Major olive producers in the world include countries which border the Mediterranean Sea (e.g., France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey), as well as California and in South America. It is reported that Thomas Jefferson tried
but failed to cultivate olive trees in his native Virginia.
How is olive oil produced?
The traditionalmethod of extracting olive oil from the fruit is virtually the same today as it has been for thousands of years. At harvest time, which varies from region to region, olives are harvested by hand, and collected in nets placed around the foot of the tree. A day or two thereafter, the olives are taken to the mill. Giant stones weighing several tons are used to crush the olives and pits into mash.The olive mash is then spread onto thin mats. These mats are stacked, and placed into a machine "press." As the press applies several hundred pounds of pressure, oil and water from the mash seep out of the mats, and drip into collection vats. In the traditional method, no heat is applied in the pressing--hence the term "first cold pressed." The oil is allowed to settle, and any vegetable water isremoved either by centrifuge or decantation.
Oil extracted from the mechanical pressing of the olive is described as "virgin" olive oil, because it is pure, unrefined and unprocessed.
What are the differences among extra virgin olive oil, ordinary olive oil, and "light" olive oils?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil. "Extra" is the highest grade for olive oil--the best you can buy. The virgin oilproduced from the mechanical pressing described above may be called "extra" if it has less than 1% free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the "extra" in extra virgin olive oil means "premium," or simply, "the best."
Olive Oil. Ordinary "olive oil" is actually a blended oil product. Olive oil producers start with low quality virgin olive oils. For these oils tobe fit for consumption, they must be refined using mechanical, thermal and/or chemical processes. The resulting "refined olive oil" is largely colorless and tasteless. Before the resulting product is sold as "olive oil," the producer blends into the refined olive oil a percentage of quality virgin olive oil to provide color and taste.
"Light" or "Mild" Olive Oil. Light olive oil is a variationon ordinary olive oil. Producers of this product use a highly refined olive oil, and add less quality virgin oil than that typically used to blend olive oil. The only thing "light" about light olive oil is the taste and color; it has the same caloric and fat content as other oils.
Olive-Pomace Oil. Olive-pomace oil is the residue oil that is extracted by chemical solvents from previouslypressed olive mash. This oil must be highly-refined to remove chemical impurities. Like ordinary olive oil, refined olive-pomace oil is enriched with virgin olive oil prior to sale.
Olive Oil Blends. Olive oil blends (e.g., canola oil enriched with some virgin olive oil) are sometimes used as a more economical substitute for olive oil (but not as a substitute for extra virgin olive oil). Becausethe production of good olive oil is labor intensive--the olives must essentially be picked by hand--the resulting product is more expensive than other vegetable oils. To offer a more economical product with some of the goodness of olive oil, some companies make olive oil blends. In an olive oil blend, the producer uses a base of a less expensive vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil) to which it adds apercentage (e.g. 25%) of virgin olive oil. These products have proven particularly attractive to restaurant and institutional purchasers where the small savings per tablespoon results in big savings due to the large volume they purchase.
What is the difference between filtered and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin oil may be consumed either in a filtered or unfiltered state....