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Olives & Olive Oil
Posted on: 23/Jun/2009 - Olive oil is classified according as its oleic acidity (fatty acid content), the most important element in determining its grade, and to its flavour, colour and aroma. The European Union has defined a specific 30 word vocabulary for the "formal organoleptic assessment and grading of olive oil", which includes such terms as grass (flavour that's reminiscent of freshly mown grass) and positive astringent (the complex drying sensation produced in the mouth by tannins). As with wines, some people will argue persuasively that the oil from no two groves tastes alike.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is derived from the first cold pressing of olives without refining. It has an oleic acidity level of less than 1%. Greece's ideal climate contributes most favourably to the superiority of its olive oil: richer, fruitier flavour, intense aroma and distinctive green colour. Extra virgin is produced in four styles: regular extra virgin olive oil, organic extra virgin, protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI). One reason extra virgin olive oil is so highly regarded is because it offers an almost infinite variety of flavours and aromas. It includes no additives and even in harvest and processing is hardly interfered with. Its fruity taste and complex aroma seem to have almost universal appeal. Its light and delicate consistency make it perfect for dressings. Frying is generally not recommended for extra virgin. It is rich in volatile compounds that high heat will cause to evaporate and you'll lose many of the oil's subtler qualities. Also, the action may perfume your kitchen.

Virgin Olive Oil also comes from the first pressing without refining, but virgin olive oil may have an acidity level of up to 2%. Although its flavour intensity can vary, virgin olive oil is milder than extra virgin.

Olive Oil has an acidity level of no more than 1.5%. At the initial pressing it will be much higher than that, but the level is brought down to its legal limit by blending the refined oil with premium quality extra virgin olive oil. Milder in taste and colour, olive oil is the preferred medium for frying or for flavouring delicate foods that may be overwhelmed by the richness of extra virgin oil.

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About table olives

The olive fruit is a drupe. It has a bitter component (oleuropein), a low sugar content (2.6 - 6%) compared with other drupes (12% or more) and a high oil content (12-30%) depending on the time of year and variety. These characteristics make it a fruit that cannot be consumed directly from the tree and it has to undergo a series of processes that differ considerably from region to region, and which also depend on variety. Some olives are. however, an exception to this rule because as they ripen they sweeten right on the tree, in most cases this is due to fermentation. One case in point is the Thrubolea variety in Greece. Oleuropein, which is distinctive to the olive, has to be removed as it has a strong bitter taste: it is not, however, pernicious to health. Depending on local methods and customs, the fruit is generally treated in sodium or potassium hydroxide, brine or successively rinsed in water.


SIZE: The olive's suitability for table consumption is a function of its size, which is important to presentation. Olives between 3 and 5 g are considered medium-sized, while those weighing over 5 g are large.

SHAPE:Fruits that are more or less spherical in shape usually sell best, although some elongated ones also find favour.

STONE: The stone should come away easily from the flesh and a flesh:stone ratio of 5 to 1 is acceptable; the higher this ratio the better the commercial value of the olives.

SKIN: The skin of the fruit should be fine. yet elastic and resistant to blows and to the action of alkalis and brine.

SUGAR CONTENT: A high sugar content in the flesh is an asset. The lowest acceptable level is 4%, especially in olives that undergo fermentation.

OIL CONTENT: Oil content should be as low as possible because in many cases it impairs the keeping properties and consistency of the processed fruit. Only in certain types of black olives is a medium to high oil content desirable.

( Source:IOOC )

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