Frequently asked questions about Oil

Frequently asked questions about Oil

Collecting frequently asked questions regarding olives and Extra Virgin Olive oil forms the base from which to start in order to understand the infinite nuances of this wonderful fruit.

1.What determines the quality of an oil?

The quality of the oil is determined by a set of factors that throughout the process, from the selection of the olives at the right stage of ripeness, the type of extraction to the method of oil storage, all contribute to oil quality. To obtain a good oil it is essential, therefore, to start with a high quality raw material: the olive.

2.How do you recognise a quality Extra Virgin oil?

An excessively low price should alert the conscious consumer. A quality oil is characterised by the intense taste of olives, together with more or less intense bitter and spicy sensations, that testify to the olive's fresh flavour. The oils must be completely absent of any fruit defects due to improper or prolonged storage, or during oil extraction with inappropriate presses.

3.How are quality olives produced?

The olive grove must be managed carefully and be located in areas naturally suited to growing olives. The main points can be summarised as follows:

  • The varieties of olives should be the best, those most suitable for that particular climate, the availability of water, the type of soil.
  • The trees should be planted at a distance to ease pruning, fertilisation and at the same time provide sufficient exposure to light; the trees should be pruned annually, fertilised and carefully protected from attacks by the most common olive parasites.
  • The tree should not be more than 30 years old, because even if olive trees that are centuries old convey a sense of grandeur, as with any plant, the olive tree provides the best fruit when young.

4.How are olives harvested?

Manually or better, with the assistance of tools that facilitate harvesting (such as a type of vibrating rake), or better yet using machines that act as shakers, shaking the trunk or main branches, to make the olives fall onto sheets laid on the ground. There is no reason to prefer one method over another, but the mechanised methods allow greater economy, and therefore a lower price for the same quality.

5.What is the onset of ripening?

It is when there is a change in the surface colour of the fruit from green to yellow to red to purple to a wine colour and then completely black. For each variety of olive oil there is a time of ripening in which the oil extract will have the best sensory characteristics, more intensity, complexity and elegance of perfume, the greater intensity and balance of flavour.

6.Is "first pressed" oil the best?

Today, all oils undergo a "first and only" pressing. Many years ago, however, the olives did undergo a first, softer pressing, followed by a second one. But for decades, all the olives undergo a single pressing or extraction.

7.What does "cold-pressed" or "cold extraction" mean? Is this an indication of better quality?

The terms "cold-pressed", "cold extraction" and similar expressions, mean that, during the extraction process, the temperature does not exceed 27°C. This generally occurs everywhere, except in rare cases where pressing occurs in haste and with disregard for quality. Extraction at temperatures below 27°C, however, in itself does not ensure a high level of quality, inasmuch as, if defective olives are "cold" pressed the result will be a "cold pressed" oil, however, the quality of the oil obtained will be poor!

8.What is a "Panel Test"?

It is an olfactory and taste assessment of the product which is performed by a group of at least 8 professional tasters who, during oil tasting, store information such as intensity of the positive attributes that are desirable in an oil (fruity, apple, grass, leaf, tomato, bitter, spicy) and negative attributes which are undesirable (winey, mould, soil, rancid and sludge). In order for an olive oil to be defined extra virgin, it must not have any negative attributes, identified as such by the majority of the tasters. However, apart from the absence of negative attributes, two extra virgin olive oils, can be significantly different. Depending on the characteristics of the sensory profile, they can be more or less complex, balanced, elegant, characteristics that draw the difference between an ordinary extra virgin olive oil and a "grand cru", just like ordinary table wines and great wines.

9.Is it true that the extra virgin olive oil holds more fat than seed oil?

No, all fats both from animal and vegetable origin, provide our bodies with the same amount of calories, equivalent to 9 Kilocalories per gram. However, Extra Virgin is preferable for the types of fat it contains: it is rich in monounsaturated acids and with a limited quantity of saturated and monounsaturated fats.

10.Is Extra virgin olive oil difficult to digest?

Oleic acid is abundant and characteristic of olive oils. It stimulates the contraction of the gallbladder, promoting the release of bile juices (and therefore rapid digestion), and in doing so also limits the formation of gallstones. The fact that an extra virgin oil has an intense flavour which can be described as "heavy" is merely a misnomer which is not necessarily true. A tastier oil makes food more appetising and therefore, more digestible; furthermore if an oil has an intense taste a smaller quantity is required, thus allowing an economic saving, the same rule applies to calorie intake, all this leads to greater palatal satisfaction.

11.Which oil is more appropriate for frying?

