The Truth About Olive Oil
Choosing olive oil should be just as important as important as brushing your teeth every day. It’s just as complex as wine, varying by region of not only Italy — but also the world. Here’s a secret: Olive oil is not bad for you. I’ve found that it’s one of the healthiest things I can give my body. What is bad for you, though, are the absolute crap olive oils that US grocery stores are plagued by. If there is one thing you should never never never cheap out on, it’s olive oil.
Our company was involved in this research and actively participated by providing our extra virgin olive oil, indicating also the families of Canino which were used to consume oil in the kitchen to verify the effects on our population’s health. The research was also carried out on the populations of northern Europe and in the Scandinavian countries, who use only "animal fats". That research showed the absolute superiority of extra virgin olive oil, proving that people who use it are far less affected by cardiovascular diseases. This superiority is due to the presence of linoleic acid in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil which prevents from cardiovascular diseases and from cholesterol, damaging the circulatory system, and decreases the formation of sclerotic changes. The daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil, together with a healthy diet, may help prevent from cancers such as colon and breast cancer. The extra virgin olive oil, as well as being a digestible fat, is rich in vitamin E, polyphenols, phytosterols and carotenoids which have a protective effect on the body by blocking free radicals, main cause of cells’ aging.
How to shop for quality oil:
‘Extra Virgin’ is not a guarantee of quality. It just means that it was pressed, so don’t let that influence you buying decision.
Where is it coming from? The bottle can say, “organic, natural, 100% Pure olive oil, etc. but then you read the label to find out it’s a blend of nearly expired olives from all over the world. If it says, ‘Olives from the European Union,’ it’s no good. You want 100% from one region (doesn’t have to be Italy, can be Spain, Greece, California, etc. I just use Italian because of it’s accessibility and I love the flavors of every region) There should be certified stamps of its true origin. Check for certified labels:
The European Union’s PDO ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ stamp
Italy’s new 100% Quality Italian stamp
The California Olive Oil Commission’s “Extra Virgin Seal” for California oils
Other critical certifications:
From Eataly’s site:
Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Indication of Geographic Protection)
The IGP label shows that the quality or reputation of your food or condiment is linked to the place or region where it is produced, processed, or prepared.
DOP (PDO in English)
Denominazione d’Origine Protetta | Protected Designation of Origin
The DOP label guarantees that your favorite cheese, prosciutto, olive oil, etc., is produced, processed, and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition. Each step, from production to packaging, is regulated.
Check the harvest date or expiration date. Olive oil, like any consumable, expires! I’ve seen much too often the bottle that sits on everyone’s counter forever. It’s best to consume within 1 year of the harvest date. If it’s unfiltered, it’s best to be consumed in 1-3 months of being pressed.
Go to a tasting!! A good olive oil should nearly choke you when sipped raw.
How to use it:
You see me preaching about different olive oils constantly on instagram. I’ll give a breakdown of the oils in my growing collection, and why I use them the way I do to hopefully help you in making your decision when you shop. I’m including links to each producer to feed any additional curiosities.
Sicilian olive oil is assertive, robust, and peppery in flavor. I use it only for roasting vegetables and fish, and never top something off like a salad. This month I have oil from PrimOli, an organic producer of Sicily.
Other excellent cooking olive oils can be found from Puglia, where they are a little brighter, and grassier — great for cooking veggies, fish, and meats. Again, never for topping.
Tuscan Olive Oil
Being in the center of Italy, Tuscany provides us with a balance of the robust, spicy flavors of the south and the delicate, nutty flavors of the north. This would be a good oil to have as close to an “all purpose” as possible. I use it for cooking pasta, veggies, meat, fish, grains, falafel, tagine, erthing. But still — no topping! Only cooking. This is why I have the big 3 L container from Campo Ruffaldo, an Agriturismo (agricultural Air BnBs in Italy).
Ligurian Olive Oil
The opposite of Sicilian oils, but one of my absolute favourites. It’s buttery, opaque, smooth, delicate, and makes for the best companion to topping salads, vegetables, pasta, pesto, and breads. I also use Ligurian oils for infusion (like putting dry hot peppers, preserved lemon, or herbs) I have use two types of Ligurian oils solely for taste preference. A filtered oil from the region of Cinque Terre, which is border-lined with Tuscany, from a local cooperative Villata di Levanto. The other from Raineri in Chiusanico, which nearly borders France, a sweeter and slightly heartier unfiltered oil.
Unfiltered Olive Oils
Unfiltered oil should always be used only for topping and never for cooking. I much prefer an unfiltered olive oil for salads and topping veggies or pasta than a filtered oil. Why? Unfiltered oil means the most optimal amount of precious antioxidants and phenolic compounds possible. During my recent work trip to Tuscany, I grabbed a bottle from a small-batch producer Frantoio Archibusacci, who have a beautiful description of their process on their site. It’s bright green, almost neon, grassy, full-bodied, and for lack of better words: damn good.
Where to Buy it:
If you can’t find it in your local grocery, deli, or gastronomy shop, go to Eataly! Make a trip out of it, even. They offer olive oil tastings and cooking courses, and their staff have a wealth of knowledge so ask questions!
How to store olive oil:
In a cool dark place, always in a dark bottle. I have a few glass bottles, but it’s because I use them too quickly to allow damage to be done, and they are always stored in my lower cabinet.
Where I got my info:
One of my favorite cookbooks, Autentico by Rolando Beramendi.
Olive oil producers all over Italy.
Live chats with producers at Salone del Gusto in Torino.