The Olive Oil

Olive oil is a vegetable oil mainly for culinary use that is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree (olea europaea).  Almost one third of the pulp of an olive is oil and, for this reason, since ancient times it has been easily extracted with a simple pressure exerted by a mill.

Historically and culturally it’s a product closely linked to the Mediterranean area. Today only 33% of the world’s production is made outside the Mediterranean area. Spain produces almost half of the world’s olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. These three countries account for three quarters of the world’s production.

Classification of olive oils in Europe

European Union legislation (Regulation (EC) 1234/2007) 5 only allows retail sale of the following categories of olive oil:

Extra virgin olive oil

This type of oil is of the highest quality and is obtained directly from olives in good condition by using only mechanical procedures. It has an clean taste and smell, free of defects and does not exceed its 0,8° acidity, expressed as a percentage of free oleic acid. The median of defects must be equal to 0 and the median of fruity higher than 0.

Virgin olive oil

This oil follows the same quality parameters as the extra olive oil, in terms of obtaining methods. The difference is that it can not exceed 2°  acidity. The median of defects must be less than 3.5 and the median of fruity higher than 0. In other words, the defects must be practically imperceptible to the consumer.

Olive oil

Olive oil contains exclusively refined olive oils and virgin olive oils.

It’s a mixture of refined olive oil, which is obtained from the refining of defective oils, which have not reached the above mentioned quality parameters like the virgin or extra virgin olive oil. As you have noticed the word “virgin” is left out. This is due to the fact that in the refining process other chemical or thermal processes are used to clean aromas, flavors and colors. The degree of acidity of this olive oil cannot be higher than 1°.

Olive pomace oil

This type of oil is the result of the mixture of refined olive-pomace oil, derived from the refining of crude olive-pomace oil, which is obtained physically or chemically from the residue resulting from the grinding of olives, virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. The final graduation obtained in oleic acid will not be higher than 1°.

Another type of oil is the virgin olive oil lampante, which is not for commercial use. It’s a highly defective virgin oil and can therefore not be consumed directly like the other virgin oils. Its name comes from its original use as fuel for lamps. Nowadays it’s being refined from olive oil and is not in itself marketable due to its absence of flavor and color, but mixed with virgin or extra virgin (10% – 20%) oil, it becomes marketable, generically referred to as “olive oil”, as we have already mentioned. They both derive from olives, just like the the virgin and the extra virgin oil, but of low quality which means olives picked from the ground, that are frost damaged, punctured, etc. But after some thermal, physical and chemical processes in the refinery and subsequently mixing with the virgin olives, this type can be commercialized. This type of oil (dry olive oil) is not considered by many to be an authentic olive juice since it is has undergone several processes different from those of the mill. This is why you can only consider extra virgin oils to be real olive juice.

Nutritional properties

At room temperature the lipids can be solid, which is called “specific fats” (or simply fats), if at room temperature the lipids become liquid they are called “oils.” Olive oil is liquid at room temperature. Olive oil has certain characteristic properties that it shares with all vegetable oils, as well as particular oils of the olive. One of the main properties come from its high content of oleic acid (reaching an average of 75%). The properties depend to a great extent on the variety of olives used, the way in which the oil was processed, and the storage procedures.

 The acidity of an olive oil is determined by its content of free fatty acids (if they are not part of a lipid compound) and is expressed by grams of oleic acid per 100 g of oil. These grades are not related to the intensity of the flavor, but are a guideline to catalog the olive oils.

 A virgin olive oil that due to its smell and taste is defective as well as having an acidity higher than 2% is known as lampante olive oil. The name refers to the fact that the oil until few years ago was used in lamps. Once refined and almost devoid of flavor, smell and color, it’s fortified with virgin olive oils that are aromatic and fruity (this operation is called fortification) and is now well suited for consumption as refined olive oil.