We named ourselves after this wonderful ingredient because it is the fat (oil) we use the most. Not only for its flavor but also its nutritional contribution. Because it is our name sake we are often asked how we choose the ones we use.
Think of choosing olive oil the same as choosing wine. There are about that many different kinds and flavors, so the best way to choose either is to taste! If you like it then you will use it.
To be called extra virgin, the oil must come from the first physical pressing and pressed without chemicals or heat. The best way to press is what is known as “cold press.” Not really cold as the olives need a little warmth to coax out the oil. (about 75 degrees F) Only physical pressings are labeled as “virgin.”
The pressing of the “pomace” or the pits, skins and debris left from a virgin pressing results in what we call pomace oil. Think of it like the “lees” in wine making, containing grape skins, stems, seeds. The “pomace” oil is often blended with virgin oils to improve its flavor; it is much less expensive oil than either extra virgin or virgin oils, and it has a much higher smoke point for cooking than either of those.
“Virgin oil” on a label means it was a subsequent pressing after the first press and as such contains more oleic acid than the first press, or “Extra Virgin” oils, which contain the least acid. Oils plainly labeled, “Olive oil” contain still a higher amount acid but not as much as unblended “pomace oil”. The higher the acid the high the smoke point.
Clearly the advantage of blends of pomace oils is that they taste better than plain pomace, and they have a higher smoke point for all types of cooking. Unfortunately, to get the residual oils out of the “pomace,” a chemical solvent and heat are used to extract the oil, which of course becomes a problem for the food purists. The good news is that the nutritional quality of these chemically pressed oils is the same as the extra and virgin pressed oils.
Storage and care of a good olive oil is critical to your enjoyment. Keep it away from heat and out of the light for the longest shelf life. That said, it is a good idea to use it up within the year it was pressed. EVOO does not improve with age in the bottle like wine does. For that reason buy what you’ll use, no more. Look for olive oils packed in dark green bottles that help block light damage while in the bottle. If you find one in a clear bottle that you like, you should pour it into a very clean dry olive can to block light. Then store all oils between use in a dark and cool cupboard, away from the stove.
If you are keeping EVOO at your beach house between visits to Cannon Beach, you can refrigerate it. It will solidify slightly and will need to come back to room temperature before you use it. It will not hurt the oil and may give it longer shelf life.