Last year, Americans spent over $700 million dollars on olive oil! The market is there, but producing your own natural olive oil is costly and time-consuming. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it. For us, seeing the final product is worth the hard work, but you can see how some money-hungry questionable brand can sell you the sad excuse for olive oil and charge you the price for the real deal. There have been controversies about fake olive oil all over the news, and laws were changed more than once to try and slow down the export of counterfeit products on the market.
Yet it's still going on.
You pay for adulterated, mislabeled, rancid products where crooks profit and honest farmers suffer. But we're not bitter about it. Consumer tastes are changing, and people are more invested in finding quality and authenticity. As the American hunger for real olive oil grows, we have prepared answers to most people's questions when exploring olive oil. The more you know, the lesser the chance of buying a fake!
How Can I Be Sure That I am Buying Authentic Olive Oil?
- The best way to know you have real olive oil is to try it, but you can’t do that in the grocery store (you could try but I’m pretty sure the store would kindly escort you out) or online.
The Olive Oil Fridge Test Doesn't Work
For those in the unknown, this was the theory: if you put natural extra-virgin olive oil in the fridge it thickens. The idea behind this is that the monosaturated fats in the olive oil solidify when cold. Well...no.
The people at the University of California Davis Olive Center tested samples of a variety of olive oils under cold conditions over eight days and found the fridge test is totally unreliable in spotting a fake. “None of our samples showed any signs of congealing after 60 hours in a laboratory refrigerator set to 40.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. “Even after 180 hours, the samples never fully solidified. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a simple test that could indicate an olive oil’s market grade, but it is much more complicated than that,” stated Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sonoma and Marin counties.
Look at The Labels
While labels can misguide, there are two things you can do to make sure your olive oil is pure:
- Do not buy olive oil that has been produced in more than one country. For example, if the bottle states ˝product of Greece and Italy˝ it's for sure been tampered with. Good olive oil is produced from olives in the same region, never from multiple countries at once
- If there are any trans fats listed on the label, the olive oil is cut with another oil.
Look For Clear Bottles
The reason they sell in dark bottles on grocery store shelves, where intense UV lights beam down on them, is because they are almost all on the verge of losing their EVOO status (0.8% acidity or below), or close to spoiling.
A lot of information online suggests otherwise, saying that real olive oil should come in dark bottles.
This is to protect producers that use the lowest quality storage, shipping and production methods. They can sell their lower quality, higher acidic olive oil that way. If they all used clear bottles they would have to compete with the high quality small scale producers and they can't without losing money.
Reasons to avoid dark bottles when buying olive oil:
- Signals that olive is not robust (close to oxidation/spoilage)
- Signals that storage conditions are poor
- Signals that the oil is mixed with vegetable oils with much lower oxidative stability
Find an Olive Oil Brand You Can Trust
Do your research on which olive oil brands to trust and which olive oil brands to avoid. You should know the story of the farmers that create the olive oil you are about to purchase. Authentic brands are not afraid to share the whole process with the consumer and don't hide away. You can always buy a small sample and taste the olive oil because once you try natural olive oil, you will never be able to go back to the fakes.
So who can you trust?
UC Davis has done a series of studies on this. They found that
olive oil from single producers or co-ops was always real.
How is Authentic Olive Oil Made?
There are a variety of ways, depending on our country of origin. Since Selo Olive Oil is made in the Croatian village (aka selo), we'll tell you all about our process. Croatia is under-represented on the list of olive-oil countries, probably because it's a relatively small country compared to our counterparts. But we are slowly climbing the list because, while small, we are a significant producer of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
A big part of Croatian olive oil culture is the small family business like mine, growing our own olives and producing limited but authentic qualities. My family handpicks olives from our orchard in the small village by the sea. We remove the stems, twigs, and other debris and finally wash the olives with water.
Olive oil is produced by grinding olives and extracting the oil. We pay attention to every detail because green olives produce a bitter oil, and overripe olives can have fermentation defects. The olives have to be perfectly ripened!
Creating The Olive Oil
The second step is crushing the olives. We tear the flesh to release the oils and mix the paste so that the tiny oil droplets combine into bigger ones. The final step is done by centrifugation - we separate the oil from the water and solids. We leave the oil in barrels where a final separation happens with the help of gravity. Finally, we filter the olive oil to create that perfectly authentic olive oil you all love.
How Should Authentic Olive Oil Taste?
There are huge differences among extra virgin olive oils in terms of taste, aroma, color, health benefits, shelf life, presentation, and of course, price. Extra-virgin olive oils can be anything from refined and mellow to bitter and pungent, but true olive oil always has a flavor. Some are a bit on the tart side, while others detect peppery hints. We can compare it to people - the real, authentic people always come with a memorable personality.
How Can I Test For Authentic Olive Oil at Home?
The only sure test is done in a lab, don't believe anything anyone tells you about all these new ways to test it out. But there are ways you can test if you're close to the real deal.
Smell Your Olive Oil
If your olive oil does not have an aroma or smells rancid, stale, fusty, or musty, it isn't likely to be one hundred percent extra virgin olive oil. Or maybe you have COVID, but let's hope not.
Taste Your Olive Oil
It's pretty obvious, isn't it? The problem is most people are used to the fake olive oil taste. You should be able to detect a flavor—either some light bitterness or a hint of pepper. You should taste the hints of fresh-cut grass around the orchard where the olives grew!
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