Olive oil

 

There are so many olive oils out there; how does one tell if one is good versus another?

According to Kadri Kassir, owner of La Maison de l’Olive in Paris, France and himself from a family of olive growers in the region of San Simeon (Syria),  there are simple ways to tell.

Pour a little olive oil in a small glass; warm the glass by rotating it with the palms of your hand for a few seconds. Smell it deeply. If it smells fresh (aromatic, fruity, mildly bitter, pungent), the oil is excellent. If it smells like the fruit is dry (strongly bitter, earthy, rancid, flat), the oil is not  good; if it smells like a roasted almond, it means the oil is already rancid. Taste the olive oil too, take a little sip and take the time to savor it or (throw it away!).

Kadri Kassir as a seven generation grower  is himself  against industrial methods of olive production, claiming that it degrades the olive oil and robs it of its healthful properties. An olive oil is judged by its virginity (in other words, was the oil extracted from the fruit without chemical treatment?). In most cases, it has been subjected to chemical treatment, unless one purchases an artisanal product.

What are the healthful properties of olive oil?

There are many, already touted and proven. Longevity, good for the cardiovascular system, digestion, skin, the list is long. It has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties (similar to taking ibuprofen); cancer-fighting, cardiovascular disease prevention, Alzheimer’s prevention.

The danger that befalls the consumer is in buying an olive oil that has been tempered with. Some producers (as much as 40% in some markets) mix the olive oil with other, cheaper oils; others use fermented olives that would never sell to make an substandard olive oil and still call it “extra-virgin” adding artificial flavors and scents chemically (infusing it with thyme is a good way to mask the oil’s substandard quality).

Buy oil that has been pressed with citrus (the actual fruit) if you care for an enhanced experience.

All the other oils according to Kassir, (such as peanut, colza, sunflower, etc) are extracted from seeds and can only be obtained through an industrial process.

“Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is” says Dr. Yahya R. Laleli, founder of Laleli Olive oil.

He mentions that olive oil is in essence simply olive juice. When pressed the traditional way, the pulp obtained gives out an oil, which constitutes the first press. The second press consists of adding boiling water to the olive pulp which will extract yet more oil. Unfortunately,  nowadays, most industrial olive oil producers use a machine with a thermostat that can regulate the heat used and the olive oil extracted this way is not as robust in its qualities and healthful benefits.

Where should one store olive oil?

In the fridge when not in use and  avoid exposure to air and light. In a cupboard.

In Lebanon, olive oil production is a national pride; it is an ancient tradition, going back to Phoenician times (3rd millenium BC); Lebanon has wide groves of indigenous olive trees; however, because of the variety of microclimates and topography in such a small country one will find that the aromas and tastes of olive oil vary from one region to another.

In 2005, a new effort was developed in Lebanon to increase the quality of the olive oil, and promote each region that produces it; the new label of oils was called Tradition du Liban representing the regions of Koura, Zghorta, Akkar, Marjeyoun, Hasbaya and Rashaya el Foukhar.

To purchase Lebanese olive oil:

Al-Wadi al-akhdar (sells Tradition du Liban olive oil, classified by region)

Adolphos

Oliveharvest.com

sahadis.com

worldharvestfoods.com



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14 Comments

  1. Posted September 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Yum! Love olive oil and take two tablespoons a day in the morning. Keep the old traditions going. :) Wonderful post, thank.

  2. Posted September 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Joumana, lots of great info. And I had never heard about tempered olive oils, so sad.

  3. Posted September 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    So very helpful!!

  4. Posted September 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Great article Joumana! I never knew about the roasted almond aroma indicating that the oil is rancid. Of course I can never keep any long enough to find out :)

  5. Posted September 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, nice post, very informative.
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :-)

  6. Posted September 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I love this post! In my opinion, good olive oil is worth the splurge and these tips are perfect for ensuring that I never get mediocre oil again!

  7. Posted September 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    good facts on olive oil… pretty much my favorite thing in the world besides bread and red wine :-)

  8. Posted September 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    great info Joumana, thanks a lot ! Also in Italy olive oil (extra virgin)production is a national pride!have a good day….

  9. Posted September 27, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Interesting article. We love olive oil – maybe a little too much! :) – and we try to buy the local Fethiye olive oil from the market or the homemade oil from the villagers, which they sell in empty fizzy drinks and water bottles. I have no idea of the quality but it always tastes good to us.
    Julia

  10. Posted September 28, 2011 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Very interesting post. Thank you

  11. Posted September 28, 2011 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    Excellent article! It is a shame that something as amazing as olive oil can be corrupted and then sold to an unsuspecting public. Thanks for helping educate.

  12. Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Un avant goût de paradis…

  13. Posted September 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful :-)
    This was our Beiruit families tradition. Thanks for the warm feelings.

  14. Posted September 30, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen the Texas Olive Ranch brand at Central Market and wondered if it’s good. Always liked the label. It looks local and artisanal, but who knows.

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