The only olive oil worthy of your consideration is extra virgin, but even the extra-virgin label doesn’t necessarily mean the oil is any good, writes Nancy Harmon Jenkins, perhaps the leading American authority on olive oil. In her latest book, Virgin Territory, Ms. Jenkins disputes the myths, half-truths and outright lies about this “good fat that is even better than you think.”
Using her four-plus decades of researching olive oil (and producing it on her farm in Tuscany), Ms. Jenkins gives tips on what olive oils to buy, to store, and to use in your kitchen:
- Buy olive oil in dark containers or, better yet, tins.
- Like good wine, price matters. Hand-harvested, quickly pressed XVOO costs a lot.
- Read the label. DOP, DO, DOC and PDO denote a certification (“protected denomination of origin”) controlled by the European Union. An “organic” label is also a good guarantee that the oil is what it claims to be.
- Check for freshness. Don’t be swayed by “best by” date. The most recent harvest, which is 2014-2015, is best of all.
- “Cold pressing” is a marketing ploy. XVOO must be pressed at ambient temperatures that do not exceed, ideally, 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turn up the heat. XVOO remains stable up to at least 410 degrees because of its high polyphenolic content. And using olive oil in baking produces moist rich textured baked goods.
- Hope that there are no Omega-3s in your olive oil., which would indicate contamination from another oil, like the dreaded canola oil. That peppery, slightly bitter taste means that your XVOO is loaded with antioxidants.
Read more here on XVOO and Nancy’s three recipes using this versatile, healthy fat. Better yet, get your own copy of Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil.