Munich/Wilstedt (dpa/tmn) – Conrad Bölicke wants to get olive oil out of the “fat corner”. “We tend to compare the extraction of the oil with the art of the winemaker,” says the founder of the arteFakt olive oil campaign from Wilstedt in Lower Saxony. For olive oil taster and author Michaela Bogner from Munich, oil has never been as good as it is today. When shopping, however, many feel overwhelmed.
The selection is huge and the term “extra virgin” is inflationary on almost every bottle. So what should you consider when buying?
Unfortunately, quality is not recognized by the label or by the price, experts say. The best quality can only be recognized by smell and taste.
Pure natural product or bulk industrial commodity?
According to an EU regulation, olive oil is divided into different quality classes. The highest level “extra virgin” should be reserved for oils that smell and taste perfect and have minimal fruitiness. In addition, there is “virgin olive oil” with slight unpleasant notes and “olive oil”.
The latter is a mixture of sensorially very defective oil that needs to be refined, with a small proportion of virgin oil. Refining makes the oil tasteless, but it loses its nutritionally valuable bioactive substances. “Native” means extraction by exclusively mechanical processes and without heat treatment.
Experts criticize that the largest area of extra virgin olive oil is fraudulent labeling these days. “The EU olive regulation dates back to the 1990s and has very industry-friendly chemical-analytical values,” says Bogner, author of the book “SuperOlio.” Conrad Bölicke also complains that many of the limit values are too lax. An olive oil that has more than 0.4 percent free fatty acids is never free from off-flavours. However, the law allows up to 0.8 percent for the higher class.
A new generation of producers is processing olives typical of the region with innovative oil mill technology into highly aromatic oils, says Michaela Bogner. In Italy alone there are 540 long-established olive varieties, but only 100 have oil extracted.
The expert is a defender of a new category of olive oil, which she -as in her book- calls “SuperOlio”: “Today, the oils of the main producers are in the same product category as those of the bottlers industrial. But these oils are worlds apart, that the consumer cannot distinguish on the label. That is a big problem.”
Recognizing quality requires knowledge and practice.
As with wine, a whole range of reliable information is needed, right down to the individual producer, locations and varieties of olives, says Conrad Bölicke. And you should know important things about the oil. It is primarily a fruit oil, not a grain or seed oil, he explains.
In addition to the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the olive stone, the olives convert fructose into monounsaturated fatty acids during the ripening process. Especially the latter with polyphenols and vitamin E are the reason why olive oil is considered healthy.
In order to recognize the quality, an accompanied tasting is recommended for beginners. Sharpen your sense of smell and taste and learn what pure, flawless olive oil really smells and tastes like.
At the beginning of their online tastings, Jörn Gutowski from Try Foods in Berlin or Michaela Bogner point out: Sipping is encouraged! After sniffing, take a small sip into your mouth with plenty of oxygen. This creates a slurping and clicking noise. Do not be alarmed when swallowing when the pungent bitter and pungent notes spread in the mouth and throat.
Fruity, bitter and spicy
Just like wine, fruit oil is all about aroma. A good olive oil should have green herbal notes ranging from grass to wild herbs to tomato, and should taste fresh. Anything that doesn’t smell fresh and plant-based has no flavor. They are prohibited for extra virgin oils.
Tasting it, spicy and bitter notes develop in the mouth cavity, throat and throat, from subtle and fleeting to strong and long-lasting. This depends on the variety of olive, the cultivation area, the time of harvest and the processing technology in ultra-modern mills. Grinding stones are a thing of the past.
Professionals rate the intensity of the oil in the categories of fruit, bitterness and pungency. “The general rule of thumb is: the higher the content of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols in olive oil, the more intense and bitter the flavor will be,” says Bogner. These intensely fruity olive oils often take some getting used to, especially for beginners.
