Interesting facts about olive oil

Good olive oil is increasingly gaining a following

Extra quality extra virgin olive oil tastes fantastic, with a variety of fine aromas. In addition, it has a health-promoting effect, as research has shown – discovering ever new positive connections. No wonder, then, that hardly any other food is given as much attention as olive oil. The cultivation, production and distribution of olive oil is controlled by quality-conscious consumers and various regulations, such as the Olive Oil Ordinance. Some general information is provided below:

In the Mediterranean region, virgin olive oil has always been part of the staple diet. Used as a traditional ingredient for frying and cooking, it replaces many other sources of fat and is considered to be extremely healthy. The reason for this is the composition of the ingredients, such as monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and polyphenols. Apart from the nutritional aspects, taste is also important. It is available in a wide range of well-balanced fruity to slightly bitter nuances, which can be used to refine almost all dishes and, of course, cold cuisine.

High-quality extra virgin olive oils can be heated up to a temperature of 180° C. For most dishes this is sufficient and the oil does not exhibit any essential chemical changes. You can choose it for frying, roasting, boiling, stewing, braising or baking. Please note that the temperature is too high if the oil starts to smoke in the pan during frying.

The type of storage has a decisive influence on the quality and shelf life of olive oil. If stored correctly, it will last for about 18 months. It is best to store the oil well sealed in a cool and dark place. The valuable oil components are protected against oxidation through exposure to the air and direct sunlight. The cellar or refrigerator are ideal, although even quality olive oil can flake at temperatures below 7 °C. This is due to the natural properties of the oil and does not affect its quality. Before using, remove the olive oil from the refrigerator for a few minutes, the flakes dissolve at room temperature.

Depending on the conditions at harvest time and the way in which the olives are extracted, the EU classifies olive oils into different grades. Sensory, chemical and taste criteria are taken into account.

  • Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality grade - 1st class. Harvested at the best stage of ripening, the olives are gently processed within a few hours. The flavour, aromas and ingredients are preserved without the influence of temperature using only cold pressing or cold-extraction by mechanical processes. According to the ordinance, this oil can contain a maximum of 0.8% of free fatty acids, calculated as oleic acid. With an excellent variety of flavours, it is ideal for consumption.
  • Virgin olive oils (vergine), without the addition of extra, are grade 2 oils, i.e., of medium quality. Also obtained directly from olives exclusively by mechanical processes, they are subject to slightly lower quality requirements. They thus may not be totally impeccable in terms taste and aroma. The acidity or percentage of free fatty acids should be less than 2%; this is often a sign of the lack of freshness or quality of the olives used. With its wide variety of flavours, it is nevertheless well suited for consumption.
  • We would not want to describe ordinary category 3 olive oils as belonging to a quality class. Due to obvious impairments in terms of taste and the ingredients, this oil – known as lampante olive oil – must not be sold to consumers, but must be processed to create category 4 olive oil; thermal and chemical processes can be used to correct defects in the oil and achieve the prescribed acidity. A category 5 olive oil is obtained from a mixture of refined olive oil (C. 4) and category 1 or 2 virgin olive oil (CK. 4); the mixing ratio is not regulated so that the proportion of virgin olive oil may be low or high. The higher the percentage of virgin olive oil, the more aromatic the flavour. This mostly tasteless oil is suitable for consumption.

For olive oil, the terms cold-pressed and cold-extracted both refer to quality standards in olive oil production. The term cold pressing goes back to the traditional production of olive oil, where olive pulp was ground and pressed in several passes in oil mills to obtain the precious liquid. Today, cold pressing is a purely mechanical process in which olive paste is pressed with a hydraulic press under high pressure to such an extent that the olive oil separates.

Cold extraction is a modern production process for olive oil, which is also based on purely mechanical processes. In a closed system, the olive oil is separated from the paste by centrifugation. This method is very gentle and clean, and the olive oil obtained thus of the highest quality. Cold extraction and cold pressing means that the temperature never rises above 27 °C during the entire process. Chemical processes above 27°C are avoided, thus preserving the quality and taste of olive oil.

Olive oil is regarded as a valuable component of a healthy diet that gives the body what it needs for self-preservation. Like all vegetable oils, olive oil consists of three fatty acids bound to glycerine, known as triglycerides. In combination with other ingredients, the proportions of fatty acids are characteristic of the climate in the growing area and the quality of the olives used – in other words, an indication of good quality. Extra virgin olive oil is particularly rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Their significance for health-conscious people lies in the fact that they are able to reduce the level of “bad”, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while increasing “good” cholesterol, known as High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).

The percentage of fatty acids is measured as one of 27 parameters in olive oil production. According to EU regulations, olive oils are classified on the basis of their acidity (oleic acid) as follows.

Extra virgin olive oil with a maximum acidity of 0.8 grams per 100 grams of olive oil. Quality olive oil should have an acidity of less than 0.5%.
Virgin olive oil: Maximum acidity of 2.0 grams per 100 grams of olive oil. This is where you will find olive oils with an acidity between 0.8 and 2.0 grams per 100 grams.

Depending on the harvest, OILIVA GREKA olive oils have a constantly low acidity of 0.20 to 0.50% (g per 100 g) depending on the crop.

One important purchasing criterion is the taste, which naturally depends on your preferences. A good olive oil tastes balanced, from fruity, to spicy to slightly bitter. With different aromas that are determined by the ripeness of the olive at harvest. Harvested at an early stage of ripening, it produces a spicy, peppery note that is particularly suitable for refining when braising meat and vegetables. By the way: if it does happen to tickle your throat while you are eating, this is a very positive feature. Ripe fruit yields a fruity aroma with a slightly spicy aftertaste that gives fish dishes or salads, for example, a smart nuance. Like any food, olive oil is a matter of taste. That's why we attach so much importance to the right harvest time and gentle processing.

Extra virgin olive oils should bear a designation of origin. In addition, seals indicate protected areas of cultivation showing that an oil bearing this seal must be cultivated and/or processed in a specified area (e.g., Kalamata).

The red EU quality mark means 'Protected Designation of Origin' (PDO). The production, processing and bottling of olive oil is subject to strict guidelines and is carried out exclusively in the indicated area. Extra virgin olive oil therefore has specific characteristics related to the area. The blue EU quality mark stands for 'Protected Geographical Indication' (PGI). It also guarantees that only olives from the indicated growing area are used. However, for example, filling can take place in another area if recognised procedures are used there.

Olive oil is one of the most nutritious and healthy oils. Naturally, the calorie content is high at about 820 kcal per 100 ml, since olive oil, like all vegetable oils, consists of fatty acids bound to glycerine.

In addition to a low content of saturated fatty acids, olive oil contains about 10% monounsaturated fatty acids and a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (approx. 73%). Like vitamins, linoleic acid, which is a fatty acid, is one of the essential nutrients that the body needs to absorb via food. In particular, monounsaturated fatty acids support the cardiovascular system. Other health-promoting substances contained in virgin olive oil are vitamins A and E, minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as trace elements of iron and zinc.

According to current knowledge, polyphenols make up a large part of olive oil quality. They have an antioxidant effect and are among the bioactive plant substances to which an anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effect is ascribed. The most frequently mentioned polyphenol in olives is oleuropein. In good, cold-extracted olive oil, natural polyphenols remain as flavourings to a high degree.