Understanding Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cold Pressing
Yes, all extra virgin olive oil is first cold-pressed. This method retains maximum olive flavor and nutrients, with the oil being extracted from the olives without heat or chemicals.
The ‘Extra Virgin’ Label
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) indicates the highest quality of olive oil based on specific parameters and standards.
- ‘Virgin’ oil indicates no heat or chemicals were used in extraction, preserving the olive’s flavor and nutritional value.
- ‘Extra’ signals the absence of sensory flaws and an acidity level under 0.8 percent.
- For an oil to be labelled EVOO, it must pass chemical tests in the lab and sensory evaluations by trained tasting panels.
The Cold-Pressing Process
- Cold Pressing, or First Cold Press, indicates the fruit of the olive was crushed exactly one time using a temperature lower than 27°C (80.6°F).
- No heat or chemical additives are used in cold-pressing, ensuring the olive oil retains its natural flavor, nutrients, and health benefits.
- Within 24 hours of harvesting, the olives are processed to limit oxidation and degradation, ultimately safeguarding the oil’s freshness.
- Though additional oil could be extracted using heat or chemicals, this oil is usually of an inferior quality.
Understanding the Industry Jargon
Here are some professional terms to help you navigate the olive oil industry:
- This term refers to fresh olive flavors in the oil, distinguishing it from oils that carry flavors of ripe or overripe olives.
- Professional tasters use this term to describe the peppery sensation in the mouth and throat from oils rich in oleocanthal, a phenolic compound.
- A common attribute in fresh EVOO, it’s indicative of oil made from green olives or olives that were just turning color.
Traceability and Authenticity
- To ensure you’re buying authentic EVOO, look for certification seals, like the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).
- Another reliable sign of authentic EVOO is the presence of a harvest date on the label. This isn’t required by law, but producers committed to quality often include it.
- Be aware of terms like ‘Light’, ‘Pure’, or ‘Made from refined olive oil’. These aren’t grades legally defined in standards and often represent lower quality oils.