More about Olive Oil

Four to five kilos of olives are needed to produce just 1 liter of olive oil. The olive tree begins to produce olives between the ages of five and ten years, reaching maturity at about 20 years. After 100 to 150 years, its production begins to decline. The age of the tree influences only the quantity produced, not the quality.

The colour of the olive is not connected to the variety, but to the stage of ripeness. The olives are green in the beginning, turning black as they ripen. The olive tree blooms in the spring, with the fruit changing from a green color to black until the beginning of winter, when it is harvested.

The harvesting can be done by hand (ordeño), hitting the tree with a flexible pole so that the olives fall onto canvas covers placed on the ground (vareo), or by means of mechanical vibrations.

The olives collected are taken to the mill (almazara). They must be free of stones that could cause skin chafing or breakage. Also, heating should be avoided to prevent fermentation. To ensure the quality of the oil, the olive should be processed within 24 hours after being harvested. For ventilation, the leaves are separated, and after undergoing a quality selection, the olives are washed in running water.

Immediately following, the fruit is squeezed (molienda), without separating it from the pit, until it becomes a paste, which is then whipped, adding water if needed. Next comes the phase to separate solid from liquid, either by the traditional system (pressure), or by the continuous system (centrifuge). In either case, the temperature never rises above 30ºC.

Traditional system, by pressure (a non-continuous classical processing plant): The ground paste is placed between pressing mats and is subject to pressure, to expel the oil must (the mixture of oil and water). The mixture is then poured into a vat or holding tank. This is allowed to rest so that gravity and different densities come into play, separating the oil from the water.

Continuous system, by centrifuge (a continuous processing plant in three phases): 1 liter of water is added per kilo of paste; it is then added to a horizontal centrifugal machine, where the solid is separated from the oil must. The must is then passed on to a vertical centrifugal machine, where the oil is separated from the vegetable water.

Continuous system, by centrifuge (a continuous processing plants in two phases): Same as above, but instead of adding water for the horizontal centrifugation, the vegetable water is recycled.

The continuous system, which is more and more widespread, presents advantages such as a higher production capacity, avoiding the storage of olives, and therefore improving the quality of the oil, and also better yield, cleanliness and hygiene. Also, in the case of the continuous system in two phases, recycling the vegetation water provides a higher quantity of polythenols in the oil, natural protectors against oxidation. The oil obtained is stored in cellars until it is ready to go to market, with ideal temperatures of between 15 and 18ºC, low light, and isolated from agents that give off strange smells. The material in which they are deposited should be inert, glass-coated tile, or stainless steel – never iron or copper, which favour oxidation.

Air, light, and heat affect olive oil, so it should be kept in a closed container, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. As a natural product, and unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with time, so it is best used within a year. Nevertheless, depending on the variety, a well-kept oil could last up to 24 months without losing its organoleptic characteristics. The color of the oil does not determine its quality.

Colour is not indicative of quality or flavour. Generally dark green highlights are characteristic of fruity oils, corresponding to olives that have not reached ripeness. A hint of yellow or gold corresponds to sweeter olives, picked later in the harvest.

There is no one flavour. Flavour is the result of many factors such as the varietal of the olive, the terrain, the ripeness of the olive, water, among other things. Some oils have a distinct fruity flavour, with a hint of apple or almonds.

This refers to the body of the oil.

Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.), to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:

Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly 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.

Virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are, include:

Extra virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard

Virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Ordinary virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Virgin olive oil not fit for consumption as it is, designated lampante virgin olive oil, is virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and/or the organoleptic characteristics and other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. It is intended for refining or for technical use.

Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Olive oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents or other physical treatments, to the exclusion of oils obtained by re esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:

Crude olive-pomace oil is olive pomace oil whose characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. It is intended for refining for use for human consumption, or it is intended for technical use.

Refined olive pomace oil is the oil obtained from crude olive pomace oil by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.

Olive pomace oil is the oil comprising the blend of refined olive pomace oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. In no case shall this blend be called olive oil.