Olive oil is one of the most common oil choices that we see here in North America. We see it in tons of recipes and hear in the news that it is a healthy oil choice. Normally when you go into the grocery store there is a large selection with a very large price different between the cheapest bottle and the most expensive. So why the price difference?
We know that olive oil is made from crushed olives. Basically the olive paste is stirred up to release oil and water. The water is then removed which leaves the oil that we love so much. If we left it at this we get unrefined olive oils. This variety does not undergo any type of chemical refining. They will often be labeled “virgin” or “extra virgin”. The fruit for this type of oil has to be in very good condition and the oil has to be made so that oxidization does not occur. Extra virgin oil is a type of unrefined oil that has no defects and has a fruity flavor. There are certain benchmarks that an oil has to meet in order to get this label. The last category of olive oil is refined oils. These oils only account for approximately 30 percent of all production. These oils need solvents and heat to make the oil. This process allows farmers to use a wide variety of olives of all qualities. The heating and addition of chemicals helps refine the taste of the final product. Refined oils could be labeled as “olive oil” or “pure olive oil”. These oils will be much cheaper than extra virgin bottles.
There are a few nuances to know about olive oils. The first is storage temperature. Olive oil will become solid when stored in the fridge. The best way to store the oil is in a cool dark place. Once a bottle is opened it will last for several months. If you choose to cook with olive oil, it will lose its delicate flavor when heated. I tend to use canola oil to cook with and then save my extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings and cold applications. Just like with wine there are tons of different olive varieties. Each one has its own unique flavor profile and where they are grown can impact this further. Olive oils can be blended or made with one variety depending on what the desired outcome is for the oil. If you ever get a chance to go olive oil tasting I highly recommend it. You might find that there are some oils that you love and others that you prefer to pass on. The olive type and country of production can also effect the price per bottle. Some of the countries that are known for olive oil production are the United States, Portugal, Italy and Greece. However there are many more that aren’t on this list.