Back Olive It! Part II. The Basics Of Olive Oil
Olive oil is fruit juice. Olives are a drupe type fruit similar to a cherry with a stem and a single large seed or pit. To make olive oil we simply pick the fruit and squeeze the juice out. Ahh, fruit juice! We just take the process a step further by separating the water and oil of the juice. Olives generally contain between 15 and 25 percent oil.
As far as the quality of the oil is concerned, the fresher the better! Just like other fruit juices, fresh squeezed is the best. Remember olive oil does not get better with time. In order to get the tastiest fresh squeezed olive oil you have to start with high quality fruit. How do we do this you ask? With good healthy trees of course. To get to Good healthy trees grow in good healthy soil. Our “regenerative” farming practices (more on this in an upcoming discussion) helps to keep the soil healthy.
Once the olives are picked, it is vitally important to squeeze the juice out of the fruit as quickly as possible after harvest. If the olives sit for too long (about 24 hours as a rule of thumb depending on temperature) they will start to ferment. Once this starts to happen the oil will have a flavor known as fusty. This fermentation takes away from the fresh aromas and changes the chemical constituents as well. The goal is to capture all the fresh aromas, delicious flavors as well as the generous amount of nutrients that olive oil can provide.
If you have not had the chance to try a fresh olive right from the tree, let me tell you that it is a memorable experience. You will never forget how bad it tastes. It is one of the most bitter fruits and does not get better as it ripens. This bitterness derives from bioactive constituents that that are fighting off molds, mildews, fungi as well as any silly animal that might think it is a yummy snack. This natural ability for the fruit to protect itself means we do not have to use any chemicals. A little water and a lot of sunshine are our inputs.
These phytochemicals that are protecting the fruit are also good for our bodies. They contain some of the most potent antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and other incredibly beneficial entities. (we will talk more in depth about these functional components as well).
So, remember, olive oil is fruit juice, albeit a quite remarkable fruit juice. In a proper unopened container, it will remain healthy and delicious for up to 2 years at room temperature. Quite an important quality in times before refrigeration. Keep in mind that once it is opened it should be consumed as quickly as possible like any other fruit juice. Buy in sizes that you will use in a month or two. You will be rewarded by always having delicious and healthy olive oil that will make all your food taste better. (even oatmeal, you should try it!) You will probably find soon enough you will be buying more frequently or in larger sizes.
Next week we will go into a little more in depth on the quality of olive oil and dig into what the heck does the oxymoronic extra virgin really mean? Slainte! Thom