by Cynthia Gallo-Casey.
This is the first of a two part series on olive oil quality and tasting. In this post, I’ll discuss some basic olive oil information and talk about how extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is made. In Part II, I’ll take you through an olive oil tasting and share a refreshing summer recipe.
As owner of olive oil boutique The Roman Table, I have the good fortune to share my passion for fabulous food and quality ingredients with my family, friends, customers, business associates and anyone who will listen on a day-to-day basis! My goal is to give each and every visitor to my shop not only a unique tasting experience, but also an education, and leave them wanting more! Through this blog, my hope is to share that knowledge with even more people.
Armed with an understanding of the quality issues prevalent in today’s olive oil industry coupled with information about the many health benefits associated with the consumption of extra virgin olive oil, I spend a great deal of time talking to my customers about what extra virgin olive oil is and the best ways to use it.
Many consumers come into the shop with misconceptions about olive oil, especially in light of all of the attention the industry has been receiving recently. It has taken a while, but after four years in the olive oil business I have seen a significant change in the way individuals shop for their food. Consumers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable about where their food is sourced, and many individuals definitely embrace the value of using high quality ingredients in the preparation of their meals. However with regard to selecting olive oil, I often find that consumers remain overwhelmed by the range of products and choices available to them. This is where the value of tasting coupled with education, is extremely important. At The Roman Table, we want our customers to find their “Holy Grail” of olive oil and that begins and ends with a tasting journey. Customers begin this journey with an overview of common terminology unique to the world of olive oil. What is extra virgin olive oil and why is it worth the effort?
The healthiest olive oil is extra virgin which contains a high level of polyphenol, an antioxidant considered beneficial because it helps the body rid itself of unstable molecules called free radicals and minimize harmful cellular inflammation. Only oils that are free from defects and satisfy the quality markers established by the International Olive Council (IOC) can be called extra virgin. To qualify for the title of extra virgin olive oil, the olives must be first cold pressed through a mechanical process extracting the oil from the olives. There must be no chemical solvents or other techniques of extraction to produce the oil. There are also varying degrees of virginity relevant to the olive oil, which is defined by the percentage of oleic acid that the oil contains. To qualify as an extra virgin olive oil, the oleic acid present in the oil must be between 1% and 4%. The highest grade in the extra virgin olive oil category contains 1% or less of oleic acid. Even within the category of extra virgin there are a number of nuances to consider. Olive oils that are infused with fruit or herbs are not extra virgin and cannot be labeled as such. This does not mean that infused oils are not delicious or good for you. It only means that they lose their status of extra virgin when infused with other ingredients.
As owner of olive oil boutique The Roman Table, my experience is proof-positive that in the world of extra virgin olive oil, nothing is more important than hands-on education and product testing. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to bring this knowledge to the audience of the edible South Shore and South Coast Blog. I hope you’ll stay tuned!
Cynthia Gallo-Casey is the proprietress of The Roman Table in Scituate Harbor. She is a food enthusiast, blogger, and self proclaimed dish-aholic. She is always looking for the holy grail of olive oil.