Olives. They’re gorgeous in every way we can think of. Salty, briny, rich, healthy, addictive. And same goes for olive oil, which has this miraculous way of making every recipe taste that much better. Now here’s a question: Does it matter which olive oil you choose? The short answer is YES. But we’ll let cooking expert Christine Cushing elaborate. She knows everything you need to know about Olive Oil 101 and here, she dishes.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT OLIVE OIL
I’ve cooked in restaurants, hotels, catering companies, for magazines and on TV and yet when I set out on this incredible adventure to start my own olive oil line, I had no idea how much I didn’t know about olive oil.
Homer called olive oil liquid gold (no, seriously!) and the Greeks consume almost 25 L per olive oil per capita annually. It’s more than twice that of any other Mediterranean country. Why should we care? Well it dawned on me that if they consume so much olive oil and they have been producing it for five thousand years, then they probably have some wisdom to share on this highly prized fruit juice.
Yes, I did say fruit juice because olives are fruit and extra virgin olive oil is the pressing or extraction of juice (a combination of oil and water) from the olive. Once extracted, this fruit pulp goes to the malaxing phase and then to a centrifuge which separates the oil and discards the water. No solvents or chemicals can be used. That is extra virgin olive oil and an allowable maximum temperature of 27 D Celsius is how the term cold pressed came to pass. The term is antiquated now as it is more accurately called cold extraction. Boring.
What you want to know is how to pick a great quality, delicious oil, right? Good quality extra virgin olive oils should always have a best before and/or harvest date stamped on the bottle. I always recommend dark glass which protects the oil’s delicate polyphenols against heat and light damage.
There are many factors that affect how an oil tastes and like wine there is a range of flavours but you should look for a distinct flavour, with fruity aromas and it should not leave a greasy or filmy residue. Intensity is a good thing. And since some producers are trying to sell cheap imitations, the best way to guarantee you’re getting authentic olive oil is to learn how good oil tastes.
- If it costs $ 3/litre, I don’t care what it says on the bottle, it’s not extra virgin.
- Never buy light olive oil which is actually chemically refined with less taste, few health benefits but all the calories.
- Once pressed and bottled properly, good olive oil has a shelf life of 18 months but the fresher it is, the more pronounced those delicious and fresh flavours will be. The moral here? Don’t store your bottles of olive oil in your cellar for years.
- Can you cook with olive oil? Absolutely yes! There has been a ton of misinformation on this topic and olive oil has a moderate smoke point of between 375- 425 , depending on the olive oil. Generally the better quality oil has less fatty acids and a higher smoke point.
Here are a few taste profiles of oils from a selection of olives to help guide you.
FRANTOIO: from Italy Flavour: intense black pepper, green leaves, radish Good for: dressing for robust greens, drizzle over steak , pesto
PICUAL: from Spain Flavour: leafy greens, tomato leaf, chili Good for: salads, gazpachos, stews
KORONIEKI: from Greece Flavour: green lettuce, green banana, sweet almond, gentle pepper Good for: baking, sauces, any salad, eggs, drizzle on grilled meat, or fish
Celebrity Chef Christine Cushing has been showing Canada how to cook for almost 15 years. Her successful line of handmade food products are anchored around a “Bold” extra virgin olive oil which is her pride and joy. This year marks the 10th anniversary of her signature extra virgin olive oil. Christine’s culinary philosophy is simple: Start with the best ingredients, have fun and share everything you know about food. For where to buy Christine’s products, click here. Wanna connect for more foodie news? Web: www.christinecushing.com Twitter: @ccfearless Facebook: Chef Christine Cushing