30 Jul

Linda Stafford demystifies extra-virgin olive oil

It’s not always the label on the wine bottle that attracts admiring attention at dinner parties.
Sometimes it’s on the one containing green-gold extra-virgin olive oil.

In the past 7 years there has been a small revolution in the winelands that has nothing to do with grapes. It gathered momentum when Italy’s Giulio Bertrand bought Somerset West’s Morgenster Estate from the Cloete family and planted not only vines but Italian varieties of olive trees. His reasoning was that international interest in the health benefits and fresh flavours of olive oil had already taken root in SA and would grow. And what is now pressed at Morgenster – and elsewhere – is indeed helping to make olive oil epicures of us.

But olive oil is a victim of hype. It is good stuff, but has been steeped in snob value to its detriment and the detriment of many a dish that is supposed to be made with butter. After all, the basic indigenous fat that a country uses is the key to its cuisine. And olive oil is one of the great joys of hot – not cold – Europe.

“The phoney mystique draped over olive oil has done it absolutely no favours,” writes leading London restaurant critic A A Gill. “It has made a snob of the most proletarian, earthy, basic stuff. Olive oil is at heart a peasant. It feels most at home with simple, rural food.”

After all, it is a condiment that dates back, in its heartland of Tuscany at least, to the 7th century and perhaps even earlier.

Olive oil is low in saturated fats and thought to be responsible for the low incidence of heart disease in many Mediterranean countries. But it is still a fat and those on low-fat diets must go easy on it.

Made from black olives and graded according to acidity, the best oils, extra-virgin and Italian – though France, Spain and Greece all produce good oils – must have an acidity of less than 1%. Look also for the words “first pressing” or “cold pressed” on the label; found only on extra-virgin bottles, this indicates oils of the lowest possible acidity and most character.

The best oil should not be wasted on frying, because heat changes its fresh, peppery flavour. Italians and Spaniards usually keep two varieties in the kitchen: a plain one for cooking and an extra-virgin for salads.

But labels can be confusing. For instance, though it might make much of its origin in an area of Italy, it may be made of olives grown elsewhere and only bottled in Italy. Nor are all bottles dated – and olive oil does deteriorate, especially if exposed to light and heat.

So rather splash out on a few and trust your tongue in picking a favorite.

[Source] Click here

2 Responses to “Linda Stafford demystifies extra-virgin olive oil”

  1. Henry Mackay Says:

    Is this the beginning of the backlash, Claude?

  2. Olives101 Says:

    lol maybe we need to start selling Butter ;o)

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