I haven’t reposted any other writer’s work before. I usually write my thoughts and then link the article for you to read, but I like lots of points in this article and want to post it just the way it is.
Here is “Smell, sip, swirl, savour” by Jayanthi Madhukar for the Bangalore Mirror.
“First things first. Olive oil is not oil. ‘Technically, olive oil is extracted by crushing olives which are fruits, so olive oil is actually a fruit juice,’ says Michele Labarile, biologist and researcher who has been working on olive oil quality control since 1982. He is also one of the first Italian teachers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting courses. Michele shares his tips on olive oil tasting.
But before that, what exactly is extra virgin oil? It happens to be the highest quality olive oil characterised by perfect flavour and odour. Extra virgin olive oil means that the oil has been produced by physically crushing the fruit with no chemical treatment to neutralise the strong tastes that can be categorised as defects (since these defects are not present). In many olive oil producing regions, extra virgin oil’s quality is judged by a panel of experts for taste, mouth feel and aroma.
A little like wine tasting (after all, both wine and olive oil are obtained by crushing the fruit), olive oil tasting can be a serious affair indeed. And just as the quality of wine depends on the minutest aspect of the grapes, so does olive oil. Now get geared for the taste of olive oil – and don’t cheat, a little sip of olive oil will not hurt!
According to Michele, a typical professional tasting session is done with a coloured (blue) glass tumbler that resembles a votive holder. ‘This way, one will not judge the oil by its colour alone,’ says Michele.
The actual procedure involves the following steps: Pour a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a wine glass or a blue tasting glass. Cup the glass in one hand and cover it with the other. Swirl the oil and warm it for a few seconds. Now uncover the glass and take a good whiff of the oil. By ‘nosing’ the oil, you will be able to detect aromas like the smell of freshly cut grass, cinnamon or a fruity smell which includes vegetable ‘notes’ like artichokes and herbs as well.
Next, take a small sip of the oil and suck it in. This will help vapourise the oil and coat the tongue (which has different taste buds in different areas) and mouth. Suck air through the oil to coax in more aromas. According to Michele, good quality extra virgin olive oil will not leave a greasy feel in the mouth or a greasy aftertaste. ‘The oil will be very non-greasy,’ he informs.
Now in terms of attributes, extra virgin oil has three positive attributes. One is the fruity attribute. The second attribute is the pungency that can be detected in the throat when one swallows the oil. Pungency can range from mild to intense. The third attribute is the bitterness – it is a prominent taste in fresh olives.
For a second session of tasting, spit out any oil remaining in the mouth and drink some water or bite into a piece of green apple to avoid mixing different flavours of olive oil.
An inveterate olive oil taster will be able to detect some desirable traits in olive oil like almond (nutty), artichoke, buttery, fruity, peppery, pungent, spice, sweet and tropical. Undesirable traits include metallic, rancid, musty, brine, greasy, burnt and even bland with no positive traits. It takes some amount of experience to decipher the taste of olive oil.
Tips for Buyers
For the layman or a consumer who wants to buy a bottle of olive oil off a supermarket’s shelf, here are some tips:
– Quality extra virgin oil comes in a dark bottle as light can affect the quality of oil.
– Check the date of production. It’s advisable to buy a product that is not more than a year old.
– Cross check how the bottles are stored. There should be no exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures.
Myths About Olive Oil
Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist, debunks a few myths about olive oil.
Myth 1: Olive oil cannot be used for cooking as high temperatures will destroy the goodness of the oil. Wrong. In fact, olive oil has a high smoking point and is a highly stable oil with a smoking point of 210C.
Myth 2: Olive oil can’t be used for Indian cooking. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for any type of cooking including Indian cooking. The thicker (and greener) the oil, the better it is. Deep frying can also be done in the oil but if required, a less expensive olive oil can be used for frying purpose.
Myth 3: Olive oil is very expensive. Right. But consider the fact that when one uses thick olive oil, the consumption is highly reduced – at least by one third. And when you see the health benefits of the oil, it outweighs the cost factor.
– It has anti carcinogenic properties and is good for the heart. Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant) and monounsaturated fat which contributes to lowering bad cholesterol. A diet rich in olive oil is said to reduce incidence of colon, breast and skin cancers.
– It has antithrombotic properties which means that the oil reduces the risks of blood clots. It also reduces the risks of clogged arteries.
– Olive oil consumption improves bone health.
– It has anti-ageing properties as well.
– Its method of extraction ensures that the goodness of olive oil is retained in the composition.”
May the sun shine through your branches.