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Olive oil is a cooking oil made from the pulp of olive fruits. Because of its noble and distinct fruity taste it is well known and liked around the world. Olive oil goes perfectly with dishes from the mediterranean kitchen and is a popular salad oil. It is almost always possible to taste if olive oil was used for the preparation of a dish.

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Production of olive oil

For the production of olive oil the green fruits of olive trees are used. Especially in mediterranean countries olive trees are cultivated in large plantations. They can grow up to 12 meters tall and reach a biblical age. The viscous vegetable oil is available in different qualities, depending on the type of production. It is internationally classified in industrial and retail grades.

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Industrial grades of olive oil

Virgin olive oil

Virgin olive oil is also called olio virgine or native olive oil. It is unrefined and produced only by the use of physical means. Heat or chemical treatment cannot be used in its extraction. After the olives have been grounded and a centrifuge has extracted the oil it is only cleaned and filtered. Virgin oil is sold in four retail grades. Only three of those are relevant for consumption. These are Extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and regular olive oil.

In the past "virgin olive oil" was classified as "fine", "medium" and "pure". Nowadays olive oils can be called virgin if they are produced only by physical means such as pressing, filtration, decantation, and centrifugation. They cannot be refined or treated with chemicals. Mixing with other oils is not allowed and during pressing the temperature may not exceed 40°C. For classification oils are analysed by chemical and sensorial criteria.

  • Oil from the "gentle" first pressing with little force is light green and delicate in taste. With 12 percent the yield of the first pressing is very low. This explains the high price of "extra-virgin olive oil".
  • Oil from the second pressing contains more chlorophyll than the first pressing. Its taste and green colour are more intensive.
  • Oil from the third pressing has a strong, almost tart flavour and a dark green colour.

Olive fruits contain more oil than can be obtained by pressing as it is required for the production of "virgin olive oil". Refined olive oil is produced by refinement, virgin pomace olive oil and refined pomace olive oil by extraction from the pomace of pressed olives.

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Pure olive oil

The labelling "pure olive oil" is somewhat misleading since every olive oil suitable for consumption can be called pure. Olive oils sold as "pure olive oil" can be mixtures of "virgin" and "refined" oils. Heat is used during the pressing of "pure olive oil". Because of this heat treatment many free fatty acids are contained. It has to be refined, which is why we talk about refined olive oil in this context.

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Denomination of origin

Olive oils are often labelled in the language of the producing country. Virgin olive oil may be labelled "extra vergine" or "extra vierge".

Italian "extra-virgin olive oil" guarantees the origin in a specific region after the Denominazione di origine controllata (D.O.C.) – a European quality assurance label for certain producing regions. The following extra-virgin olive oils from Italy are given the D.O.C.-status:

  • Brisighella - (Emilia-Romagna)
  • Sabina - (Lazio)
  • Canino - (Lazio)
  • Castel del Monte - (Apulia)
  • Colline di Brindisi - (Apulia)
  • Aprutino Prescare - (Abruzzo)

Extra-virgin olive oil D.O.C. is produced using defined methods. It is subject to a strict quality control that examines taste and colour of the oil.

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