By Pure Matters
Let’s dive right in: why is olive oil so good for you?
According to Mayoclinic.com, olive oil is considered a “good fat” because it is a monounsaturated fat that can reduce your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL is the “bad” cholesterol in your blood that can lead to heart disease. Olive oil also contains antioxidants that may protect you from other diseases and having a healthy fat in your diet helps your body absorb other vitamins and minerals.
According to me, a little olive oil goes a long way and it is often accompanying fresh veggies. And fresh veggies are always a good thing.
And why is it important to get good olive oil?
For Starters, Just Taste It
Several years ago I stumbled into a modest Greek deli in Bethesda, Md., and ordered some comfort food. As I waited for my food, I sampled the family-produced olive oil on the counter. The sign said it was the taste of “naked olives” and indeed it had a freshness I had never experienced in an olive oil. It practically transported me to the Mediterranean. The chef and owner told me the history of their farm in Vordonia, Greece and his eyes glowed as he thought of that special place. For thousands of years olives have been grown and harvested there. His family still practices time-honored traditions of production and, most importantly, refuse to compromise on quality. Each year he returns to work with his family to produce the oil. I loved the story as much as the oil.
The taste was amazing but I didn’t really change my olive oil buying habits until my cooking habits changed. It seemed inconvenient to find and buy good oil. Now I make real food a priority and try to know about where my food is coming from. A simple dinner of fresh-picked roasted beets with a drizzle of olive oil can become a taste sensation. It’s the quality of the fresh vegetable combined with a delicious and pure oil that makes the all the difference in the world.
Making Change Easier
Finding quality sources to buy olive oil online makes it easy to get the good stuff. The one place I buy from most (The Olive Press) will ship bulk amounts in gallon containers. They ship it in plastic bottles for obvious reasons, but they also send you dark glass bottles in which to store the oil. I like the idea that they care about how it will be stored even after purchase. Something to note ... if you won’t use a gallon quickly, don’t buy it in bulk. Oil can go rancid in a partially filled bottle due to exposure to air over time.
Another place I haven’t tried, but was recommended to me, is Frank Organics. Their customer service was great when I called for information. And I like their philosophy. This is a headline from one of their pages ... “Frank Makes the Perfect Houseguest. Bring Frank into your home, and Frank will help you cook and take care of your kids.”
The Slippery Slope of What Makes a Good Oil
How the oil is stored both at the processor and in your home makes a difference in the quality of the oil. So does how and when it was processed and how long it is stored before sale. And some oils are labeled olive oil when they aren’t 100 percent olive oil and some are labeled extra virgin when they simply aren’t. It’s not legal but there just isn’t very good regulation.
Experts differ on which processing technique is the best. Some prefer traditional extraction methods that are more labor intensive yet have a lower yield. Others argue that more modern methods do not compromise quality but offer higher yields with more efficient use of labor. All agree that any type of processing that uses a solvent to extract the oil does not result in any good quality olive oil.
My preference is to buy from producers directly because then you know more about what you are getting. There are also companies, such as Veronica Foods, that source their product from around the world and the quality is good. Their website offers some interesting information on differences in production techniques. Veronica supplies many olive oil bars around the country. Any bar, whether producer run or featuring sourced oil, is a fun way to get a taste before you buy.
How to Choose “Good” Oil
Do buy oil that has a date on it. Then you know when it was pressed. Try to buy and use oil within a year from pressing.
Do buy oil from companies that deliver the goods in a dark bottle. Light compromises quality. Plastic bottles for oil (with the exception of shipping time) are just bad for a bunch of reasons!
Do buy oil from as close to the mill as possible ... from the mill if you can. The less “middle people” the better. If not the mill, look for a place that stores its oil in bulk or in bottles in dark temperature-controlled areas.
Don’t pay attention to the color of the oil. Good oils come in a range of colors. Experiment with various oils to see what suits your cooking and your palate.
Do choose “extra virgin.” This is the highest quality of oil and must be able to meet chemical requirements as well as a panel test for taste.
Do realize that although regulations exist there are still olive oils labeled “extra virgin” that aren’t extra virgin ... even though that is not technically legal.
Do be an informed consumer. Know where your olives come from and where they are milled to be sure of the purity of your oil.
Blood orange olive oil mixed with chocolate balsamic vinegar drizzled on strawberries over a salad.