Thursday, March 31, 2016

Condiment of the Week - Olive Oil

Olive oil is a fat obtained from the olive (the fruit of Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional
Extra-virgin olive oil
tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by pressing whole olives and is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world and is often associated with Mediterranean countries. Adulteration of olive oil is widespread, with involvement by organised crime.

There are many different olive varieties or olives, each with a particular flavor, texture, and shelf life that make them more or less suitable for different applications such as direct human consumption on bread or in salads, indirect consumption in domestic cooking or catering, or industrial uses such as animal feed or engineering applications.

In 2013, world production of virgin olive oil was 2.8 million tonnes, a 20% decrease from the 2012 world production of 3.5 million tonnes. Spain produced 1.1 million tonnes or 39% of world production in 2013. 75% of Spain's production derives from the region of Andalucía, particularly within Jaén province which produces 70% of olive oil in Spain. In the town of Villacarrillo, Jaén, is the world’s largest olive oil mill capable of processing 2,500 tons of olives per day.

Although Italy is a net importer of olive oil, it produced 442,000 tonnes in 2013 or 16% of the world's production. Major Italian producers are known as "Città dell'Olio", "oil cities"; including Lucca, Florence and Siena, in Tuscany. The largest production, however, is harvested in Apulia and Calabria. Greece accounted for 11% of world production in 2013.

Australia now produces a substantial amount of olive oil. Many Australian producers only make premium oils, while a number of corporate growers operate groves of a million trees or more and produce oils for the general market. Australian olive oil is exported to Asia, Europe and the United States.

In North America, Italian and Spanish olive oils are the best-known, and top-quality extra-virgin olive oil from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are sold at high prices, often in prestige packaging. A large part of U.S. olive oil imports come from Italy, Spain, and Turkey.

The United States produces olive oil in California, Arizona, and Texas.

Olive oil is the main cooking oil in countries surrounding the Mediterranean.
A bottle of Italian olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is mostly used as a salad dressing and as an ingredient in salad dressings. It is also used with foods to be eaten cold. If uncompromised by heat, the flavor is stronger. It also can be used for sautéing.

The higher the temperature to which the olive oil is heated, the higher the risk of compromising its taste. When extra virgin olive oil is heated above 210–216 °C (410–421 °F), depending on its free fatty acid content, the unrefined particles within the oil are burned. This leads to deteriorated taste. Also, the pronounced taste of extra virgin olive oil is not a taste most people like to associate with their deep fried foods. Refined olive oils are perfectly suited for deep frying foods and should be replaced after several uses.

Choosing a cold-pressed olive oil can be similar to selecting a wine. The flavor of these oils varies considerably and a particular oil may be more suited for a particular dish.

An important issue often not realized in countries that do not produce olive oil is that the freshness makes a big difference. A very fresh oil, as available in an oil producing region, tastes noticeably different from the older oils available elsewhere. In time, oils deteriorate and become stale. One-year-old oil may be still pleasant to the taste, but it is less fragrant than fresh oil. After the first year, olive oil should be used for cooking, not for foods to be eaten cold, like salads.

The taste of the olive oil is influenced by the varietals used to produce the oil and by the moment when the olives are harvested and ground (less ripe olives give more bitter and spicy flavors – riper olives give a sweeter sensation in the oil).

Olive oil is also a natural and safe lubricant, and can be used to lubricate machinery that is used within the kitchen (grinders, blenders, cookware, etc.) It can also be used for illumination (oil lamps) or as the base for soaps and detergents. Some cosmetics also use olive oil as their base.

Olive oil may be used in soap making, as lamp oil, a lubricant, or as a substitute for machine oil.
Olive oil has also been used as both solvent and ligand in the synthesis of cadmium selenide quantum dots.
In one study, monounsaturated fats such as from olive oil benefited mood, decreased anger, and increased physical activity.

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