Monovarietal olive oils better express the characteristics of an olive variety and its terroir, that is, of the entire natural environment. Some oils are also available as blends. For this, olives of different varieties are mostly harvested at the same time and processed in the mill. Bogner: “It is more ideal to produce oils from a single variety first, that is, to look at the optimal harvest time for each individual olive variety, and then create a blend.”
best quality can be heated
The myth persists that only refined olive oil can be heated. Experts unanimously emphasize that this is simply wrong. Conrad Bölicke explains: Due to the high thermal stability of its monounsaturated fatty acids, you can cook, roast, fry or bake with olive oil without hesitation. Regardless of whether it is a refined, virgin or extra virgin oil. The smoke point of olive oil is around 210 degrees Celsius.
However, the high price of high-quality olive oils and the loss of fine aromas speak against this. The flavor and aroma of these drops are best when mixed or sprinkled on a plate just before serving. “When the oil is heated, the aromas dissipate. The pungent and bitter flavor components also decrease”, says Michaela Bogner.
SUV in the kitchen
When cooking, professionals choose their olive oil to match the intensity of the dish. An intensely fruity oil that pairs well with lentil or bean stews, grilled steak, or hearty stews like Bolognese sauce. Conrad Bölicke uses it to dress his Greek salad made with feta cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. Or marinate a fennel carpaccio with the abundant aromatic oil.
Medium fruity oils are essential for grilled food, be it fish, shellfish or vegetables. The slightly fruity drops, on the other hand, enhance the aromas and flavors of gently cooked fish or chicken and refine the dressing for delicate leafy salads.
Michaela Bogner uses the strong bitter notes of intensely fruity olive oils to balance the sweetness or richness of a dish. “These oils work great over creamy burrata with fresh figs, over vanilla ice cream, basil sorbet, or over starchy dishes like your favorite mashed potatoes and beans,” she says.
Berlin cookbook author Rose Marie Donhauser loves “utterly simple pleasures that captivate in their simplicity.” She dips white bread or flatbread in olive oil and then generously dips it in one of her favorite spices: zatar. “This spice blend is made with wild thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt.”
Since he loves to eat salads and vegetables, he flavors the olive oil with orange or lemon zest, garlic and rosemary to choose according to his taste. Another tip: slice the apple or pear into wafer-thin slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese flakes, season with sea salt and pepper. Serve with ciabatta bread and a glass of wine.
Bogner, Michaela: “SuperOlio”, Verlag Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 2019, 320 pages, €39.90, ISBN: 978-3-667-11454-9.
Donhauser, Rose Marie: “Cook with olive oil”, Michael Fischer Edition, Munich 2017, 64 pages, €9.99, ISBN: 978-3-86355-791-1.
Olive oil better not in the fridge
High-quality olive oil is a delicacy and should be treated with care. “Protect olive oil from its natural enemies, oxygen, light and heat,” advises olive oil taster Michaela Bogner from Munich.
After opening, the bottles or cans must be hermetically sealed again. Contact with oxygen speeds up the natural oxidation process, which changes the flavor. In the worst case, the oil will go rancid.
This also applies to light irradiation. A small clear glass bottle of green olive oil looks nice on the table, but experts advise against it.
To protect the oil from heat, it should not be near the kitchen stove or heater. Temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius are optimal. Above 20 degrees Celsius, the aging process speeds up.
However, Conrad Bölicke of the arteFakt olive oil campaign in Wilstedt (Lower Saxony) advises against storing the oil in the fridge: “Then it flakes off and becomes solid like lard,” he says. It becomes liquid again at room temperature, but too many temperature changes harm the quality.
The problem with most good oils is not that they go bad quickly. But they lose their fresh flavors over time. “Under no circumstances should an opened olive oil be kept for more than a month or two,” recommends Jörn Gutowski of Try Foods in Berlin.
SuperOlio website by Michaela Bogner
Web arteFakt olive oil campaign
Website Taste Foods
Olive oil in the EU
Max Rubner Institute for heating vegetable oil in the kitchen