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Olive oil and olives info Tips and Information

Olive oil and olives info and tips will help you in your cooking and food preparation.These are very useful and quite interesting information that you learn once and then apply at any time you need it.


olive oil and olives info

If there was one tree with which to identify the Mediterranean it would be the olive tree Olea europaea which has grown wild in the area since time immemorial. I have seen wild gnarled olive trees being grafted and have experienced their miraculous conversion once they start to sprout tame branches with bigger leaves. Weatherbeaten waterstarved and scorched by the strong summer sun they still manage to produce their wondrous fruit.
The olive tree with its beautiful silver leaves has been the source of the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean kitchen olive oil and another important ingredient on the table the olive itself. According to historical sources both of these were used abundantly in ancient Greece and it was the ancient seafaring Greeks who brought the olive tree west as far as Spain and Provence.
Fresh olives off the tree are inedible as they are incredibly bitter. Take a tiny bite off one and your mouth will be completely numb. So it is a marvel that this inedible fruit can be transformed in such a way by the time it reaches the table. This is done by cracking or slicing the olives and immersing them in cold water which has to be changed daily for at least ten to fifteen days. Once through this process they lose their bitterness and they can then be salted and flavoured with added aromatics and spices.
When the olives are picked from the tree while still unripe and green which happens in early September they are treated for their bitterness and they are then our familiar green olives which have a refreshing taste and harder texture. Once the olives have turned dark violetblue or black on the tree which starts to happen around the middle of October then these black olives have a more complex flavour than the green ones. However black olives can be tricky as I have found by experience. Occasionally after we have soaked them in water to extract their bitterness they can become completely tasteless and bland. It is at that stage that we marinate them with salt garlic cloves bay leaves coriander seeds chillies and anything else that takes our fancy.
Olives ripen earlier or later according to the position of the trees the soil and the weather. For the purposes of olive oil they have to be picked at a medium stage when they are still hard and on the tree before they shrivel and fall off. Green unripe olives produce a small yield of olive oil which also contains a lower quantity of oleic acid. As the olives ripen they produce more oil with a higher yield of oleic acid. Oleic acid is the principal factor that determines their class)fication. Extravirgin oil must contain less than 1% oleic acid in fact the cognoscenti believe that it should not be more than o.s%. Olive oil with a higher acidity of anything between 1.5% and 3% is generally class)fied es virgin. Extravirgin olive oil must also meet high standards of flavour aroma and colour.
The production of highquality olive oil is very labourintensive. The olives must be picked by hand as any mechanical process might bruise them. Once harvested they have to be transported to the olive mill as soon as possible before they start to ferment as their acidity level increases. There they are washed mechanically in cold water and the leaves and small branches are separated from the fruit. The olives are then crushed and mixed with water. The oil once separated from the water in a centrifuge drips into vats. Generally today any oil from this first mechanical pressing (as opposed to later chemical extraction) is claimed to be from thefirst cold pressing (a term not defined by any international agreement) so one must not pay too much heed to such a description on the bottle. The main factors in flavour are olive variety and local soil and climate.
Olive oil has a great diversity in taste. It can be golden sweet and smooth as is French olive oil often or dark green with a strong fruity taste like Greek olive oil. This is a matter of personal choice and it frequently means that one can use different oils for different occasions and dishes. Throughout this book I have not specified extravirgin oil in the recipes because I assume that one would not want to use anything else.
Olive oil does not keep for ever and it has to be stored in a dark and cool place. In my experience on Alonnisos where the oil is stored in large pytharia it holds its taste for about two years and after that it may go rancid developing an unmistakable and unpleasant engine oil taste and smell.
Recently a lot has been written about olive oil and its beneficial effects on our health. Basically olive oil contains no cholesterol and it is a monounsaturated fat which contains a large concentration of Vitamin E and HDLs (High Density Lipoproteins). HDLs lower cholesterol in the system and also act against the harmful LDLs (lowdensity lipoproteins) which in turn accumulate cholesterol and deposit it on the arterial walls. Olive oil not only contains these valuable HDLs but also unlike other oils it does not destroy the bodys own natural resources of these HDLs. Polyunsaturated oils like the vegetable oils on the other hand while they lower the harmful LDLs also deplete the bodys own beneficial HDLs.

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