Frying is a process which is carried out at significantly higher temperatures than other cooking methods. The ideal temperature to obtain a crispy dry fry is approximately 180°C; the high temperature enables the formation of the crust which acts as a barrier, preventing oil from reaching the food being cooked. The result being a dry fry that is not greasy. Due to the extra virgin olive oils increased stability in comparison to most seed oils, it can be used for frying for longer and is completely healthy. In fact, olive oil's critical temperature* is much higher than that of other oils used for food frying. Other fats such as butter, margarine and the most common seed oils, have a significantly lower critical temperature during frying and as a result tend to quickly degrade leading to the formation of hazardous substances.* CRITICAL TEMPERATURE OF OILS AND FATS

  • PALM 240°C
  • PEANUT 220°C
  • OLIVE 210°C
  • IDEAL FRYING TEMPERATURE 170/180°C
  • LARD, COCONUT 180°C
  • SUNFLOWER, SOYA 170°C
  • GRAPE SEED, RAPE SEED, CORN 160°C
  • MARGARINE 150° C
  • BUTTER 110° C

12.What is the smoking point?

It is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. This value depends on the oil's degree of acidity. All seed oils, but also olive oil (not extra virgin!) during refining are neutralised and have an acidity value of practically zero. As a result the smoke point is very high and close to 240°C. Extra virgin olive oils, on the other hand, although low in acidity have a smoke point which is around 190°C as a result they tend to begin smoking at the beginning of the frying stage.Therefore, seed oils seem to be more technically suitable for frying, but they are however, more unstable, and in general have a critical temperature (see *) which is less than that for frying, and hence tend to degrade faster and form harmful substances, which are detectable as the oil begins to smoke.In other words, if extra virgin olive oil tends to smoke at the beginning of the frying process, it is because of the acidity. The formation of smoke for seed oils on the other hand is due to their instability and the formation of harmful substances.A good alternative oil to use for frying is "olive oil" which has insignificant acidity levels (in as much as it is composed of refined olive oil), and as a result of the stability of olive oils, it degrades much less than seed oils. The use of olive oil in frying, is recommended for its delicate organoleptic characteristics, such that they do not "cover" the taste of delicate foods, giving the impression of a "dry" fry.

13.What is acidity? What does it indicate?

Acidity refers to the percentage of free fats present in the oil and indicate either greater or lesser degradation of the olive from which it is obtained. In general, the lower the acidity, the better the condition the olives were in. The oil acidity can only be measured by chemical analysis and is not perceptible in the taste. The tingly sensation, typical of fresh and healthy olive oils, should not be confused with high levels of acidity.

14.Is "Italian" extra virgin the best in the world?

In some parts of Italy (Umbria, Tuscany, Apulia, Sicily etc.) thanks to the particular cultivar and climate, oils can be obtained that are the "top" olive oils produced in the world.However, in those same areas and other minor olive growing areas, non-compliance to the "seven golden rules" has lead to the production of defective oils. It goes without saying that in any part of the world, compliance to the "seven golden rules" allows the attainment of highest quality oils. Therefore, there are excellent and poor quality oils. Only the percentages of one or another changes in different countries. Italian oils are high quality since 30-40% of produce comes from farms that take particular care of the olives, carrying out Phytosanitary - pesticide treatments when required and not excessively; harvesting the olives in well ventilated bins and not in sacks or bags (where mould and fermentation can occur). The olives are then pressed within a few hours in a modern press which is hygienically impeccable (centrifugal systems). Oil is then decanted within a few weeks and they do not wait for it to age."...aged wine and new oil" ! The remaining 60-70% of produce has slight defects or barely perceptible flaws even though Italian, as is also the case for the product in other countries that face the Mediterranean. Therefore, at Monini we believe that "oil is good if produced well"!

15.What are "polyphenols"?

They are antioxidants typical of olives at the right stage of ripeness which, like vitamin E, bestow stability to extra virgin olive oil. They have a bitter and pungent taste which characterises the elevated quality of the oils. A bitter and spicy oil, that is rich in polyphenols, contributes to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.

16.What does the term "cultivar" mean?

"CULTIvated VARiety" - it is a term that defines the variety (form) of an olive tree of the Olea Europea species. Italy is particularly rich in different cultivars, spread across olive growing regions, that contribute to producing regional oils each with its own typical sensory characteristics which are unique to that area.

17.The oil from the press appears cloudy; is it better than oil which is brighter?

