February 10, 2012

Extra virginity - by Tom Mueller

Extra virginity - by Tom Mueller
The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil

Olive oil is the only commercially significant vegetable oil to be extracted from a fruit rather than seeds, like sunflower, canola, and soy oil. Since the fruit contains considerable water, extraction can be done by mechanical method alone, with a centrifuge or press, whereas extracting seed oils generally requires the use of industrial solvents, typically hexane. To remove this solvent from seed oils, as well as to eliminate the unpleasant tastes and odors they normally have, they must be processed in a refinery, where they undergo high temperature desolventization, neutralization, deodorization, bleaching, and degumming. The end result is a tasteless, odorless, colorless liquid fat. Olive Oil instead can simply be pressed or spun out of the olive pulp, yielding a fresh squeezed fruit juice with all of its natural tastes, aromas, and health-enhancing ingredients intact.

The DeCarlos were pioneers in what has become an authentic renaissance in extra virgin oil in Italy.

The olive tree, Olea Europea L.sativa is hte domesticated cousin of the wild oleaster and the Oleaceae family contains some nine hundred species of trees, shrubs, and woody climbers distributed throughout the world, primarily in forested regions. Some members of the family such as jasmines and lilacs are famous for their flowers while others such as the ashes are known for their fine-grained hardwood.

Still, the olive’s bounty remains something of a puzzle. An Oil’s content of oleic acid, its primary fatty acid can carry from 55 to 85%. Oleic acid and other fatty acids with one double bond are called monounsaturated while those with two or more double bonds are polyunsaturated. The more double bonds a fatty acid contains, the more easily it oxidizes, keeps fresh far longer than other vegetable oils which are polyunsaturated.

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