Fake Handbags, Fake Lips ...but now Fake Olive Oil ?
Pop into any supermarket and you’ll see hundreds of bottles of extra virgin olive oil on the shelves. But watch out: they’re not all the real deal they promise to be. So how do you know which are the good ones? And what does that actually mean?
Be on the lookout for fakes
To me FAKE olive oil, refers to me being sold something which it is not. It is when I end up with something different to what I thought I was buying. Larry Olmstead, the author of Real Food, Fake Food says; “Fake EVOO, in the worst-case (and illegal) scenario, is diluted with a cheap soybean or seed oil or mixed with lower-grade olive oil that’s been chemically refined.
The fakery begins with olive oil being extracted from the olives in Spain, then shipped to say, France or Italy, where it is blended with olive oils from yet other places before being bottled and shipped off again. Or, as is most common, it’s mixed with olive oil that has been sitting around since the previous year’s harvest or longer.
According to Epicurious “Olive oil is simply the juice extracted from fresh olives—no chemicals, heat, or further processing. To qualify as extra-virgin, the highest grade, the oil has to pass lab analysis and sensory tests set by the Madrid-based International Olive Council.
What makes olive oil ‘extra virgin’?
Officially, oil is counted as ‘extra virgin’ when the oil is extracted during the very first pressing of the olives. It means nothing else has come into contact with it and nothing else is mixed with it. It’s just pure, unadulterated goodness in a bottle.
The difference between ‘extra virgin’ and ‘virgin’ has to do with the fatty acid level. Virgin olive oil has a level between 0.9 and 2.0%. To count as extra virgin, it needs to be 0.8% or lower.
How to tell which ones are the real deal
There are a few simple steps you can follow to make sure your extra virgin olive oil really is what it says:
1. Smell and taste it. Pure olive oil will smell fresh and fruity, with hints of grass and almond. If it smells musty or has no smell at all, steer clear. It should taste a little bitter and have a slight peppery taste. Don’t worry too much about the colour, though – it can come in all kinds of shades.
2. Check when it was made. Good olive oil will have a batch or harvest date on it, telling you when the olives were picked and pressed. This date is much more important than the best before date as it tells you how old the oil is, not how long it has left. And beware: a ‘bottled’ date could be misleading as the oil could have been sitting in a tank for months or even years before being bottled.
3. Pay attention to the bottle. Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place, so clear bottles are no good. You also want to always stick to glass – plastic is porous and can let in heat, light and moisture.
4. Look for a certification seal. Good ones to look out for include the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Italy’s DOP, or the COOC Certified Extra Virgin seal from the California Olive Oil Council for California-made oils. All of these mean the oil has met the extra virgin standards set by these countries or continents.
5. Use the price as a guide. I’m not saying you have to buy the most expensive oil out there. However, if you’ve followed the previous steps, the oil you’re choosing is likely to be a little more expensive. It’s totally worth it – just think of the good it’s doing for your body!
Time to make some yummy dishes
Now you’ve got the right oil, the world is your olive oiled oyster! Lots of my recipes contain extra virgin olive oil, so why not use your new bottle to whip up something delicious? Some of my favourites are my Grilled Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad, my Mediterranean Cherry Tomato Sauce with Grilled Sardines, and my Goats Cheese & Asparagus Galette with Crispy Bacon.