Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most popular and healthy oils used in cooking and dressing food. It is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, making it a staple in many kitchens. However, not all extra virgin olive oil is created equal. In recent years, concerns have been raised about the authenticity of extra virgin olive oil, with many products being found to be adulterated or diluted with cheaper oils. This raises the question: how can you know if your olive oil is authentic? In this article, we will explore the topic of extra virgin olive oil authenticity and provide some tips to help you know if your olive oil is the real deal.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil, made from the first cold pressing of the olives without the use of chemicals or heat. It is produced from fresh, healthy olives, typically within 24 hours of harvest. The oil is extracted using mechanical means, such as a press or centrifuge, and is not refined or processed in any way. The result is a pure, high-quality oil that has a fruity, complex flavour and a low acidity level.
Why is Authenticity a Concern?
The high demand for extra virgin olive oil has led to an increase in fraudulent or adulterated products on the market. Adulteration can occur in several ways, including the addition of cheaper oils, such as sunflower or canola oil, to the product. This dilutes the quality of the oil and reduces the health benefits. Additionally, some oils are mislabeled as extra virgin, even though they do not meet the quality standards for this classification.
How to Determine the Authenticity of Olive Oil?
There are several ways to determine the authenticity of extra virgin olive oil. Here are some tips to help you ensure you are getting the real deal:
Check the Label
The label on the bottle of olive oil can be a valuable source of information to help determine the authenticity and quality of the product. When looking at the label, it is important to pay attention to several key pieces of information that can provide insight into the production process and the characteristics of the oil.
It is most important to look for the country of origin and the harvest date.
These two pieces of information can give you an idea of the freshness and quality of the oil. The harvest date will tell you when the olives were picked and processed, and the country of origin will give you an idea of the environmental conditions and farming practices used to grow the olives. A reputable producer will typically provide this information on the label, and it may be presented in a variety of ways. The harvest date may be listed as a specific date or as a range of dates, depending on the producer's preference. The country of origin may be listed prominently on the label, or it may be included in the fine print along with other details.
Look for a Dark Bottle
An essential consideration for storing olive oil is shielding it from light, which can compromise the oil's nutritional value, taste, and aroma. Light can accelerate the oxidation of polyphenols and other antioxidants in the oil, causing rancidity and off-flavors.
Fortunately, using dark bottles can effectively prevent light from penetrating and spoiling the oil. By blocking out light, dark bottles ensure that the oil retains its optimal freshness and quality, ensuring you can savor the true flavor of high-quality olive oil in all your culinary creations.
If olive oil is stored in a clear bottle, it may not be of high quality or could be adulterated. Adulteration is a common problem in the olive oil industry, where lower-quality oils are blended with extra-virgin olive oil and sold as pure. Thus, consumers are advised to purchase olive oil that comes in dark, opaque bottles to ensure the best quality and avoid purchasing an adulterated product.
Taste Your Olive Oil Like a Pro
Since you can't really tell if the olive oil is pure until you've tried it, buying a small bottle of a few brands you believe to be authentic would be best. This way, you can spot the differences between different flavours of olive oil and expand your olive oil palate. Pour a little bit of olive oil into your cup of choice and cover the top with your hand. This warms up the oil, releasing more of its flavour and aroma! Swirl it around - be gentle, please; you are seducing the flavour. Remove the hand from the top of the glass. Now smell the aroma. Notice the smell, and reflect on it. What does it smell like?
Now taste. Inhale, take a small sip, thoroughly coat your tongue and let the oil sit for a moment. Exhale, but hold the olive oil. When you exhale, your mouth and nose connect and open up new flavours. Now, swallow. Pay attention. Is it spicy? Is it pungent? Does it kick a little bit? That's good stuff! Is it bitter? That's also good. It just means the olives are a bit younger and greener. Maybe it's fruity? That's also good! Does it taste stale? Has no flavour? That's not so good.
Not All Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tastes The Same
To assume all olive oils are the same is like believing all wines taste identical. The flavor of olive oil is contingent on various factors, such as the olive's type, the region of cultivation, and the production method. Just as wine-making involves diverse variables affecting the end product's taste, olive oil production shares a similar complexity. Characterized by an aromatic and distinct taste, olive oil's flavor can range from bitter and peppery to smooth and fruity. It is this variation that renders the ingredient versatile in the kitchen and an essential component of Mediterranean cuisine.
There is a common misconception that darker olive oil tastes better. However, the colour of olive oil is not a reliable indicator of its quality or flavour. Darker-coloured olive oil may indicate that the olives were riper when harvested, but this does not necessarily mean that the oil will taste better. In fact, some lighter-coloured olive oils are considered to be of higher quality and have a more delicate flavour. It is essential to understand that there are various types of olive oils available, ranging from extra-virgin to refined olive oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is considered to be the highest quality and is extracted from the first cold-pressed olives. It has a rich flavour and is ideal for use in dressings and dips. On the other hand, refined olive oil is made by refining lower-quality oils, and it has a milder taste.
Olive Oil Has an Expiry Date
There is a common misconception that olive oil does not expire, which is a myth that has been perpetuated for years. However, this is not true, and like any other food product, olive oil has a shelf life. Over time, exposure to air, light, and heat can cause the oil to go rancid and lose its flavour and nutritional value. To ensure that you are using fresh and high-quality olive oil, it is essential to check the expiry date before purchasing it. The expiry date indicates the date until which the oil is safe to consume and of the best quality.
It is advisable to buy olive oil from the latest harvest, which is when the olives were freshly harvested, and the oil is at its peak flavour and nutritional value. The information about the harvest date of the oil should be available on the label or website where you are purchasing it. This information is essential because the age of the oil can significantly affect its taste and nutritional value. The fresher the oil, the more robust and flavorful it will be.
Buying a Well Known Brand Does Not Equal Quality
It is a common misconception that buying a well-known brand always equates to high quality. However, this is not always the case, especially when it comes to olive oil. Big brands may compromise on quality to mass-produce the oil, often sacrificing the unique flavour and nutritional benefits that high-quality olive oil should offer. Instead of relying on a well-known brand, it is advisable to focus on smaller brands and those with a family backstory. These brands often have a passion for producing high-quality olive oil, and they tend to pay more attention to the details of the production process. This approach results in a product that retains its unique flavour, aroma, and nutritional value.
Smaller brands are also more likely to show how their olive oil is made, offering transparency to their customers. Knowing the production process of olive oil is essential as it can help customers identify whether the oil is of high quality. Brands that provide this level of transparency to their customers are confident in their production methods and are proud of the final product. Buying a well-known brand does not always equate to high-quality olive oil. Instead, it is advisable to focus on smaller brands and those with a family backstory, as they often prioritize quality over quantity. These brands tend to provide more transparency in the production process, ensuring that customers know precisely what they are getting.
In conclusion, extra virgin olive oil is a popular and healthy oil that is widely used in cooking and dressing food. However, with the high demand for this oil, there are concerns about its authenticity, as some products are adulterated or mislabelled. To ensure that you are getting the real deal, it is essential to check the label for information about the country of origin and the harvest date. Additionally, purchase oil that comes in dark, opaque bottles. Finally, tasting your olive oil like a pro can also help you determine its authenticity. To get started with authentic extra virgin olive oil, check out Selo Olive Olive for high-quality olive oil products that are pure and authentic!