What makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) so special? Well, besides its ancient historical significance and incredible medicinal properties, EVOO is simply the healthiest, tastiest and most versatile oil in the world.
We invite you to discover this life enhancing elixir and the culture that surrounds it in the sections that follow...
WHAT IS EVOO?
WHAT ARE THE STYLES?
HOW TO BUY AND STORE
HOW TO TASTE EVOO
HOW TO COOK WITH EVOO
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVOO
6 REASONS TO BUY SOUTH AFRICAN EVOO
WHAT IS EVOO?
EVOO (pronounced ee-voo) stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil - the highest grade of virgin olive oil, derived by cold extraction (below 30°C), without the use of solvents or refining methods.
What makes it “extra” virgin is a little more technical. On sensory analysis it shows no defects (superior taste and aroma), and on chemical analysis shows a free acidity of no more than 0.8% (indicator of quality) and peroxides lower than 20 meq/kg (indicator of freshness).
Before chemical testing, Virgin Olive Oil was the best we could get, but now we’re able to add the “Extra” indicating the highest standard of purity, freshness and flavour.
Only pure oil from the olive, processed at a temperature below 30°C (cold pressed/ extracted) with no additives or defects. Stored in tanks free of oxygen and light.
Olives of different cultivars are picked
at varying degrees of ripeness, usually a combination of green, half-ripe and ripe, and crushed as soon as possible after picking.
About 30% of the olive juice is the oil. This golden essence is separated mechanically from the pulp and water. All EVOO is first press. There is no EVOO that comes from a second press.
What is NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is a natural, unrefined oil, processed at higher temperatures resulting in a lower quality oil. It is not as tasty or as healthy as EVOO.
OLIVE OIL is a refined oil usually blended with a minimal amount of extra virgin oil or other seed oils. It looks the part and costs less but is just not as good for you.
POMACE OIL is extracted from the pulp left over from the first press and is not fit for human consumption. It is generally used for making soap or as fuel.
WHAT ARE THE STYLES?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes in 3 styles, which is usually indicated on the label. The style is dictated by the cultivar of the olive and the degree of ripeness when the oil is extracted.
Generally, the greener the olive, the more peppery or pungent the flavour. The more intense the oil, the more it will enhance bold flavours in food. The more delicate the oil, the more it adds nuance and lifts textures in food. Use different styles of oil to achieve the optimum flavour combination in various recipes. Keep trying different oils and find your own favourites.
Subtle, fresh and fruity in taste and aroma.
Best as a replacement for butter; drizzling on bread, salads and roast vegetables; in baking and for mayonnaise.
A good balance of fruity, peppery aftertaste and bitterness.
Best for salad dressings, pastry, pasta and sauces. Braising and casseroles of fish, chicken and meat.
Very fruity and pungent with a strong bite of bitterness.
Best for cheese sauces, swirling into soup, cooking lamb, beef and pork casseroles or roasts. Basting brinjals and roasting potatoes.
Flavoured/Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The purists will say there is no such thing, because anything added to Extra Virgin Olive Oil negates the definition (no additives). However, cooks and consumers love the delicious nuances of an infused oil and international competitions even have awards for them.
Popular infusions include garlic, rosemary, chilli, lemon and sun-dried tomato.
The regular and generous consumption of EVOO is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, which has been scientifically accepted as one of the healthiest diets in the world! EVOO is a rich source of antioxidants and mono-unsaturated fats or “good” fats. Use EVOO everyday to enjoy the health benefits of this golden elixir.
HOW TO BUY AND STORE
Whenever possible, buy direct from the farm for the freshest oil and the opportunity to taste it at source. See our map on the Experience page for farm locations. Immerse yourself in the EVOO landscape and feel the passion in the product. Otherwise, look for these pointers on the label at your local deli or supermarket...
The producer verifies that the oil is in fact Extra Virgin - not virgin, refined or blended oil. It is the pure, unadulterated juice of the olive - cold pressed and no additives.
WHERE IT IS MADE
Why buy imported oil when our producers offer the best quality, freshest oil, and your purchase supports local agriculture and creates employment. It’s a win-win situation!
DATE OF HARVEST
Unlike wine, Extra Virgin Olive Oil does not improve with age. Two years from the date of harvest is the maximum age for the best health and flavour benefits. Fresh is best!
THE CTC SEAL
This is the official seal of the SA Olive Association and means that the producer has Committed to Compliance with strict quality standards and that the oil has been approved.
LIGHT, HEAT AND AIR ARE THE ENEMIES...
Buy in quantities you will use while the oil is still fresh.
Preferably buy in dark bottles or vacuum packs. Close the lid tightly.
Store in a cool, dark place to minimise the effects of heat and light.
Do not refrigerate – it is unnecessary and the oil will turn cloudy.
HOW TO TASTE EVOO
See our Experience page to discover farms where you can exercise your taste buds and buy at source. Or try it at home. Have an oil tasting party with friends. Try the three styles of oil, starting with Delicate, then Mild and finally Intense. Use sliced apple to cleanse your palate between tastings. When you know how to taste and identify the flavours of a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can start to find your own favourites.
Pour a tablespoon of oil into a small glass. You can use a shot glass or a wine glass, but the experts use round, blue glasses that hide the colour of the oil (for judging purposes).
