesterol.
- Extra virgin olive oil is also high in Omega-3 fatty acid which is also found in oily fish like salmon, especially wild salmon and tuna, also nuts, especially walnuts. This helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Recently, research shows that you need the proper ratio of the two acids to get the maximum benefit. This is one part Omega-3 to ten parts Omega-6, which is what is available in olive oil.
- Extra virgin olive oil helps reduce inflammation. Olive oil is also a good source of Omega-6 fatty acid, the body turns this into prostaglandins that help block inflammation and helps regulate heart, liver and kidney function.
- Extra virgin olive oil may help prevent some forms of cancer, including colon, breast and prostate cancer.
- New research is showing positive results for helping and protecting the brain, especially from the signs of memory loss and dementia.
Classic Vinaigrette Recipe
Try this heart healthy vinaigrette with different vinegars and different Extra Virgin Olive Oils.
I use this salad dressing for green salads, pasta salads, chopped vegetable salads, with bread instead of mayonnaise or butter, drizzled over cooked or raw vegetables, tomatoes, & potatoes, etc.
- 6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard, or regular mustard
- 1 Clove garlic, finely minced, optional
- 1 teaspoon Fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon #103 Table Tasty salt substitute, or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to your taste (about 5 twists)
Place all ingredients into a small bowl. Whisk about 15 seconds with a wire whisk or even a fork will do, until well blended and slightly emulsified (thickened). Or, add all ingredients into a jar with a lid. Shake well, about 20 seconds, until emulsified.
If the olive oil taste is too strong for you, add 1 or 2 Tablespoons of a lighter tasting olive oil or water. Makes dressing for 10-12 cups of salad greens. Easy to make in about 5 minutes.
*Many of you have asked me to recommend at least one olive oil. The Apollo Olive Oil family has several really great tasting olive oils. These are award winning, California Olive Oils. Rated as some of the best Extra Virgin Olive Oils with several awards already this year, and made right here in the USA.
Click on this link to their website: www.ApolloOliveOil.com
I hope this information is helpful to you and that you will start including Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your heart healthy diet. Extra Virgin Olive Oil tastes good and is good for you.
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Just like olive oil, fresh seasonings are so important for good aroma and flavor.
Coming up next…Read the about the heart healthy and flavor benefits of nuts. You can add walnuts to your salads, use almonds to coat your fish or pecans for chicken, pine nuts for pesto, even use cashews to thicken soups. Click here for the next newsletter: Nuts Add Flavor & Nuts Are Very Heart Healthy