The staple of Italian cuisine
Olive oil has long been a symbol of Italian cuisine. Nowadays it has become a staple for millions eager to enjoy healthier lifestyle. The most famous Mediterranean diet also uses olive oil as its principal fat. There are lots of varieties and blends currently on the market which makes it really hard to choose the best one.
Olives are a fruit produced by a Mediterranean evergreen tree grown throughout Italian regions. Olive trees are one of the world’s oldest cultivations which can withstand any climate conditions. While an olive begins as a green fruit, the ripening process causes it to darken or turn black.
Once the olives have been picked, they are moved to a processing facility, usually a local mill. Very often, olive mills are located within the orchard. Once picked, the fruit is prone to molding and quick decomposition. If pressing will take place over several days, the olives may be turned to ensure the skin does not spoil. Despite the time-honored tradition of hand picking olives, the sorting and pressing process have been modernized in an effort to save precious time. Once leaves, twigs and any other remaining debris have been removed comes the actual pressing. The entire press process is rather cumbersome and includes grinding and mixing, as well as separating oil from water.
Following the press, the resulting olive oil is considered ‘non-filtered’ or ‘cold pressed’. Because of its purity and integrity, cold press olive oil is often more expensive than others.
Virgin olive oil in Italy
Cold pressed olive oil is also referred to as ‘virgin’ since the oil has not been filtered, modified or altered in any way. However, to be classified as virgin, it cannot contain more than 2% of acidity, where the acidity refers to the presence of oleic acid, a monosaturated fatty acid. Virgin olive oils are more aromatic than their highly refined counterparts. These often contain unique taste characteristics, which associate them to their own region of origin.