What’s with all the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) these days? There are so many different brands, flavors, and types that it’s difficult to pick one. One could simply choose based on price, their perception of what’s better, and/or whichever one catches their eye first. As an every day item used in cooking, dressings and more, most of us don’t realize that all olive oils are not created equal. There are significant differences in quality depending on what you’re buying at the store, and price is not always an indicator of quality. For those of you who just care about the price and less about the quality you’re paying for, keep on doing what you’re doing. But for those of you who may be reaching for the product you think is higher quality, it’s good to know whether you’re really getting what you’re paying for.
First off, what classifies EVOO from regular olive oil? Traditionally, it means it is the oil from the first pressing of the olive fruit, which results in oil that has a low percentage of free oleic acid or less oxidation. In general, the lower the level, the better. Oils that are made from lesser quality olives or the remains of the first pressing olives are less flavorful and have higher levels of free acidity.
Manufacturers have the technology to take lesser quality olive oil and chemically lower the free oleic level so that the oil technically qualifies as “extra virgin.” How do you know what you’re really buying? It comes down to knowing how the olive oil was produced – from how the olives were grown, picked, and processed. To a certain extent, this translates to trusting the producer, since most of us are not able to personally visit the production locations of where these oils are coming from. It doesn’t have anything to do with the color of the oil, as some producers will add olive leaves to fruit during the extraction process for greener oil. Taste is absolutely a part of it, so if you’re able to taste the oil before purchasing, all the better! Be careful of flavorings and additions to the olive oil though, they are sometimes added to mask lower quality.
Here are a couple brands that we enjoy, great and affordable enough for everyday use:
For the more special occasions, don’t be afraid to splurge a little! Amazing olive oil does makes a big difference, drizzled across warm, hearty bread or a fresh salad. Here are some that we have tried and love – we will continue adding to the list as we come across them!
- Storm Olive Ranch
- Renzo Baldaccini’s in Lucca