- Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable: like all natural fruit juices, its flavour and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerates when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened. Southampton Olive Oil Company is a certified Ultra Premium (UP) Extra Virgin Olive Oil which guarantees you get the freshest oil. Grove to Fusti to bottle to your table.
- When choosing bottled oil, prefer dark glass containers that protect against light, buy a quantity that you’ll use up quickly, and keep it well sealed in a cool, dark place (but not the fridge!). Even an excellent oil can rapidly go rancid when left sitting in hot or brightly-lit conditions.
- Don’t pay much attention to the colour of an oil. Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw, and official tasters actually use coloured glasses to avoid prejudicing themselves in favour of greener oils. Both in flavour and aroma, genuine extra virgin oils have, a marked fruitiness reminiscent of fresh olives, and typically have some level of bitterness and pungency (pepperiness at the back of the throat). In great oils these characteristics are harmoniously balanced, together with complex aromas, flavours and aftertastes that bloom gradually on the senses.
- Don’t be put off by bitterness or pungency – remember that these are usually indicators of the presence of healthful antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and other healthful “minor components” of top-quality olive oil – unless one of these characteristics is overwhelming and disproportionate to the others.
- Above all, seek out freshness, choosing oils that smell and taste vibrant and lively, and avoid tastes or odors such as moldy, rancid, cooked, greasy. Also pay attention to mouth feel: prefer crisp and clean to flabby, coarse or greasy.
- As you would with a wine, choose the intensity of oil that fits the role it will play in your meals. Pick a powerful oil – variously described as “robust,” “early harvest” or “full-bodied” – to accompany foods with strong or distinctive flavours, such as pepper steak; bruschetta; fresh, flavourful vegetables like arugula; or to drizzle over vanilla ice cream (try it before you scoff!)). Choose a milder oil – often called “mild,” “delicate fruit,” or “late harvest”- for foods like fish, chicken or potatoes.
- Olive oils are also flavoured with a range of fruit, vegetable and other extracts; some of the most popular are made with lemons, blood oranges and other citrus fruits. While many olive oil cognoscenti (and most Europeans) turn up their noses at these oils, they have a wide following in North America and Down Under. The best are made by crushing whole fruit or peels together with the olives, a process called ‘agrumato’. Make sure that the flavour itself is fresh and not artificial tasting.
- Avoid bargain prices, because producing genuine extra virgin oil is expensive. Though high prices don’t guarantee great oil, low prices – under about US$10 for a liter – strongly suggest that the oil you’re buying is inferior, old and rancid, or even adulterated (counterfeit). Having stated these general guidelines, it’s worth considering two potential exceptions. First, new mechanized methods of olive growing and harvesting (such as super-high-density cultivation) are reducing production costs, Allowing excellent oils to be made at lower prices than with traditional methods. Second, government subsidies to olive growers and oil makers in the European Union and elsewhere allow subsidized producers to charge far lower retail prices for their oils than producers in the US and Australia, where no subsidies exist.
- Once you’ve bought your oil, store it in a place where it is protected from light, heat and oxygen, the three enemies of good oil, which speed spoilage. Even great oils deteriorate with each passing day, and will all too soon become ordinary, even rancid, if not used quickly.
Don’t wait for a ‘special occasion’, make every ‘occasion special’ – pour on the EVOO!!