I was lucky enough to be invited out to a boutique wine and olive oil farm in Bot River called Gabrieldskloof to learn about how extra-virgin olive oil is made and about all its nutritional values and properties.
The timing of this visit coincided with the fact that lately a few people have been asking me what I think of olive oil and the (new) fear that it might be carcinogenic. Calm your panties people – there are some facts to get straight here. AND IT IS GOOD FOR YOU!
Here are 10 very important facts I learn't about extra-virgin olive oil:
1. Extra-virgin olive oil has a smoking point of 207 degrees Celsius, this means that for your general roasting (180 - 200), extra-virgin olive oil is ideal. Don't use it for deep-frying (who can afford to anyway?). Best for drizzling over anything: pastas, salads, pizzas and used in dips.
2. For an olive oil to be classified as extra-virgin, there are strict processes and measures taken in SA. To make sure you are getting quality-assured extra-virgin olive oil, always only buy olive oil with the SA OLIVE stamp. And only buy bottles that say "extra virgin".
3. For an olive oil to be classified as extra-virgin, it has to be pressed (or, more accurately, cold-extract) within 12 hours of picking. Gabrielskloof does theirs within six hours.
4. You must consume extra-virgin olive oil within 1 to 2 months of opening. Oxygen interaction and light will make the olive oil go rancid and olive oil loses nutrients as it ages. Store it in a dark, cool cupboard and never decant it into those colourless glass bottles you so often see on local restaurant tables. In fact, never use olive oil from said glass decanters at restaurants.
5. Want to know how you can tell that an olive oil is going off/has gone off? It has an oily, buttery smell. Fresh extra-virgin olive oil will smell like earth and artichokes (indicative of the fruit).
6. Olive oil only has a shelf life of two years and will often only reach supermarkets four months after pressing. This is why it's important to check the SA OLIVE stamp as it will also have the vintage of the olive oil. Do not consume a olive oil older than two years, i.e: no 2012 vintage in 2015.
7. Always buy olive oil in antique (green) glass bottle or a tin instead of a colourless glass bottle, this will help preserve it.
8. Most olive oil producers no longer 'press' olive oil, but instead use cold extraction. This is a more hygienic practice and it is done in a room with a cool temperature (very important in SA, where our temperatures are high). Gabrielskloof extracts their olive oil in a room set to 18 degrees Celsius.
9. Extra-virgin olive oil is packed with nutrients and very high in monounsaturated fatty acids and is a really healthy alternative to other vegetable oils. You can also rub it into your skin as a moisturiser.
10. South Africa produces excellent quality extra-virgin olive oils and many local producers have won big international awards. Always rather support local (not only for the carbon footprint), but because you can be assured of the quality of local oils (remember the SA OLIVE stamp).
For more info on Gabrielskloof, visit: http://www.gabrielskloof.co.za/olives-lavender/
For more info on SA OLIVE, visit: http://www.saolive.co.za