This is a two-part article:
A. Olive Oil Basics: Commonly Used Terms. What To Look For On A Bottle. How To Store It. “Good” Olive Oil Characteristics.
B. Learning About Cyprus Olive Oil: Cyprus Olive Oil Tourism: The Oleastro Olive Park & Museum.
A. OLIVE OIL BASICS
1. The Terms
a. Refined Olive Oil: Is a type of olive oil that has been chemically processed. This allows producers to use olives that are not in the best condition, and blend from oils from a wide variety of sources (even countries) because the bad tastes resulting from oxidized olives and the mass production process are chemically removed.
b. Unrefined Olive Oil: Unrefined Olive Oils do not undergo chemical refining. In Unrefined Olive Oils, such as Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive Oils, the process goes no further than extraction and bottling. Producers of Unrefined Olive Oils need to use fruit that is in good condition and carefully manage various factors, because the oil will not be treated to chemically hide bad tastes that would result from oxidized olives or some other contamination.
c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Is a type of Unrefined Olive Oil. It is the “Cold-Pressed” result of the first pressing of the olives. This type of oil is considered the finest and fruitiest, and thus the most expensive. Colours range from a crystalline champagne color to greenish-golden to bright green. Generally, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. Extra Virgin Olive Oils have higher amounts of nutrients and therefore provide greater health benefits.
d. Virgin Olive Oil: Also a type of Unrefined Olive Oil, but with a slightly higher acidity level than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
e. Olive Oil and Pure Olive Oil: Oils labeled as Pure Olive Oil or Olive oil are primarily refined olive oil, with a small addition of virgin-production to give taste.
f. Cold-Pressing: This means that the oil was not heated over a certain temperature (usually 80 °F (27 °C)) during processing, thus retaining more nutrients and undergoing less degradation.
g. First Cold-Pressing: means that the fruit of the olive was crushed exactly one time-i.e., the first press.
2. How To Buy A Good Olive Oil Checklist
Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums. That’s why one year an olive tree might produce a lot of olives, and the next year relatively little. It needs to rest! So real extra virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made. Having said that, there is obviously some excellent bottled olive oil out there. Here is a checklist of what to watch out for:
a. Make sure the bottle has a “best by” date, or better still a date of harvest. Try to buy oils only from this year’s harvest. “Best by” dates are usually two years from the time an oil was bottled, so if you see a date that is two years away, the oil is more likely to be fresh.
b. Make sure the bottle includes the mill and country it was made in. Phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy,” do not mean that the oil was made in Italy, much less that it was made from Italian olives.
c. Make sure the bottle has a low percentage of acidity. Look for bottles with 0.8% acidity or lower.
d. Make sure the bottle is dark glass or a container that protects against light. Olive oil exposed to light will make it go bad.
e. But don’t worry about the colour of the olive oil. Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw, and official tasters actually use colored glasses to avoid prejudicing themselves in favor of greener oils.
3. What does a Good Olive Oil Taste Like?
a. Good Flavours Include: Extra virgin oils, both in flavor and aroma, have a marked fruitiness reminiscent of fresh olives, and typically have some level of bitterness and pungency (pepperiness at the back of the throat). Don’t be put off by bitterness or pungency – remember that these are usually indicators of the presence of healthful antioxidants.
b. Bad Flavours Include: Avoid tastes or odors such as moldy, rancid, cooked, greasy, meaty, metallic and cardboard.
4. Taking Care Of Your Olive Oil
a. Can I Heat It? Yes. Olive oil makes an excellent choice for nearly every kind of cooking. Just remember that if you choose to heat an extra virgin olive oil, you will lose its flavors. There is some debate as to whether it is a good idea to fry with olive oil. You can find articles which say no. And you can also find articles that say it is fine. So, it seems there is no clear answer on this one yet.
b. Where Should I Store It? You can keep unopened olive oil in a cool, dark place for – some say – up to two years. Once you open the container, the oil begins to degrade much faster. A good rule of thumb is to use it within a few months after opening. Keep the bottle tightly capped and away from heat and direct light.
B. LEARNING ABOUT CYPRUS OLIVE OIL
WHERE: Oleastro Olive Park & Museum, Anogyra, Limassol. It is very well signposted. WHEN: Every day between 10am and 7pm. Visit their website for opening hours. WHAT: An olive oil museum, mill and park. Olive oil tastings always available for visitors if requested.
This week I visited the Oleastro Olive Park & Museum in Anogyra, Limassol to learn more about Cyprus olive oil. I had a wonderful visit. One of my aims with this website is to promote Cypriot food culture through recipes and highlight wonderful Cypriot ingredients, foods and traditions. Oleastro Olive Park & Museum – I feel – is a wonderful example of a place which adheres to a similar ethos daily, with a focus on Cyprus olive oil. The owners have created a Museum and Park to showcase how Cypriot olive oil was traditionally made, and its history on the island. I humbly applaud them for a job wonderfully done. Not only will you find the trip educational and relaxing, you can also enjoy a beautiful lunch overlooking the park and sample the olive oils on offer.
And something has to be said about the Organic Oleastro Olive Oil. I really enjoyed it. It is excellent quality olive oil. My understanding is that Organic Oleastro Olive Oil is the only organic Cyprus olive oil produced without the use of any chemicals and certified by LACON for organic farming. It is extracted in their own olive mill using the cold pressing technique and millstones so that the olive oil preserves its nutritional and healing properties. The olive oil is stored directly in their own reservoirs so that it is spared unnecessary transport that has a negative impact on the quality. The olive oil is under the control of their company under all stages (cultivation, extraction process, storage, bottling). It is no surprise that it has won several awards and distinctions, or that it is the first Cyprus organic olive oil to be sold in gourmet markets in the EU, USA, and Japan.
Note: Every October, the Mill has an open day where visitors are invited and free entrance is provided. There is complimentary olive oil tasting, and visitors may also sample various traditional foods made by local producers. There is a buffet menu for an additional price.
*The information in part 1 of article was gathered from a variety of sources, namely: Wikipedia, The Olive Oil Times, and The Truth In Olive Oil. ** The International Olive Council (IOC) rules apply to Cyprus. The IOC is an intergovernmental organization based in Madrid, Spain, with 16 member states plus the European Union which promotes olive oil around the world by tracking production, defining quality standards, and monitoring authenticity. The IOC officially governs 95% of international production and holds great influence over the rest. The EU regulates the use of different protected designation of origin labels for olive oils, and the individual countries themselves can choose to make the rules stricter in their own country.