All About Olive Oil
For centuries, olive oil has been produced and consumed. It is renowned not only for its flavor and for the flavor it imparts to foods cooked in olive oil, but for its health benefits as well. Olive oil is produced by crushing the entire fruit—including the pit—from a mature olive, usually one with a skin that is turning from green to purple.
An average mature olive tree can produce enough olives for about four gallons of olive oil each year. California leads the nation in olive and olive oil production. Nearly 99% of US olive oil is produced in California. But California is still a small player in the international olive oil market which is dominated by Italy, Greece and Spain.
California olive oils are consistently ranked as some of the most flavorful and are a great addition to any recipe or meal. Many olive oils are infused with herbs or fruits or mixed with wines or balsamic vinegars to create unique blends for cooking and dipping. You can find a wide variety of locally-grown and locally-produced olive oil at a farmers’ market near you.
Grades of Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Made from full-flavored ripe olives that are pressed immediately after harvest, extra virgin olive oil boasts a robust, fruity flavor. It has the most full-bodied taste and aroma of the olive oil varieties. Extra virgin olive oil is a superb choice for salads and vegetable dishes, for basting meats and seafood, and for seasoning soups, marinades and sauces. Also use it alone as a dip for breads. Reach for extra virgin olive oil when you desire a full rich flavor in your foods.
Olive Oil: Olive oil, sometimes described as "pure," is an excellent all-purpose cooking oil that is more golden in color compared with extra virgin olive oil. It has a mild flavor with just a hint of fruitiness. It can be used for everything, from sautéing and stir-frying, to basting grilled or oven-roasted meats, poultry and seafood. Olive oil also works well as a flavor enhancer for sauces, marinades and dressings.
Extra Light Olive Oil: Extra light olive oil, with its light golden color, has the mildest flavor of the olive oils and just a hint of olive flavor. It's an excellent choice for all types of cooking, especially baking. It can be used in place of plain vegetable oil in most recipes. Extra light olive oil also is the best choice for high heat cooking methods, because it remains extremely stable and won't burn. Extra light olive oil has the same amount of calories and nutrient content as other olive oils.
Olive Oil Nutrition Olive oil is a healthy alternative to other oils and fats.Olive oil contains a high percentage of mono-unsaturated fat, which is healthier than the poly-unsaturated fats found in corn oil and much healthier than the saturated fats found in butter. Because olive oil is vegetable based, it contains no cholesterol. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols and very low in cholesterol and sodium. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the few oils that can be eaten without chemical processing. Fresh pressed olive oil can be eaten immediately and retains the natural flavors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy products of the ripe olive fruit. Most doctors advocate lowering total fat and calories in your diet, and substituting butter, margarine and tropical oils with healthy fats like olive oil.
Storing Olive Oil Store olive oil in an airtight container away from the light in a cool place, such as in a cupboard. If stored in the refrigerator, olive oil will become cloudy and eventually solidify. If this happens, let the olive oil come to room temperature and it will become clear and pourable again. The quality and flavor of the olive oil will not be affected.