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California Olive Oil 101
What Does Extra Virgin Mean?
Extra Virgin signifies the highest quality olive oil based on internationally recognized standards. Oil must be mechanically extracted without chemical or excessive heat. The resulting oil must have no more than .5% acidity, as determined in a lab test. It must also have positive taste elements and no taste defects, as determined by a certified taste panel.
In California, there is an Extra Virgin Certification program that ensures that the oil you buy is, in fact, extra virgin. Look for the COOC seal on extra virgin (non-flavored) olive oils. For more info, visit the California Olive Oil Council.
Fruitiness, bitterness and pungency are the three positive attributes of fresh olive oil. Oils don’t have to have all three, and the attributes they do have should be balanced. Pasolivo’s oils are big and bold, so they’re a good example of fruity, bitter and pungent (peppery) oils.
What Causes Olive Oil To Go Bad?
Light is very damaging to olive oil, as is heat. Oil can become defective from poor handling or processing of the fruit or from poor storage after bottling. Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age. It starts out at its most intense, and then softens over time until it finally turns. Your best bet is to keep your oil in a cool, dark place (and tin is an excellent choice for protection!)
How Long Does Olive Oil Keep and How Should It Be Stored?
Suggested use is within two years of the harvest date but lab results may dictate longer shelf life. Keep olive oil stored in a cool, dark place in tightly sealed containers.
What Makes One Olive Oil Taste Different From Another?
The two main elements in determining how an extra virgin oil taste are the varietals of olives used and the time of season when they were picked (early vs. late harvest, for example). But, as is the case with all of farming, nature impacts the flavor in many ways, from how much rain we get to how long the temperatures were above 90 degrees.
Why Are Some Oils Cloudy, And Some Have Sediment On The Bottom Of The Tin?
Cloudiness depends on the method by which the oil is made and whether or not it is filtered. Sediment in small amounts is normal for unfiltered oils and is not detrimental to the quality or taste of oil. Sometimes when oils are really new they are cloudy until the sediment has a chance to settle.
Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Better Than Other Grades Of Olive Oil?
Yes! It will have more flavor than lower grades of oil. It is also a natural product extracted with only mechanical means (meaning no heat or solvents like some seed or pomace oils). It also contains natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which are proven to improve your health. These compounds are very low or absent from seed oils and non-virgin olive oil.
Why Do Some Olive Oils Cost More Than Others?
The real factor is how much it costs to make the oil. Extra virgin olive oil is a natural product, produced from very high quality, fresh olives that require careful handling and processing. Many low cost oils are labeled as extra virgin but are actually lesser grade oils.
How Can I Be Sure That The Oil I’m Buying Is Actually Extra Virgin?
The California Olive Oil Council Seal Program assures customers that the oil they are buying is actually extra virgin. Currently, neither the USDA nor the FDA enforces labeling rules for extra virgin olive oils. Many oils are mislabeled and some are adulterated with seed oils. Look for the COOC seal as a symbol of quality.