What is olive oil?

Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, including thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. No additives of any kind are permitted.

Olive oil is known for being one of the best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that has been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels. The antioxidants in olive oil have also been shown to help fight a multitude of diseases.

What does “Extra Virgin” mean?

Extra virgin olive oil represents the absolute highest grade for olive oil. Olive oil is considered “Extra Virgin” when the oil has excellent flavor (must taste like olives), zero defects and contains a low free fatty acid level.

Other oil which are marketed under names like “Virgin Olive Oil”, “Pure Olive Oil” and “Light Olive Oil” are actually refined olive oil and are usually produced using chemicals and other processes to extract the oil from the olives or are combined with other types of oil.

DOWNLOAD: UC Davis Report – Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin” olive oil often fails international and USDA standards

What is the Ultra Premium (UP) standard?

The Ultra Premium (UP) logo indicates the highest quality extra virgin olive oil in the world, exceeding all existing standards. In order to qualify for the UP grade, the EVOO must meet or exceed a comprehensive set of production, storage, transportation, compliance, testing, chemical, and sensory requirements. This standard dictates that each olive oil is supplied with crucial product information including: crush date, polyphenol (antioxidant) level, free fatty acids, oleic acid, peroxide value (all measured at the time of crush), country of origin and more.

These requirements have been developed into a private specification representing a compilation of industry standards, best practices and proprietary methods for achieving the highest level of quality. This specification encompasses the entire life cycle process of the olive oil from tree to table, beginning with the farmer and ending with the sale of a bottle to a customer.

The UP standard was created in response to the growing need to separate high quality EVOO from what dominates the so-called “gourmet” and “premium” olive oil markets, as well as the broader category sold in mass markets around the world under thousands of brands and private labels. Companies often sacrifice quality to provide the huge amount of olive oil required on this massive scale. Large multinational corporations place an overemphasis on the origin of the olive oil they offer to the detriment of more critical factors such as chemistry and freshness which can be objectively measured, quantified and certified.

DOWNLOAD: Ultra Premium Standards versus Existing Standards for Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Why is olive oil superior to vegetable oil?

Taste is the most obvious difference between olive oil and the store-bought vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is basically tasteless, and merely adds fat without adding taste. Extra virgin olive oil adds a specific fresh flavor all its own, making it a great replacement for butter in almost any situation. Extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavored, is becoming very popular as a dipping or topping for bread, as an addition to recipes in place of butter, as a component of marinades and salad dressings. Vegetable oil is usually extracted using petroleum-based chemical solvents, and then must be highly refined to remove impurities. Along with the impurities, refining removes taste, color and nutrients. Extra virgin olive oil is not processed or refined. Extra virgin olive oil is fresh pressed from the fruit of the olive tree, leaving the color, taste, vitamins and nutrients in tact. Because of its antioxidant components, olive oil keeps itself from oxidizing, so it keeps itself fresh longer than vegetable oil.

How do I know if an olive oil is good?

Without chemical testing, it is pretty close to impossible. That is why the reputation of your olive oil seller is so important. Be wary of companies that do not display the chemistry of their oil. Also, taste it. Pour a little into a small cup and slurp it down slowly. Close your eyes and really taste it. If you taste an EVOO, it should taste green, fresh and like olives. Other grades will not taste like much because they have been treated to remove unpleasant flavors and odors.

How do I know if olive oil is fresh?

Be aware that “sell by” dates will tell you nothing about freshness because companies can put any date on the bottles they wish. Sometimes you’ll see a harvest date which is the best indicator. The oil will be at its peak during the first year, and then the antioxidants will start to fade. If its quality oil, it will still be good for a lot longer, but the health benefits will begin to dissipate by 20-25% each year. Be sure that the oil is kept in a dark or opaque container and away from heat and bright light to keep it at its best.

What color is good olive oil?

The color of olive oil is not an indication of quality, and you shouldn’t choose one because it’s greener or more gold. Olive oil should be chosen for taste, not for color. Different olives have naturally different colors, and therefore, produce a variety of color tones from golden to green.

Can I cook with olive oil?

High quality EVOO is the most nutritional oil for cooking. New studies have shown that using an EVOO high in phenols (antioxidants) for cooking and baking applications leads to a significant reduction in oxidation and the inhibition of harmful byproducts over other vegetable oil or olive oil lower in phenolic (antioxidant) content. The majority of the oil we offer are high in phenolic content, high in oleic acid (the healthful MUFA) and low in FFA (free fatty acid). There is a direct correlation between FFA and smoke point. The lower the FFA, the more the oil can be heated before it reaches its smoke point.

