Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Olive Oil

I use olive oil for everything from frying breakfast eggs to dipping breads at dinner. We buy jugs of extra virgin and light olive oil whenever it is on sale. But what are we buying, exactly? NPR recently ran the quick piece, “Your Olive Oil May Not be the Virgin it Claims,” reminding me of the controversy.

There have been many reports over the last few years that packaged olive oil is mixed with other kinds of olive oil and the labels (and therefore prices) are inaccurate. In 2007 the New Yorker ran Tom Mueller’s investigative piece “Slippery Business” on this situation in Italy and the United States, since so much olive oil is exported.

There is work to patrol the olive oil industry domestically and internationally. What can we do to be sure that the label – and price – on what we buy is accurate?

It isn’t exactly clear, but there are a few things you can do. You can try buying from local businesses, but that means that you have to live somewhere that the climate is prime for a good olive oil to be produced.

I like to rely on the looks and taste of olive oil. There are many different kinds and you’ll start to notice the differences as you try them. Instead of going for the most expensive kind, choose the one you like best. I tend towards the deeper flavored Tuscan-like olive oils. There are many Spanish olive oils that taste similar, but cost less.

Here are some tips when you buy olive oil:

Hold the bottle up to the light. Notice how deep the color is and how thick the liquid seems to be. If it flows quickly, then it is a thinner olive oil. I like a greener, thicker olive oil.

If the bottle is opaque or green tinted glass, then you can’t easily see the olive oil to note its color and thickness. I try to stay away from these, unless I’ve tried them before.

Interested in flavored, dipping olive oils? These tend to cost more. Why not make your own by mixing some hot pepper or other herbs with olive oil? Be sure to only mix dry herbs. If you use fresh herbs and they are still wet then there is a chance of the mixture growing moldy without refrigeration. If you do refrigerate it, it will need to be warmed before using because it will harden.

What are your favorite olive oils?

No comments: