Do you think that the greater acidity of a stronger or more intense olive oil is its flavor? This is a fairly common error, since acidity is one thing and fatty acid content (oleic, linoleic, etc.) is another, which may indeed have to do with certain sensory attributes of olive oil.
Acidity is detected only with laboratory tests.
The first thing to know is that acidity is always obtained through analysis in a certified laboratory, and is the main quality parameter that determines whether an olive oil can be marketed as extra virgin (EVOO), virgin or lampante, “which is not It is suitable”. for direct human consumption.”
Thus, it is clear that the lower the acidity of the olive oil, the higher its intrinsic quality. For example, an extra virgin olive oil has less acidity than a virgin olive oil, which means that there are fewer free fatty acids in its composition, as a result of the breakdown that occurs in the union of the glycerin molecules and the fatty acids than preparing olive oil. And precisely, these links are broken because the olive oil suffers some chemical alteration, either because the olive was attacked by a pest or disease of the tree, or because the olive was not treated properly once harvested, or because the olive oil It deteriorated once. It has been extracted from the olive.
The term “acidity of an oil” is the name of an analytical determination that tells us the “amount of free fatty acids it has” and is not directly related to the flavor.
What is certain is that the lower the acidity, the less the olive oil will suffer and the better its intrinsic qualities will be.
Tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you lack
This is all very well, but you have to be careful, since acidity can only be an indicator of quality if the olive oil is virgin or extra virgin. When we talk about olive oils (dry, 0.4, etc.), we are talking about products made from refined olive oil, where the refinery adjusts the degree of acidity through a chemical process. For this reason, and to boast of low acidity (chemically manipulated), these olive oils usually have the degree of acidity clearly printed on their label, among other parameters.
The acidity of olive oil as a commercial claim
In fact, the degree of acidity is only allowed to be used on the label if it is accompanied by other chemical parameters such as the peroxide index or waxes, which are also quality indicators. However, as the consumer only focuses on its low acidity, this “is usually used as a commercial claim by brands of this type of oil, which represent more than 50% of the olive oils we consume.”
“The truth is that an olive oil like this, even if it has an acidity of 0.4%, does not make much sense to add it to a salad or bread, since it hardly has any polyphenols and has lost all its flavors, good and bad. “It is a pure, hard, tasteless fat that only serves to make you fat and provide calories.”
Less acidity and more polyphenols
But what definitely influences the perception of the flavor of olive oil is its content of polyphenols, natural antioxidants of great importance present only in virgin and extra virgin olive oil. In this way, why is olive oil itchy and bitter? Oils that have a high content of polyphenols, as is the case of the picual variety, usually have the bitter and spicy attributes present more intensely in their flavor. , unlike other sweeter and lighter olive oils such as those of the Arbequina variety.
For tastes, flavors.
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.
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.