However, low grade and the vast majority of the olive oil available in the grocery store, is relatively unstable under high heat and we would not advise cooking with it.

DOWNLOAD: Why Cooking with Ultra Premium Quality Extra Virgin is ALWAYS Better for You

Can I fry with olive oil?

Yes. Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is generally given as 410 degrees Fahrenheit, far above 250-350 degrees that covers most cooking. Make fried food healthier by using olive oil. Try gently frying an egg in EVOO, or even pan-fry chicken in olive oil.

To retain more of the health benefits of EVOO at high heat, rub your food with oil before cooking to ensure that some of the oil is absorbed by the food. It will also improve the flavor of your food.

What is the most important thing I should know before purchasing an olive oil?

The single most important piece of information is the harvest date of an olive oil. Olive oil should be treated like fresh fruit juice, as it is highly perishable. It is always healthier and more flavorful when consumed close to its crush date. As an oil ages, it tends to lose a lot of the magnificent health and flavor properties that make it such an enjoyable product. It is common practice for grocery store oil to have a “best by date”. This is an arbitrary date, determined by the producer/bottler and it really does not provide the consumer with the information they need. On a side note, never buy oil in clear glass or clear plastic, as olive oil is highly susceptible to UV degradation.

Why does my throat burn after tasting (some) extra virgin olive oil?

All extra virgin olive oil should have at least a slight burning sensation on the end. In reality it is a “healthy burn”. One of the main health benefits associated with fresh EVOO are polyphenols. The higher the phenol content, the more pepper and the more bitterness the oil will have. For most people, bitterness and pepper is an acquired taste. However, we see people gradually move up the intensity ladder and eventually begin to enjoy robust oil.

What is the difference between fused and infused olive oil?

Naturally flavored olive oil are either fused or infused. The term “fused” defines the process of crushing whole, fresh, organic olives together with perfectly ripe, fresh produce, strictly using cold mechanical extraction. The only other word that exists to describe this unique, artisan process is the Italian term, “agrumato”. Agrumato is somewhat obscure so we chose to call our agrumato olive oil “fused”.

Conversely, when an oil is “infused”, the all-natural, organic flavors, are added to the oil after the olives have been crushed. This method is more common and used when flavors may be impossible or too difficult to crush at the same time as the olives.

Why is Agrumato olive oil so special?

The process of making agrumato is incredibly difficult, costly and, therefore, incredibly rare. It’s time-consuming, laborious and requires a near-perfect choreography between farmers to bring fresh, ripe, locally-sourced produce to the mill, the moment the olives are ready to be harvested. We’re talking mere hours from harvest to crush for both olives and fresh produce at the mill.

Furthermore, a recipe must be developed dictating how many tons of fresh herbs, fruit, or vegetables, should be crushed with a specific ratio of olives. This process of formulation can take many seasons to perfect. Many failures happen along the way before each agrumato olive oil is perfected. A mill cannot simply stop production to make tiny test batches of agrumato in order to find flavor harmony. Fresh olives need to be crushed immediately! Needless to say, the process of agrumato is a labor of love which requires a level of craftsmanship and dedication to quality. Our supplier is known globally for having one of the largest collections of authentic, high-quality agrumato olive oil in the world. They have become experts in the industry after decades of hands-on experience, accruing many accolades and gold medals along the way.

What is "first cold press" olive oil?

This is an outdated and overused term in the industry typically utilized as a marketing gimmick. It sounds wonderful and evokes a romantic image of an old wooden press with beautiful golden oil flowing out, but it often leads to more confusion on the side of the consumer. “Cold Pressing” is referring to the temperature at which the olive paste is malaxed, in order to extract oil. Like almost every other aspect of the industry, these claims are unregulated and loosely applied to almost every oil on the grocery store shelf. In order for an olive oil to be considered, “Cold Pressed”, it must be processed under 80.6ºF. Many producers choose to process their oil at higher temperatures, in order to extract more oil from the olive paste. However, as the temperature of the paste is increased during the milling process, the quality and integrity of the oil is jeopardized. Our average production temperature is around 70ºF. As a result of processing at a cooler temperature, our yield goes down (less juice) but our quality goes through the roof! In addition to heat, the amount of time the olive paste spends in the Malaxer, has a significant impact on the finished product. Over-processing yields more oil but also hurts the quality of the finished product. As for the term “first press,” all olive oil marked as “extra virgin” must come from the first extraction of olive oil from the olive paste. The phrase, “first cold press”, is most often used as marketing language that may not reveal anything about oil quality or the process under which the oil was made.

What is balsamic vinegar?

