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The Truth about EVOO

The making of extra virgin Olive Oil in Mola di Bari, Puglia

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has been enjoyed for centuries, and yet here we are chipping away on the 22nd Century and there is still confusion.  That is because some large producers have purposely made it difficult to discern what EVOO legally means, to capitalize and de-fraud home consumers.  It is reported that as much as 80% of the olive oil marketed and sold in the US is not actually EVOO.  What a scam!  So we are here to help you understand the why and how to shop for EVOO at Sickles.

For taste purposes EVOO is an incredible food to use, whether in salad dressings, making sauces, or cooking fat.  Even to finish a dish, the right oil can bring it to a new level.  But perhaps the most compelling reason to use real EVOO are the health benefits, because it is rich in the good fats and polyphenols (antioxidants) that ward off heart disease and cancers.  It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, that nutritional balance that keeps older Italians feeling young and fit.  You can understand why this food is in demand, it is also doubles as a beauty product!

We remember that the olive is a fruit, and when picked slightly under ripe it will be most potent in these healthy properties.  Not for eating, but making the oil.  To make an EVOO the fruit must be picked this way and milled very soon after, within a day.  Once milled, light and air accelerate the deterioration.  So our advice begins with looking for an oil in a container that lets in the least amount of light.  Also, look for a harvest date or Best Before Date.  This can tell you how old the oil is, which ideally is not beyond 18 months, certainly not 2 years.  The fresher the better. And after opening a EVOO at home try to work through it in 30 days because afterwards the oil oxidizes and breaks down. 

Even then, there are no US Laws protecting consumers from fraudulent labels from the EU.  The best way to detect a great oil is by taste.  Even in Italy there is a special department of the Carabinieri tasked with specifically tasting olive oils for frauds!  How can you train your palate on olive oil?  Begin with the aroma—high quality EVOO will have a pleasant, herbaceous smell.  Secondly, when tasting it is a good sign if you find a bitterness or spice in the aftertaste, and it is OK if you cough.  That is the polyphenolic property, those anti-aging, disease fighting friends in the oil.  Some regions produce spicier oil (Tuscany) than other regions (Greece, for example), but all EVOO should not feel “greasy” either. 

In the end it comes down to your taste.  We will feature some of our favorite oils in this blog as they arrive to share more specific information on a producer.  In the meantime we hope you can appreciate that not all EVOO’s are what they seem. 

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