Why We’re Obsessed with Olive Oil
Olive oils have been used for centuries and I for one have become obsessed with the hunt to find the best tasting extra virgin olive oil to please MY palate. Alas, I have discovered that there is no one perfect oil and that is the bottom line. No matter the price or what someone else says, it is ultimately my palate that makes the final decision.
The Hunt for the Perfect EVOO
Here is why I have come to the conclusion that one extra virgin olive oil cannot be the one perfect oil for me. As is with most foods, seasonings, and wines, it is the palate and nose that first experiences the flavor, texture, and aroma and each of us will experience these in a different way. The type of food I am eating and how I am planning to use the oil will define the final flavor and finish of the dish.
After many a tasting I have found that the lighter and fruitier extra virgin olive oils are better for cooking and salad dressings while those heavier oils with a peppery finish are better suited for dipping or drizzling on grilled fish, vegetables, pastas and soups. Now my pantry contains several varieties of extra virgin olive oil to meet my every cooking need.
What Makes an Exceptional EVOO
Artisinal extra virgin olive oils are produced in a number of countries throughout the world. I have found olive oil whether blended or from a single estate will vary with the slightest change in conditions. Soil, sun, rain, heat and cold can change the delicate balance and acidic qualities extracted from the oil just as these same conditions can affect the taste, acidity and quality of a grape to a final bottle of wine.
Olives are considered a fruit and the best method for extracting the delicate rich, full-flavor is a method called cold pressing that has been used for centuries. The olives are picked and pressed at the point of ripeness. Some Italian olive oil producing families are still using the old method of cracking and pressing the olives between the same stones used by their ancestors to release the oil.
Flavor, Aroma, Texture
It is the first cold pressing that releases the most delicate and flavorful oil from the olives in addition to retaining the greatest amount of health benefits. Each subsequent pressing releases more oil but lessens the quality and delicate flavor from the previous pressing. Depending on the type of olives, the season they are picked and the process used to extract the oil can have a major impact on the final flavor and nuances of the olive oil.
I have discovered some extra virgin olive oils to be very fruity tasting, buttery, light, and very smooth to the palate. There are others that are rated very high in quality and flavor but have a much heavier feel, and a peppery after-finish that is more in line with the way extra virgin olive oil is processed and enjoyed in Tuscany. In this quest for the best extra virgin olive oil I have noted a number of other oils that have a grassy taste with a greenish hue; others have a nuttier flavor and are darker in color.
My Final Answer and Selection Rules
So the question continues is there a perfect olive oil for me? In my opinion the answer is a definite no. I now keep a few different extra virgin olive oils in my pantry to meet my every need.
My selection rules are simple. I never allow the price to be the deciding factor. I let my palate judge the taste and trust my nose to seek the most pleasing aroma. Next I touch a little oil between the index finger and the thumb and lightly rub them together to determine stickiness. If it feels sticky it is probably past the point of usefulness. The final factor is how I am going to use the extra virgin olive oil and how it will pair with the foods I prepare the most.