The oil produced in the mill is cloudy because it contains microscopic water droplets suspended in vegetation and fragments of olive pulp. Normally, before packaging, the oil is filtered removing all water and suspended solid particles. The taste does not change and neither do the nutritional properties. It is important to know, however, that a cloudy oil compared to a filtered oil, has a shorter life. This is because the presence of water promotes hydrolysis in the product.Monini recommends the purchase of filtered oils, with the exception of "novello", which however, as with the freshest wines, must be consumed within the first few months.

18.Oil that is in a bottle and appears solid (frozen) is it harmful?

No. The appearance of solid lumps (like rice kernels and with a clear colour) indicate that the oil has been stored at low temperatures and has frozen. This does not alter the quality at all. In fact it is a guarantee of preservation "sheltered from the heat". Keeping the bottle in a warm kitchen will slowly return the oil.

19.Does the oil colour indicate better or lower quality?

Extra virgin olive oils are naturally green in colour with yellow reflections that can be more or less intense. The variability of the colour from a deep green to a lighter one in which yellow prevails is no way related to the quality.Typically oils from the same zone have a fairly uniform colour and are clearly tied to the type of olive cultivar (variety). But this is not always true, because oil obtained from unripe green olives has a more intense colour, while the yellow colour comes from oil obtained from olives that are riper. In spite of this, the colour of the oil also depends on the type of extraction system, and even more so how the system, has been used. We advise not creating problems that do not exist and to choose a product based on preferred taste. Only the presence of reddish reflections indicates that the oil has deteriorated because it has not been kept sheltered from the light.

Product Characteristics

Why does an oil cost more than another? What does "fruttato" mean? What characteristics do I need to look for in order to have a better Extra Virgin for my palate?

20.The appearance of the oil seems cloudy. What does it depend on? If it is cloudy, can it alter the quality of the oil?

This is due to oil filtration, the choice of filtration is at the discretion of the packer, it is just a question of product appearance.The presence of cloudy oil in a bottle is not a fact that is in anyway detrimental to the quality of the product. Some "novello" products are bottled without undergoing the process of filtration. All other products are generally fine filtered using filter paper (a type of absorbent paper a few millimetres thick). At the time of packaging the product is therefore filtered. However, it is advisable that unfiltered oils are consumed quickly: water particles and pulp residues cause an acceleration in the product's oxidisation (ageing) process.

21.Why has your Monini Extra virgin recently changed taste?

Oil, like wine, and other "non industrial" products has different characteristics from vintage to vintage (or year to year), furthermore, during the year, it tends to become sweeter with age. Even drought conditions in a year can influence and accentuate the oil's bitter taste! Furthermore, between a bottle of oil packaged in October and another packaged in November (in November the new oil arrives!....) there is certainly a difference in freshness, and hence a livelier taste. Hence, the probable differences noted, would be due to the above mentioned factors.

22.The oil has sediment at the bottom. What causes this?

In some cases, oil which is bottled "unfiltered" with temperature range changes during storage, sediment tends to settle in the bottle. The oil does not have any defects. It is important to know, however, that an unfiltered oil has a shelf life that is shorter than that of filtered oil. Monini recommends the use of filtered oils except for "new" olive oils such as the "novello", that like the freshest wines, must be consumed in the first few months.

23.The oil has a rancid taste. What causes this?

Usually the rancid taste (resembling the taste of bad pork fat), is accompanied by reddish-orange tones in the colour of the oil. The appearance of such tones is a result of product storage: contact with direct sun light, even for only a few days, has the power to make the oil rancid, considered to be accelerated ageing. Under such circumstances, we kindly ask that the matter be brought to the attention of the shop keeper, and a product replacement be requested. The shop keeper will then send us the product allowing us to investigate its correct storage or otherwise.

24.The oil is reddish in colour. What does this mean?

It indicates that the product has deteriorated. This is due to chlorophyll degradation which is naturally present in extra virgin olive oil. The prevalent "reddish" colour is the beta-carotene, found naturally in the oil. This can occur if the oil is exposed to direct sunlight, perhaps in a window or during unloading at the supermarket or warehouse storage. The oil begins to oxidise and then change colour.

25.The oil is bitter and spicy, "tingles the throat": what does this mean?

The bitter and spicy sensation, which can be more or less intense, forms part of all quality olive oil that derives from fresh olives that are immediately pressed. This characteristic in extra virgin olive oil is due to the presence of potent natural antioxidants (called polyphenols). Modern medicine has acknowledged the very important role played by these polyphenols in the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. These sensations well recall the bitter, pungent and astringent taste which is typical of olives. It is completely understandable (and appropriate) that a good oil recalls the flavour of olives, as one would expect cherry jam to be not only good, but also to taste of cherries. The fact that the stinging in the throat of an extra virgin olive oil has a sour taste, is only a cliché: acidity is not perceived in the taste, on the other hand the tingling sensation is characteristic of young, fresh oil.

