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Gourmet Foods 101
Did you know?
"There are over 70 varieties of olives grown throughout the world which are used to make olive oil"

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A Gourmet Oil Can Make All the Difference

Flavorful extra virgin olive oil is produced by pressing tree-ripened olives. This monounsaturated oil is prized around the world for cooking with and also for salad dressings and marinades. There is a wide selection of extra virgin olive oil produced in the U.S., most notably from California. It is also imported from France, Greece, Italy and Spain.

The flavor, color and aroma of olive oils can differ dramatically depending on things such as the growing region and the condition of the crop. All olive oils are graded in accordance with the degree of acidity, which they contain. The best oils are cold pressed. This chemical free process only involves pressure. This produces a natural level of low acidity. Extra virgin olive oil contains only one percent acid.

Extra virgin olive oil is generally considered to be the finest and fruitiest type of olive oil and is, of course, also the most expensive. Extra virgin olive oil may range in color from crystalline champagne shade to greenish golden to bright green. Usually, the deeper the color of the oil, the more intense the olive flavor will be. After extra virgin olive oil, the other types of olive oils are classified in order of ascending acidity. Virgin olive oil has a level of acidity between one and three percent. Fino olive oil is a mix of extra virgin and virgin oils. The olive oils that are just labeled as olive oil or pure olive oil are a combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra virgin olive oil.

If you see a bottle of light extra virgin olive oil on the market it is actually oil which contains the same amount of beneficial monounsaturated fat as regular olive oil, but it also contains exactly the same amount of calories. The word light actually means the extra virgin olive oil is lighter in color and aroma and has little of the classic olive oil flavor. Because of this lighter flavor, light olive oil is perfect for baking and cooking foods where the essence of regular olive oil may not be suitable. The filtration process for light extra virgin olive also gives it a higher smoke point than regular olive oil. This means light olive oils can be used for high heat frying, whereas regular olive oil is better for low to medium heat cooking. The International Olive Oil Institute, yes there really is one, recommends that you use pure olive oil for frying because the flavor of extra virgin olive oil usually breaks down at frying temperatures.

Extra virgin olive oil should be kept in a cool, dark place for up to six months. You can keep it up to about a year though if you refrigerate it. When extra virgin olive oil is chilled it will become cloudy and too thick to pour. However, it will clear itself and thin out again when it's brought back to room temperature. Extra virgin olive oil is very good for you, but you should also use it moderation as olive oil contains just as many calories as butter - nine calories per gram.