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What is Olive Oil?

There can be many answers to this simple question: olive oil is the juice of the fruit of the olive once separated from its natural water content. Olive oil is a liquid fat which provides 9000 Kcal per liter. Olive oil is a natural form of "flavor enhancement", used for millennia to improve the taste of the plates with which it is combined. All of those are correct, and we could go on for ever. But let's start from the beginning:†

"Olive oil is the juice of the olive fruit"

So true. In order to produce olive oil, nothing more is required than to harvest the fruit and smash it with tools that range from stone wheels weighing tons - a neolithic invention, to enormously sophisticated stainless-steel "hammers", "discs" and others. Each tool has certain advantages and, of course, its well-known and not so well-known disadvantages. Stone mills keep the temperature down but are hard to clean properly. Steel hammers are very efficient but they tend to slightly "cook" the oil because of the friction, and this just to mention a few key parameters that are crucial to control. Pressing olives is easy, so to speak, however, how and when to squeeze them is what makes the difference between a good and a bad olive oil.

When to press?The sooner the better!
Basically, almost all of the "quality" oil producers prefer not to wait until the last moment to harvest the fruit. They pick them as soon as mid-October, when they are still a bright green color, while they will tend to darken as they mature with some varieties reaching a shiny black color. The greener the better. The richness in quality minerals is reached well before the olive is mature, it will only decline after then. But the content of oil increases with ripeness, therefore: the more you wait, the more oil you will be able to extract, and the lower the quality you will get! That's why quality oil is so expensive: the care required to tend an olive tree is more or less constant, but the quantity that quality producers collect is less than large producers. Also, the acidity content grows and it can reach a level (above 2%) when the olive oil is no longer recommended for nutrition, but only for "lighting" purposes, "lampante" being the Italian label for it. But it's still olive oil, isn't it? And if the problem is a bit of acid, it can be fixed with a little bicarbonate soda, as grandpa used to do after he had a go for the sixth piece of schnitzel! Well, today’s industry doesn't use soda, but they do "refine" large amounts of oil, into something of lower acidity, and therefore of better grade. Unfortunately the market seems to be sticking to this overly-simple qualification for classifying olive oil: acidity. No attention is paid to taste, to good mineral content (polyphenols, good cholesterol, etc), and to bad mineral content such as peroxides. A quality producer will usually give you this extra information, this is the page which one of our top suppliers, the Azienda Agricola Dott. Sergio Gafa', which produces the "La Casa Di Lucia" E.V.O.O., shows on its website. And regarding the taste: a few key publications help the consumer choosing the right olive oil. Our "L'Extravergine" is one of them, but we will add more soon, hoping to give a complete range of neutral information which will help you better plan your purchase and even your visit to the olive oil producing regions: some of our suppliers (Luigi Tega, Fattoria di Fubbiano, Cerrosughero) run beautiful "agriturismi" where you can see with your own eyes the evolution of your favorite oil!
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