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Transport Olivenöl
The green gold

Olive Oil

For centuries, people have associated culinary pleasure with oil extracted from olives - a legendary fruit from the Mediterranean region. According to the Information Office Olive Oil (IGO), more than half of all olive trees grow within the European Union. Olive oil expert Carmen Sánchez García explains what makes this oil from the Mediterranean so special and what you should pay attention to when purchasing, transporting, and storing the oil.

eating with a stick for the best oil

The oil has to travel a long way before it can refine dishes in the kitchen. It is extracted from olives from the sunny Mediterranean region in Europe. Big olive groves, some of which are several thousand years old, are found in huge cultivated areas in Crete, mainland Greece, Sardinia, and Macedonia. Dry heat and the sun let olives mature naturally. 20 kilo olives, from which three to four litres oil can be extracted, grow on a single tree in a year.

The harvest starts in October and can last till January. It is hard, physical work. Farmers refrain from mechanised harvesting in order to extract the best oil. They rely on traditional methods like hitting the branches of the olive tree with a stick or shaking the branches . A net catches the fruit which is quickly sent to the oil mills.

Cold pressing stands for quality

After harvesting, employees in the production area remove olives from leaves, wash, and crush them - usually the stone remains in the fruit. After mechanical pressing, they separate the oil from the fruit pulp and fruit juice. Cold pressed or cold extracted, at a maximum temperature of 27 degrees, are the most important attributes of quality. In the past, olives were pressed several times and also warm-pressed; today single pressing is a quality criterion.

During the next stage, employees prepare the olive oil for transport. There are various possibilities. The oil is filled in bottles or tanks, rarely in casks. Irrespective of their capacity and size, the containers have to be dried well before transport and storage. Contact of oil with water can put quality in terms of taste and odour at risk.

Ideal storage conditions: dark, well cooled, and tightly sealed

This is where food logistics companies, such as the Nagel-Group, come into play. They transport the oil from factories in the Mediterranean region to supermarkets, while complying with numerous quality criteria for sensitive food items.

Olive trees prefer sunlight, whereas olive oil prefers darkness. Olives are green because they contain chlorophyll. Sánchez García explains that contact with light accelerates oxidative breakdown of the oil. Therefore, olive oil which is stored in dark, sealed, and cool containers has a longer shelf life.

Neither rancid nor cloudy - the right temperature for olive oil

Cold temperatures in winter can affect olive oil. If the temperature is lower than ten degrees Celsius, olive oil has a tendency to become cloudy, it returns to its normal consistency at room temperature . You can store your oil in the refrigerator without any problems, but it will not be suitable for quick use in the kitchen.

Olive oil should never be exposed to temperatures of more than 25 degrees Celsius during storage because even a temperature difference of less than five degrees can have negative impact on the quality. Sánchez García adds, "High temperatures, especially during summer, and light are the biggest challenges for transporting extra virgin olive oil." Taste and odour can be affected due to improper conditions; this is often described as rancid. Storage temperature of approx. 15 degrees Celsius is ideal. This extends the shelf life to up to two years.

The flavour is fresh and delicate. The dish prepared with just olive oil tastes bitter and spicy, as if coated with spices. "Extra virgin olive oil represents lightness and generousness in the kitchen. It shines, connects, complements, accentuates, and enriches," enthuses Carmen Sánchez García. The native Spaniard has completed an advance training as taster of virgin olive oil in Andalusia. Today she works as an olive oil sommelier at Confiserie Opaque.

According to Carmen Sánchez García, the so-called green gold belongs in every kitchen. "Only use extra virgin olive oil," recommends Sánchez García. This label can be found on various olive oil bottles in delicatessens or even in discount stores. It means: natural olive oil of special quality and denotes the highest grade. The second quality grade is virgin, natural oil which may have slight quality deficiencies in terms of taste, followed by refined oil, which is thermally and chemically treated.

Fruity, bitter, and spicy - you will discover a broad spectrum of flavours

After the olive oil’s successful journey into the supermarket, it is now your choice of flavour that plays an important role. Sánchez García explains what you should keep in mind when selecting from a wide range of flavours and tastes: the labelling extra virgin olive oil, name of producer, cultivated area, harvest year, time of bottling, best before date, and ideally the olive variety used.

Tasting helps you take the final decisive step in assessing olive oil . The olive oil sommelier always samples 15 mililitres of the oil before making a decision. The odour of fresh green or ripe flavours such as weed, artichoke, apple, almond, fresh garden herbs, in addition to burning sensation in the throat and a perfectly balanced bitterness indicate high quality. Each of the more than 2,000 olive varieties "is a world of its own from which olive oil can be extracted," enthuses the expert.

Optimally transporting olive oil to your home

Just like the food logistics experts transport olive oil to supermarkets, the olive oil sommelier recommends transporting olive oil quickly and storing it in a dark place. Storage in the household is an important aspect in order to preserve the flavours and the health properties of extra virgin olive oil as long as possible. The oil should be kept in the original packaging in order to avoid the contact with light and oxygen to ensure decomposition process is not accelerated.

Header Photo: © EcoPim-studio

Olive oil in figures

The world consumption of olive oil has almost doubled since 1990. According to the Information Office Olive Oil (IGO), Greeks have the highest consumption of olive oil per year, around 13 litres per person. Spaniards produce the highest quantity of olive oil, the International Olive Council (ICO) estimates the production for 2015/2016 at 1.3 billion tonnes, followed by Italy and Greece with 350 million tonnes each.

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