• Janelle Healy

The good oil 2019


Olives ready to harvest for fresh oil

Fresh is best.

It needs to be fresh olive oil, with a hint of bite on the back of the tongue for me. The juice from the olives is just like other fruit juices, in that the oil from an olive goes off or rancid if not preserved or treated well. Unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil doesn’t get better with age. Fresh is always best for cooking and for adding flavour in salad dressings. In WA we are spoilt for choice for fresh olive oil. Read on to find out how to get fresh oil and why you should bother.


May is the start of the very short 6 week harvest season in WA. Perth is surrounded by plenty of olive groves that are an easy Sunday drive away. This year we headed to GinGin where Dan Crisp from Walkalina Farm allowed our band of olive novices (or extra virgin harvesters) to experience climbing his trees to rake and strip the green and black jewels from the groves into the large buckets for oil extraction. In a morning we were able to fill a 500 kg bucket with olives. Go us!


I was first introduced to fresh olive oil in 2000 at a foodie masterclass in Perth attended by big names such as Stephanie Alexander (I still have her orange covered book) and the Australian cheese man Will Studd. For the oil tasting we were instructed to swill the oil across our tongue and inhale a soft breath, but I just ended up coughing.

A trick I use now is to dip bread into the pot of gold and suck the oil from the bread. This is more gentle on my cough reflex than the teaspoonful but the taste effect was the same.

I have learnt to appreciate the flavours of different oils. This is why I search for the freshest extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for my salads and cooking. But what does EVOO actually mean?


In Australia you can get good oil.

There are Australian standards which need to be met for correct labelling. The Australian Olive Oil association has summarised the critical elements of olive oil grading. If the label says EVOO then you can be assured that the oil has been extracted using physical methods at low heat. Some terms used in this industry are describing the process used in oil extraction and some refer to the quality. Understanding the label helps you make an informed choice.

  • First cold press- the olives are crushed once before the extraction process was conducted without added heat. The do get a little warm from friction but there is no heat applied. Picking in May when the weather is just cooling is perfect for getting the harvest to the press before they get too warm.

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil made only from cold extraction of oil from the olives. EVOO contains the highest levels of antioxidants and polyphenolic content of all the virgin olive oil varieties. It is also the most stable for cooking if kept in containers that keep the oil protected from light and heat. The olives have been washed, crushed and centrifuged to extract the oil.

  • Light/extra light olive oil. This is a blend of refined olive oil which is made by physical or chemically refining virgin olive oil with added 5-15% virgin olive oil.

EVOO is good oil for cooking- Mediterranean cuisines have been using EVOO for ages to cook and carry amazing flavours in family food.


Ever noticed that your high quality olive oil goes hard in the fridge? This is the monounsaturated fat (MUFA) crystals packing tight as they cools. EVOO is high in oleic acid a monounsaturated fat ( MUFA). (2) The MUFA chains can get close as they only have one ( mono) bump in the chain. The illustration below shows the middle chain as the MUFA oleic acid.

Butter is higher in saturated fats (SFA) so the crystals can pack even tighter which is why it is solid even at room temperature, depending on the season. The first fat int he diagram below is the saturated fat palmitic acid.Oils such as canola oil are high in polyunsaturated fats (many bumps ) so they do not form crystals in the fridge as the chains cannot get close enough to form a solid. The third chain int he diagram below is the polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) a-linolenic acid. (3) The more bumps in the chains, the greater chance there is for the oil to react with heat and light to go rancid.



A 2018 Australian study tested cooking oils and found that Australian EVOO is the safest and most stable commercial oil available in Australia to cook with (1).

They found that smoke point was not a good indicator of the suitability of an oil for cooking. When an oil is heated it may change some of the fats producing harmful polar compounds. These polar compounds are produced in the more refined oils higher in polyunsaturated fats such as canola, grapeseed and rice bran oil. This is not strongly related to the smoke point of the oil.

Oils which produce less polar compounds on heating were those that were less refined, contained high levels of antioxidants for natural preservation of the oil and contained low levels of polyunsaturated fats to reduce the level of oil breakdown with heat.

EVOO

is the least processed of the olive oils, contains a high amount of antioxidants, is low in polyunsaturated fats and high in monounsaturated fat which is most stable.

Get cooking with your EVOO as buying a refined olive oil for cooking is not the best idea.

I am so looking forward to picking up my 20 L of EVOO 2019. Dan took this picture of the oil we contributed to. We have been told that our EVOO 2019 oil is creamy and we are waiting for it to settle before we can fill our containers.


While Im waiting for my oil though I did get to pick 10kg of green Jumbo Kalamata olives that I am curing. There are many mysteries and myths about olive curing. The need to salt them is always tested in the grove by someone who can’t resist the temptation. Jeremy was the one this time, despite knowing it was going to be unpleasant. He continued to have the bitterness sensation for way longer than he wanted too.


Flowing olive oil from the first press


If Olives aren’t your thing or getting time for picnics at the moment is is tricky for you , there are many other things to pick at other times of the year. I found the details on Pick Your Own which had some great ideas on other things to do on a picnic.



Reference:

1. Guillaume C., et al. “Evaluation of Chemical and Physical Changes in Different Commercial Oils during Heating”. Acta Scientific Nutritional Health 2.6 (2018): 02-11. ( viable for: https://actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-02-0083.pdf)

2. Croxford S & E Stirling Understanding the Science of food. From molecules to mouthfeel. 2017 Allen & Unwin NSW Australia.

3. Trigylceride Fatty acid image: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/fat

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