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Olive oil: Add tradition and flavor to your table

August 17, 1999

Olive OilRecipes and photo from Filippo Berio Olive Oil




In the past decade, we have learned more about the flavor and the added health benefits of olive oil.

No longer is olive oil only associated with Italian cuisine. It has become a staple in many American kitchens and restaurants - whether used in cooking, as a light oil for salads and vegetables or a richly flavored alternative to butter for bread. While we have come to appreciate the flavor and health benefits, many of us don't realize the rich tradition behind each bottle of Italian olive oil.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Each olive oil is a unique product of the right mixture of olive varieties and age, as well as the climate and mixture of soil where the olives are grown. It starts with the soil - the well-drained rocky soil of the Mediterranean hills and plateaus is the finest olive-producing region on earth. The sun-drenched days coupled with temperate nights cooled by Mediterranean breezes help produce the finest olives in the world.

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The transformation from olive to oil is an art form - one that has been passed down from generation to generation in many of Italy's oldest families. For thousands of years, olives were crushed with stones. And today, every step of the process, including the mechanical crushing of olives, still maintains a wealth of family tradition.

Much of this tradition lies in discerning the quality of the oil produced from crushing. First, olive oil must be tasted by a panel of olive oil masters who judge the oil for flavor, aroma and appearance. The olive master's job is highly specialized and requires years of apprenticeship in the age-old art and tradition of Italian olive oil making.

Laboratory testing is conducted to confirm its purity and to assess levels of oxidation and acidity, both of which influence the quality of the oil.

Using an innate sense that has become second nature, the Italian olive oil master can quickly tell if an olive oil shows enough promise to be suitable for bottling.

Varieties of Italian olive oils

Extra Virgin - produced by cold pressing, it is the most flavorful of olive oils. It is full, rich and fruity with peppery notes. With fine flavor and pleasant aroma, it comes from the first pressing of the olive.

Olive Oil - or Pure Olive Oil, as it is known in the United States, offers a blend of refined olive oil and Virgin or Extra Virgin olive oil. It has a mellow flavor.

Extra Light Tasting - has a slightly sweet and delicate flavor.

Organic - made from olives grown within organic farming standards, it has a fine fruity flavor.

Low Acidity - made with Extra Virgin olive oil that has less than half the maximum acidity of regular Extra Virgin olive oil. It has a very smooth fruity flavor.

-- RECIPES --

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