What is olive oil?
Not many people know this but the olive oil is a fresh fruit juice produced in every country around the Mediterranean sea from the end of October to the end of March for the latest fruits.
Between 5 and 7 kilograms of fruits are necessary in order to create one liter of higher quality olive oil.
The quality of this oil will depend on its freshness and on the sanitary state of the fruits, the time spent pressing them, their maturity (Check out the ‘cafting' section of the site).
During its making, there is an analysis of 2 aspects that will represent its quality:
– The acidity (oleic acid rate) expressed in gram or percentage which will determine the categories: ‘virgin extra', ‘virgin' or ‘oil';
– The peroxide expressed in milliequivalent of peroxide oxygen by kilogram (mEq O2/kg).
The weaker the oleic acid rate is the better the oil will be, and the weaker the peroxide oxygen index is the cooler the oil will be. In any case, the index must be below 20 otherwise the oil will be lampante and unpalatable, finally the sensory analysis complete the examination of the product.
This fruit juice doesn't contain water so there isn't bacteria.
After the press, it is possible to filter it, but not a single preservative nor any other product must be added into it.
And so, the product is going to age like any other fresh product by fearing more than everything three things: heat, light and oxygen.
The good conservation of olive oil, which is a labelling mention that is too often ignored, therefore is to keep it cool in a tempered cellar or a black closet.
What is olive oil?
The more healthy and young fruits are used in the crafting of the olive oil and the more its organoleptic qualities will last. Well conserved, it can be consumed from two years and a half to three years after its making.
The ideal is to buy a fresh olive oil from the actual year, in other words with the shelf-life far from the purchase date.
The shelf-life of olive oils is established at 18 months, but if your oil has a good quality, it can last longer. When an olive oil is too old, it will turn rancid due to a sudden exponential oxidation. Therefore, anyone can identify a really expired oil at the taste without risking one's health.
First cold pressure:
It has been many years since this term isn't used anymore since nearly all mills work now in cold mechanical extraction.
The mention that must be found on the bottles is the following:
‘Olive oil of higher quality obtained directly from olives and only through mechanical ways'.
Which means that it will have been extracted from a continuous chain from olives and not in ‘second pressure' from olive-pomace, in other words from leftovers of pits through chemical processes. However in France we cannot find this kind of product easily, it is mainly used to roast peanuts for instance and we therefore consume it without being aware of its presence.
Virgin extra, the quality of olive oils:
The quality of the olive oil is represented mainly through 3 aspects: the acidity rate, the peroxide index and the sensory analysis:
|Type of olive oil||Acidity rate||Peroxide index||Organoleptic rating|
|Virgin extra olive oil||Below or equal to 0,8%||Below 20mEqO2/kg||Above 6,5|
|Virgin olive oil||Below or equal to 2%||Below 20mEqO2/kg||Between 5,6 and 6,5|
|Running virgin olive oil||Below or equal to 3%||Above 20mEqO2/kg||Above 3,5|
|Lampante virgin olive oil||–||Above 20mEqO2/kg||Below 3,5|
However, we must take into account that high-class and fresh oils have a very weak acidity rate fluctuating depending of the years between 0,2 and 0,3% instead of 0,8% therefore far below its limit, and with a peroxide index of 6, thus far below 20 which means that these oils have better organoleptic qualities.
Yet, they can't be differed from industrial olive oils made with fruits of very average quality or with old fruits or with shredded or mixed oils since these manage, despite their questionable quality, to go under the all-important 0,8%. It is then understood that the agri-food law being adapted and made by the biggest firms and not done to distinguish the best ones, all of them will be stamped as ‘Virgin extra'.
On the other hand, these mentions of the acidity rate, which changes depending of the years and of the manufacturing batches are not mandatory on the labels, a reality which prevents any form of comparison by the consumer.
Therefore, there is only one distinction tool left and it is the taste, because the fresh and tasty oils have a disproportionate aromatic contribution with running oils without nature or with bad quality.
The price of oils:
In France, the production is tiny and represent only 0,5% of the worldwide production. With cost prices that are too expensive, the groves aren't taken by the new generations, the source material is lacking and the prices can fly up to 2 euros for one kilo of olives. In the end with 5 to 7 kilos of olives that are required to produce one liter, the prices are close to 25 euros for one liter of olive oil in recent years.
Furthermore, the winters that are too soft allow the fly and other diseases to spread, with important impacts on the production.
Origin of the oils:
An oil can be labelled French origin, from the European Union (UE) or European origin (CE) and UE/NON EU for the rest such as Maghreb or a mix of Magreb/European union.
But there are also the bearing oils:
AOP (Originally Protected Appellation)
IGP (Geographically Protected Indication)
Organic olive oils