There are two top grades of balsamic vinegar. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, D.O.P must be made either in Emilio Reggiano or Modena, Italy, by cooking high quality caramelized Trebbiano, or occasionally Lambrusco, grapes. (D.O.P. stands for Protected Designation of Origin, the governing board in Italy.) It is cooked in copper kettles over a wood fire until it reaches a specific consistency, density and amount of dry solid extracts. It must then be put directly into old, fired wood barrels which were used to age balsamic vinegar in years past. The vinegar becomes thicker as it naturally evaporates over time. As it evaporates, it is moved from barrel to smaller barrel, being topped off with slightly younger balsamic vinegar. As a result, no product, including actual D.O.P. certified balsamic vinegar sold in licensed bottles, can make an actual age claim. However, generalization of “25-year-old” vinegar is considered to be an acceptable short-hand description.

Pro-biotic wild yeast and acetic bacteria colonize the vinegar and eventually raise the acidity, thus turning it into “vinegar” over a period of years. It can only be sold in tiny bottles that meet strict criteria. It is never, ever sold in bulk. Because of its rarity, it is very high priced ($75-200 per 100 ml bottle) and is only used a drop or two at a time.

The vinegar sold at Saporito is the second type of approved true balsamic vinegar – Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, P.G.I., (Protected Geographic Indication) otherwise referred to as balsamico condimento. Our balsamic vinegar condimento starts in the very same way as true D.O.P. traditional balsamic vinegar. It is produced in Modena, Italy, using the same type of grapes and wood barrels. However, the primary difference between true D.O.P. balsamic vinegar and our condimento is that ours is inoculated with a very small amount of premium quality aged red wine vinegar (less than 2 percent) which introduces the natural acetic bacteria and yeast and begins the process from cooked grape “must” to balsamic vinegar condimento. (Must is the fleshy part of the grape.) It is then aged in the Solera method, which means it goes through a succession of different types of very old barrels, just like D.O.P. traditional balsamic vinegar. Each previously-used barrel contains residual amount of older balsamic condimento, dating as far back as 18 years, and in some cases, 25 years. It is topped off as it moves from barrel to smaller barrel with slightly younger condimento.

What balsamic vinegar does Saporito carry?

Our supplier was the first company in the United States to offer verifiably caramel color-free authentic balsamic vinegar made exclusively in Modena Italy that is truly artisan crafted to be identical to Traditional Extra Vecchio DOP in both flavor and chemical composition. They’ve been able to accomplish this by demanding the highest proportion of barrel aged, kettle-cooked grape must in their products crafted in Modena, Italy. The increase in grape must correlates to the increase in total carbohydrates in our balsamic. Our 18-year Traditional style balsamic is now comprised of over 97% cooked barrel (traditional batteria) aged grape must. This also equates to a higher amount of grape solids in our product. These solids (when measured in total) also include the natural fruit sugar which originates solely from grapes. While the total solids in our products equate to more carbohydrates, the grape solids (when measured in isolation without their natural sugar included) correspond to a high concentration of natural phenols in our products. These phenols are currently being measured by the most proficient balsamic laboratories in the world and their nature is being studied by leading scientific experts in Modena, Italy. Naturally fermented products, such as balsamic vinegar, have long been touted as health promoting due to their pro-biotic nature.

Are there other similar products on the market?

While we all use the term “balsamic vinegar” to indicate a certain type of product, very little balsamic vinegar, as labeled in most stores, is true D.O.P. traditional balsamic vinegar. Many also cannot accurately claim to be true condimento, since short cuts are taken to achieve a similar but inferior product. Impostors are often comprised of poor quality un-aged wine or distilled vinegar, thickeners, color, artificial flavor, syrups, or sweeteners, including corn syrup.

What does this all mean for the consumer?

True D.O.P. traditional balsamic vinegar is very delicious and very expensive. It is rich, thick and a joy to use. Purchase it from a reliable source and treasure it. Our balsamic condimento is also delicious, albeit not quite as rich and thick. Still, it is also a joy to use and much more affordable to the consumer. You can taste its quality and rely on its method of production, which is approved by the authorities governing its processing in Italy. On the other hand, many companies that claim to offer “balsamic vinegar” can never show proof of authenticity and quality through laboratory chemical analysis. This “vinegar” can be harsh, metallic in taste, overly sweet or have other flavor or density flaws. The choice is up to the consumer, but we believe that our high quality condimento is a wonderful balance of flavor and price.

How long does balsamic vinegar last?

Balsamic Vinegar is self-preserving due to its acidic nature giving it an “almost indefinite” shelf life.

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