Your Cheat Sheet to Quality Olive Oil

We all know what olive oil is, but similar to the supplement industry, there are actually a lot of frauds on the market. Unless you’re getting your olive oil from a trusted source, you might not be getting what you’re paying for.

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OLIVE OIL ORIGINS

In California, olive harvest typically takes place over the course of one to three weeks beginning in mid-November. Olives that are picked earlier in the harvest are what we refer to as green olives, and have a more bitter taste, while fully ripe olives are what we’ve come to know as black olives, which have a more buttery flavor. Once olives have been harvested, they must be processed within 24 hours. Essentially, olive oil is a fresh juice product, and the fresher, the better.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality you can find, and what it actually means is that the oil has been run through the mill only once and has not had any heat or chemicals added. Then, the olive oil must be presented to a council to be certified as extra virgin.

Surprisingly, many of the olive oils you see in the grocery store might claim to be extra virgin, but in fact, are not. We spoke to industry experts, including Marisa Bloch Gaytan, general manager of Pasolivo and olive oil sommelier, and David Dellanave, olive oil importer, to find out the best way to go about finding a quality EVOO.

  • Know your supplier. The easiest way to ensure you’re receiving a quality olive oil is to purchase it directly from a producer you trust. (If you’re unsure, keep reading for some of our recommendations.)
  • Look for olive oil stored in darker glass. Light, heat, and oxygen all degrade the quality of olive oil, so darker bottles or cans preserve the quality better than transparent glass.
  • Check the harvest or “best by” date. Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. EVOO should be used within two years.
  • Make sure it passes muster. Check for a certification from the International Olive Oil Council or the California Olive Oil Council.
  • Be wary of bottles comprised of olives from multiple countries. Instead, look for single-source olive oil. This cuts down travel time to get to your purchase destination, thus ensuring a younger oil.

FLAVORS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

Since there are different types of olives, different climates they are grown in, and different varieties, olives, like grapes, have very unique flavor profiles. This means that some olive oils may be grassy or peppery, bitter or fruity in taste. They range from mild to robust, and it all comes down to personal preference.

Plus, many producers make flavored olive oils, which can be great for cooking, baking, or even in cocktails.

One of the biggest misconceptions about olive oil is that it can’t be used for cooking, but EVOO has a smoke point around 420°F, so don’t be shy. And even though olive oils from other countries are highly praised, if you are purchasing in America, a California-grown EVOO might be your best bet; it will be younger since it is not being imported from very far.

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