It’s fairly well known that olive oil is considered to be good for both your health and well-being. But with so many different varieties of olive oil on the market, each with its own properties, acidity levels, and oleic acid content, which one do you use, and for what purpose?
Extra virgin olive oil is considered the highest grade and the best quality olive oil. It is extracted from fresh olives harvested not more than a day ago. The process doesn’t use excessive heat, chemicals or mechanisms during the extraction. Extra virgin contains an acidity quotient of less than 0.8 per cent, and ‘premium’ extra virgin less than 0.3 per cent.
It is full of flavour, and best used to drizzle over salads, meats, breads, and ideal for light cooking such as sautéing and stir frying.
Virgin olive oil can be categorised as fine virgin (acidity less than 1.5 per cent), semi-fine virgin (3.3 per cent), and virgin (2 per cent). It is also extracted from fresh olives, but with a less intense flavour and intensity than extra virgin. It is perfect for baking, roasting, and shallow frying.
Pure olive oil is of a lower quality of the virgin category, because of the oleic acid levels of around 4 per cent. It uses heat in the extracting process, which may cause impurities in the oil. It can be used for conventional cooking purposes, stir fries to deep frying, but it isn’t advisable to be consumed uncooked, for example, drizzled over salad.
Refined Olive Oil refers to olive oils that have gone through a refining process, using heat and chemicals to extract the residual oil that has been left after the first extraction. The acidic content is higher than recommended, and the oil is also fattier and not as flavoursome.
While it isn’t recommended when compared to its counterparts, it can be used for deep-frying, as this is when it remains most stable.
Recently, the extraction waste products have been used as a biofuel in Spain, with olive pomace, vine shoots, olive leaves, and agricultural remains acting as its primary fuel.
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