26.Is the MONINI oil purchased during sales discounts good?

Often large distribution chains attract consumers offering some so called "decoy" products at particularly favourable prices. Without getting into complex discussions, but in an effort to provide some clarification, the oil contained in all MONINI products purchased on offer (discounted price) is exactly the same as any product which is not on offer.Therefore, purchase our product with complete peace of mind. But avoid stock piling oil for a period longer than three or four months, especially if you are purchasing in October, as MONINI's new season's oil will soon become available, which will be fresher and more fragrant.

27.Where (country) does the oil originate? And where do the olives come from?

All Monini oil labels, indicate the country of origin with the word "Made from 100% Italian oils," or "made from EU community oils." The law states that the origin of olives and oil must be specified on the product's label. In reality, however, it is very rare and almost non-existent that olives originating and obtained in one country are pressed in another.It is, however, important to specify that origin is not a certificate of quality, regardless of the fact that an oil originates in Italy or the EU community: it can be excellent or mediocre regardless of its origin.

28.What is P.D.O. oil ?

A P.D.O. oil (Protected Designation of Origin) is oil produced in an area of limited and homogeneous production. The production area, the varieties of olives used, the method of producing them, the conditions of oil extraction, and quality parameters are set in strict production regulations. All stages of production are controlled and guaranteed by a certification authority. All P.D.O. products are protected by special European Union regulations and possess typical area characteristics and quality parameters that are more restrictive than for typical extra virgin olive oil.

Packaging

Oil can be contained and stored in many different types of packaging material, each having its own characteristics.

29.How is Extra virgin olive oil best stored?

As stated on the label, oil, any type of oil needs to be stored away from the light, preferably in the dark, in a cool area and must be "well sealed".

30.Why are some oils packaged in dark glass bottles and others not?

Direct or indirect sunlight, and even more common, light from light fixtures, is an enemy to the preservation of extra virgin olive oil, but also of wine and all other food products Monini uses dark glass bottles for its products, and uses secondary packaging which is more appropriate for protecting the oil from light. We recommend however that the product be kept scrupulously sheltered from light, preferably in the dark. In fact all products (not just oil) should be kept away from direct light - even better if they are stored "in the dark" and in a place that is quite cool. In the case of oil, it is extremely important to keep the bottle "well sealed", in order to keep the product protected from oxygen.

31.The internal glass seems to be clouded: why?

The glass used for bottling is completely clean, as it comes directly from the glass manufacturer perfectly packaged and is not re-used. However, over time the glass can release saline substances (which are absolutely harmless minerals) that form an evident opaque patina finish. The same situation occurs on any old glass household bottle used to store a product.

32.I find it difficult to open the cap.

The current opening system was created with the precise intention of greater convenience and safety, respecting the environment, replacing the PVC capsule seal with a guarantee band made of paper. If the problem is of a different nature, please let us know.

Label

Decoding both the front and back labels of a bottle of Extra virgin olive oils can sometimes be tricky, we can help you.

33.Why does the MONINI "best before" on products indicate a shorter duration in comparison to other brands?

Referring to use by dates for oil is a misnomer: The date printed on the label is a preferable "best before" date, if stored properly, the product keeps its quality intact, it is best to define it as Minimum Term Storage (MTS). Monini fixes this term at 12 months from bottling date, where other companies tend to fix the date for a longer period. Buying a product with a MTS which is further into the future means buying a fresher and therefore more enjoyable product. Extra virgin olive oil, if stored properly, can therefore be consumed even after the MTS. It is, however, correct practice for the distributor to inform the consumer that a product has exceeded this limit, but is not prohibited. It is important to understand, however, that all oils "are born" with olive pressing, and that this occurs generally in November, thus we suggest not to stock pile oil for a period that exceeds three/four months especially near November when MONINI will have oil from the new harvest.

34.If the Minimum Term Storage stated on the label is about to expire, can the product still be used?

Yes, certainly! The Minimum Term of Storage (MTS) is the date by which the product, if stored properly, maintains its fragrance and quality. Unlike the "use by date", the MTS is supplemented by the words "best before ..." Please note, however, that all oils are "born" with olive pressing and this generally occurs in November, thus we suggest not to stock pile oil for a period that exceeds three/four months especially near November when MONINI will have oil from the new harvest.

35.More to come...

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