Have you ever wondered why the illustrious nickname “refined” is used for an industrial olive oil?

Of course, today it is no longer the most outstanding and exquisite oil (as the dictionary says for the term refined). However, there was a time when it seemed that this was the case, and in fact, today, more than 50% of the olive oil we consume in Spain continues to be refined, in many cases due to ignorance and in others, because some Labels lead to confusion.

Recent studies confirm that the majority of consumers are unaware that conventional olive oil undergoes an industrial transformation process, so it is worth spending a few minutes to learn about its origin, history, uses and production process.

The origin of refined olive oil

As we already mentioned when we talked about the best olive oils, these have been produced for thousands of years, since Roman times, when different commercial categories were already obtained despite their rudimentary technology and production methods.

Logically, technology in oil mills has been improving significantly to this day, giving way to grinding wheels, presses and jars, to modern hammer mills, mixers and centrifuges, in which the temperature and the extraction process are controlled at all times. . However, not so many years ago, many oil mills continued to use rudimentary technologies and methods, which, together with the poor condition of the fruit with which they were produced, resulted in rancid and defective oils, far from being classified as Extra Virgin today. As an example, use this description. “Our old Andalusian mills and mills seem more like dens, filthy caves, stinking volcanoes, than true factories of the much-desired liquid, neglect and abandonment reign everywhere, unhealthy things have no limits. There you can see all the objects covered by a thick layer of dirt, the floor of the mill carpeted with blackish and rancid grease, because it was not washed properly at the end of the previous campaign. The same can be said of presses, mats and jars. The latter, above all, give off a nauseating and infectious odor because once the oil they contained has been removed, they tend to remain in the open air, enclosing the clouds or oils at their bottom, the products of which form a focus and permanent infection. They remain in this state until the buyers show up, at the same time that the oil absorbed through their pores oxidizes, becomes rancid and even moldy, invariably imparting its bad taste and smell to the products of the immediate harvest. Is it possible in such conditions to obtain aromatic, fine and delicate oils? No way.” Story from the year 1879, which was written in the book “Notions” about the production of olive oil (Diego Pequeno, Agronomist Engineer and professor at the General School of Agriculture)… In the end, Most of the oil produced in the oil mills of that time was non-smokable, so before marketing it it had to be taken to factories where it was refined to reduce its acidity and eliminate bad flavors and odors.

We imagine that at that time the refined oil from these refineries was sold more expensive than the juice that was produced directly in most oil mills. Fortunately, cinema has changed a lot and today it is the other way around, since the juice obtained by first cold extraction in many modern oil mills has wonderful flavors and smells, in addition to being a true gem for health, where the technology It assumes a primary role in preserving its polyphenols and natural antioxidants present directly in the fruit. This is precisely what the best Olive Oils can boast of, and what refined olive oils lack, known commercially as Olive Oil (dry), mild olive oil, intense olive oil, 0 olive oil, 4, olive oil from olive bagasse, etc.

How is refined oil obtained?

Refined Olive Oil is obtained from Lampante Olive oil (defective juice) and bagasse (waste) produced by oil mills. To do this, these byproducts are transported in tanker trucks to the oil refineries, where they go through a refining process, which consists of transforming them into edible oil through the application of various physical-chemical processes. In order not to bore us too much, we will say that they basically consist of the addition of certain chemical compounds (phosphoric acid, citric acid, sodium hydroxide, etc.), accompanied by heating and steam distillation processes, thus obtaining the characteristics “desired by consumers”, such as lower acidity, mild flavor and odor, clean appearance, attractive color, oxidation stability and frying ability. In addition, many of these Refined Oils also undergo hydrogenation processes, similar to those used in the manufacture of margarine, which aim to modify the melting temperature of the fats it contains, so that the oil has a denser appearance. or even solid at room temperature. , an effect that many consumers mistakenly associate with good olive oil. “During the refining process, olive oil loses its polyphenols (hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, oleocanthal, etc.), a treasure for health that we can only find in olive juice, and that has its maximum expression in olive oil. olive. Extra Virgin Olive of superior quality.

Uses of refined olive oil

But let’s be realistic, Refined Olive Oil is somewhat cheaper than Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and that is why more than half of the olive oil we consume in Spain is refined. Furthermore, today we could not produce enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the oil mills to cover that demand, much less at the sales prices of refined oil. Therefore, Refined Olive Oil is a product that fulfills its function in certain uses where large quantities of oil are consumed: restaurants, fryers, canneries, etc. It is true that sometimes, we cannot afford Extra Virgin Olive Oil for everything, and the lack of good bread is distressing. However, it must be said that olive oil, even if it is refined, is still healthier than other oils such as palm, soy or rapeseed, widely used in other countries, and which contain more saturated fats to the detriment of unsaturated fats. , present most importantly in all olive oils. In fact, the only oil that has a fatty acid composition similar to olive oil is high oleic sunflower oil, which is obtained from sunflower seeds genetically modified to increase their oleic acid content. For this reason, and because it has a lower price despite being a refined olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil has become the king of the kitchens of many bars and restaurants in our country.

Natural olive juice is better, thank you

In any case, none of these refined oils obtained through an industrial transformation process have the wonderful smells and flavors of a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and even less so, the beneficial properties provided by the polyphenols and other minor components present in the oil. authentic juice. natural olives.