2. WARM & SWIRL
Cup the glass in the palm of your hand to warm the oil and release the aromas, covering the opening of the glass with your other hand to trap them in. Swirl gently.
Uncover the glass and take a deep whiff. Can you identify the characteristics? Is it fruity or grassy? Do you notice nuances of banana, artichoke or green tomato?
Now take a long, slurpy sip, taking some air into your mouth to aerate the oil. Coat your entire tongue to identify as many aspects of the flavour as possible. Note the bitterness.
Finally, swallow the oil and take note of the sensations, like a pepperiness in the back of your throat (or lack thereof). You may even have a small cough, indicating the pungency.
Olive oil can range from smooth and nutty (delicate), to bitter and peppery (intense). A good olive oil will leave your mouth feeling clean and fresh, never oily or greasy. Any “off” notes on the nose or palate, however slight, are defects (e.g. muddy, musty, winey or metallic). Don’t settle for mediocre olive oil. Enjoy the world-class quality of South African EVOO.
HOW TO COOK WITH EVOO
Once you realise how tasty and how good Extra Virgin Olive Oil is for you, it will be an essential in your pantry. You might even want to stock the different styles.
Use instead of butter on bread, in baking and all cooking. Great for vegans.
Drizzle pure over fresh cut tomatoes, salad or as the base of any salad dressing.
With a dash of balsamic or added to yoghurt or soft cheese with herbs and spices.
Pour over hot baked potatoes or vegetables, swirl into soup and slosh over pasta.
Contrary to the myth (busted!), EVOO is the most resistant oil to oxidation and therefore highly suitable for frying. Best results when frying at around 180°C.
Perhaps more expensive but certainly the healthiest way to crisp-cook, and it’s re-usable.
Use a robust oil to add silky texture and delicious flavour to just about any sauce.
Use pure or infused with herbs, garlic, lemon and spices for any meat or veg.
Meat, fish, veg and cheese can be preserved in oil. To pickle, add vinegar, salt and herbs.
Use a delicate EVOO when baking pancakes, bread, pastries, cakes and biscuits.
Think hummus and pesto - pureed veg and pulses with olive oil, herbs and spices.
Use in ice-cream and puddings like baklava, Greek carrot cake and pannacota.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVOO IN SA
Skipping past its ancient origins, the history of olive tree farming in South Africa is punctuated by colourful characters who introduced innovations and improvements that have brought the industry to where it is today – poised for another leap forward.
Piet “California” Cillie brought olive trees (and other “strange” fruit) back from California in 1893 and thanks to his influence, the very first prize for South African olive oil was awarded to Jan Minnaar of the farm De Hoop, in Paarl. He won the prize for the finest olive oil produced in the British Empire at the London Show in 1907!
At about the same time a young immigrant from Genoa, Ferdinando Costa, saw the potential of the climate and soil and started grafting on imported Italian material. More than satisfied with the results, he began planting on a large scale on a farm in Paarl Valley in 1925 and by 1935 was pressing his own oil with a mill imported from Italy. Today Costas is a household name.
Another Italian, Baron Andreis, planted olive trees in the 1950’s and appointed Carlo Castiglione to manage the farm and make olive oil in 1972. Castiglione installed the first continuous cycle oil extraction plant in the country and by 1997 was bottling under the label Vesuvio Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
By 2002, Vesuvio had won four awards in Italy and is still winning international awards today.
The late Guilio Bertrand planned to retire on the beautiful farm Morgenster which he bought in 1992. Instead he realised its potential for producing excellent quality wine and olive oil and he introduced the Italian tradition of combining the two in his farming enterprise. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by SA Olive in 2012 for importing 90% of all cultivars that producers today farm with and for the top of the range olive nursery he established.
Two women who have made their mark on the industry are Reni Hildenbrand and Linda Costa. Reni owns the same farm Piet “California” owned almost a century ago. Linda is a member of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Both women have spent their lives educating the public on olive oil through tasting courses and both serve as International Panel Tasters and Panel Leaders in South Africa.
Something every one of these characters has in common (as do the many others who have made important contributions to the growth of this industry but are not mentioned here), is an absolute passion for the olive tree and its fruit.
6 REASONS TO BUY LOCAL EVOO
Every choice you make as a consumer has an impact on your health, your wallet, your environment and your community. By now you know that EVOO is the healthiest oil and that South African EVOO is world-class. While it may not be the cheapest, there are so many good reasons to buy local EVOO. Here are just a few...
Local EVOOs compete at international level with the best in the world and come out tops! There is no reason to assume that European oils are better, especially at the price.
Don’t fall for cheap imports. Top quality Italian EVOO costs from R300 per 500ml upwards whilst excellent local oils range around R100 per 500ml.
Europe has been rocked with EVOO scandals for decades, with blended olive oil (or worse) labelled as Extra Virgin. Rest assured that local EVOO’s carrying the CTC seal are pure!
It is the freshest oil you can buy – straight from the farm to your local supermarket. Imported oils have travelled a long way to get here. Check production dates. Fresh is best!
5. JOB CREATION
Buying local supports our economy, creates jobs and ensures a sustainable olive industry. Olive farming is labour intensive and conveniently follows on the grape harvest.
Whenever possible, visit the farms and buy direct. Meet the makers, do a tasting, discover the landscape, enjoy the shops, restaurants and accommodation. Live the EVOO life.