THE TWO WAYS TO EXTRACT OLIVE OIL

In order to produce high-quality olive oil, the fruits must be harvested without damage and processed as quickly as possible, ideally within the next 4 hours. First, the drupes are washed and blown clean with large fans to remove foreign bodies such as leaves and small twigs. Then the actual production process begins whereby the oil always consists of the pulp including the olive pits, resulting in a pulp, crushed pits, oil and water.

The oldest and traditional slow method is by granite stone mills, most of which have been replaced in recent years by the faster and less expensive stainless steel mills. In order for a high-quality olive oil to end up in the bottle, the fruit must go through cold pressing or cold extraction. During pressing, the olive mass is spread on nylon or straw mats, stacked on top of each other and pressed until the oil emerges.

With cold extraction, the mass is placed in a large centrifuge and spun until the oil separates from the pulp and seeds and collected. During the entire procedure, the temperatures should not arise above 27 degree, to prevent the loss of the healthy substances such as vitamins A and E, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium and the trace element iron. Before bottling, the olive oil is stored for 1 to 3 months in large stainless steel tanks at a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, with the exclusion of light and foreign odors.

The oil is graded according to the quality of the oil and its pressing. The grade is given from the first pressing, which removes about 90 % of the olives’ juice. Chemicals and high heat, which destroy antioxidants, are strictly forbidden in the production of extra-virgin or virgin oils!


BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL

Contains healthy fat
Is nutritious
Is packed full of antioxidant
Improves digestion
Has anti-inflammatory properties
May reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer
May prevent cardiovascular disease


VARIETIES
The world’s most renowned olive oil varieties are Arbequina, Picual, Coratina, Koroneiki, Frantoio and Leccino. The Spanish Arbequina variety has been the most widely planted type for several years now. It is a very aromatic olive with a herbal flavor and comes from Tarragona and Lleida in the northeastern coastal regions of Spain.

Another Spanish sort is the very fruity Picual, which grows in the southern regions of Sevilla, Huelva, Granada, Córdoba, Jaén, and Malaga. Coratina is a variety that can be found around Bari in southeastern Italy. The very green fruits mature extremely late and are quite bitter. Koroneiki produces excellent oil high in polyphenols and is the primary oil variety of Greece. The very small fruit has a fruity aroma and grows all over Peloponnisos, Zakinthos, and Crete.

The famous Tuscan-blend oils, Frantoio and Leccino, grow primarily around Firenze in Tuscany and central Italy. While the bright green Frantoio variety has a strong aromatic and grassy flavor, the much lighter Leccino has its own distinct spicy flavor that adds complexity to the excellent quality blend.

Olive oil is graded according to the quality of the oil and its pressing. The grade is given from the first pressing, which removes about 90 percent of the olives’ juice. Chemicals and high heat, which destroy antioxidants, are not allowed in the production of extra-virgin or virgin oils. After the pressing process, no further processing or refining occurs.

Premium extra virgin olive oil with an extremely low acidity (possibly as low as 0.225%) is nature’s finest oil and best suited for using uncooked, like in salads or as a dip with bread. It has a lower smoke point, which means that it will burn much more easily than regular olive oil. In addition, the heat from cooking will destroy much of the flavor and nutritional value.

Extra virgin olive oil must have a superior flavor and is also best used uncooked. Furthermore, IOOC regulations say it must contain no more than 0.8% acidity. The less expensive Virgin olive oil comes after the extra-virgin oil and is close in quality. It has usually slight defects of aroma or flavor, lower chemical standards and higher free fatty acid levels. According to the IOOC regulations, it must have a ‘’good’’ taste and an acidity level of no more than 1.5%. It’s great for cooking, but has enough flavor to also be enjoyed uncooked. Semi fine virgin olive oil, with an acidity no higher than 3.3%, doesn’t have enough flavor and is good for cooking.


WHAT DOES D.O.P. MEAN?
Olive oil is treated like wine, with the same classification standards. D.O.P. means Protected Designation of Origin. Only producers that apply for and pass certification standards within the origin of the oil earn this designation.

STORAGE
When shopping, look for olive oil in a dark bottle or in a can. Olive oil lasts approximately 18-24 months if it’s stored in a cool and dark place. Light and heat turn the oil rancid and destroy the healthy antioxidants. Over time the acidity level rises and the healthy nutrients decrease, which is why it’s recommended to use your oil within 12 months of pressing.

PRODUCTION
Olive Trees love dry heat, sunshine and dry soil. Therefore, the Mediterranean countries, with their temperate climate and soil, are ideal for cultivation. There are around 23 million hectares of olive acreage worldwide, some of which produce around 1.5 million tonnes of table olives. About 16 million tons of olives are processed to produce 2.56 million tons of oil.

Spain has about a quarter of the world’s cultivated area and is the largest oil producer, with a production of 36% of the world production. With 3.53 million acres and around 24%, Italy is in second place, followed by Greece with around 17%.

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