While Italian olive oil is probably the most popular type of olive oil, the pasting of olives to create olive oil is believed to have started between 5000 and 3000 B.C. in Greece and was commonly used as a medicine or cleaning oil. Now Italian olive oil is probably the most popular type of olive oil in the world.
Both black and green olives can be used to make olive oils; black olives are more ripe olives. To read more about the history of olive oil, click here.
You can create olive oil by picking olives from trees and washing the dirt and twigs from the olives. The olives are pressed, using several techniques, to collect the oil from the olives. The oil is collected from the juice, and left in a tub to separate from the water. After collecting the oil off the top of the water, the oil is filtered out to ensure no solids are left in the oil.
There are more than 350 types of olives, and as much as one quarter of the worlds olives are grown in Italy. Italian olives are picked from northern and southern Italy and yield different results, because they are picked at different times of the year. This results in different tasting olive oil.
Olives from northern Italy are picked earlier in the year before they can be damaged from frosting. Olives from southern Italy are picked later in the year, and can produce up to 20 times the amount of olive oil.
There are many types of olive oils.
Extra virgin olive oil is produced with 1% or less acid in it.
Virgin olive oil contains 1-3% acid and is made from riper olives.
Fino olive oil combines both extra virgin and virgin olive oils.
Light olive oil contains the same amount of calories as other types of olive oils, but is the lowest quality.
Pure olive oil is created by pressing the olives a second time during production and usually is lightly colored and has a bland taste.
Italian olive oil is a very versatile ingredient that has many different uses in the kitchen. It can be compared to wine; different kinds are used for different purposes.
Extra virgin olive oils have a stronger flavor are used when cooking meat and fish. They can also be added to marinades, pastas, salads, or used as dipping sauces for vegetables and bread.
Virgin and Light olive oils are used for frying or sautéing, because olive oil loses its flavor whenever heated to high temperatures.
Olive oil offers an incredible array of health benefits, from protecting against heart disease to preventing certain types of cancers.