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As we tried to introduce the tradition of Cretan olives and olive oil, now we will try to answer the question, asked by tourist most: what are the types of Cretan olive oil? What is the difference between those types? How to choose to the best? What level of acid is the best and etc

Types Of Olive Oil

It is good to understand the different types or grades of olive oil to help you select the appropriate uses for this healthful and flavoursome type of fat.

The basic types of olive oil are:

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • virgin olive oil

  • pure olive oil

There are other forms described below, but these are blends and are not part of the formal grading process.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oils are sometimes treated like fine wines, and, as with wines, some people will argue that no two olive groves will produce extra virgin olive oils that taste alike. The seasoned palate is able to detect distinctions in taste and aroma, and these subtleties are extensively discussed and intensely debated.

To be certified for the “extra virgin” label, an olive oil should satisfy four criteria: it must be produced by mechanical extraction methods (no chemicals or hot water applied), come only from first cold-pressing, have an oleic acidity level of less than one percent, and must have a perfect taste.

Acidity level is the most important factor that determines its grade. This is a measure of the percentage of free fatty acid content: the best oil has the lowest acidity. The oil should also be free from perceptible defects in taste or smell. Extra virgin olive oil is valued for its perfect balance in terms of flavour, aroma, colour, and acidity level.

One reason extra virgin olive oil is prized so highly is its high content of vitamins and nutrients. Also, it is pure and without any additives. The fruitiness of its taste and the complexity of its aroma give it universal appeal. The light, delicate consistency of extra virgin olive oil makes it perfect for dressings. It is also the preferred oil for use in cooking by more discerning users.

Extra virgin olive oil comes in four sub-types:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (regular)

  • Organic extra virgin olive oil

  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

  • Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)

Different extra virgin olive oils may share the same characteristics but there is marked variation in taste. There are many nuances, and connoisseurs categorise its flavours as mild (delicate, light, or buttery), semi-fruity (stronger, with more taste of olive), and fruity (oil with a strong olive flavour).

If you wish to become familiar with the different olive oil flavours, you should try to taste as many of them as possible; one cost-effective way to do that is to split several large bottles of different extra virgin olive oils with your friends.

Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil also comes from the first pressing, and is also produced without refining. In a technical sense, virgin olive oil may have an acidity level of up to 3.3%, however, industry practice in the producing countries is to maintain under 2% acidity. Its flavour intensity can vary and its taste is less mild than extra virgin olive oil.

Pure Olive Oil

This is now simply called olive oil and is a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Its label will bear the designation “pure” or “100% pure”. However, refined olive oil has very little vitamin E content. This is why producers need to add unrefined virgin olive oil to impart some of flavour, colour and aroma into the blend. The proportions of the two components may vary from one producer to another, depending on the flavour the producer desires to create.

Pure olive oil actually has the same acidity level as virgin olive oil, and for that reason it has good resistance to high temperatures. Its lower nutrient content than virgin olive oil makes it less expensive. It cannot be used for dressings and is better suited for heavy-duty, high-heat cooking.

Olive Pomace Oil

Pomace oil is the lowest grade of olive-based oils. Pomace is that part of the olive that remains after all the oil and water in it has been removed by pressuring or centrifuging processes. With the use of certain solvents, there is still some residual oil that can be extracted from the olive pomace. This oil may then be refined, which results in a product bereft of any specific taste or colour; it also contains none of olive oil’s vitamins.

To make pomace oil acceptable to consumers, the producer blends it with virgin olive oil. As with pure olive oil, the producer may vary the proportions between the pomace oil and virgin olive oil; however, the virgin olive oil content is generally quite low. The blended product is called olive pomace oil. Like pure olive oil, it is suitable for use only in high-heat cooking.

Lite Oil

There are certain light-tasting, light-coloured oils containing minute proportions, if at all, of virgin oils. These are pure rectified oils called lite oils. They are being marketed with a particular slant that would have people believe that they are buying oils that have lower in fat or calorie content. The truth is, lite oils have 125 calories per tablespoon – exactly like all olive oils, and all fats, for that matter.

Grading of olive oil is done, to a less significant degree, based on colour. Most olive-based oils have colours ranging from pale yellows to deep cloudy greens. The latter colour may indicate that the oil is from green, barely ripe olives – but not always. It is possible that an excess of olive leaves slipped into the crusher, sometimes inadvertently sometimes not, resulting in pale oils acquiring a deeper aura (which can give it a better price). The authentic green colour should indicate a wholesome, intensely fruity taste and freshness.

Yellow oils indicate that the olives were black and ripe when they were picked late in the season, yielding a sweeter, rounder oil. However, a lighter colour may also signify oxidation arising from exposure to sunlight. If that happens, the delicate aromas and vitamin E content in such oils generally have suffered, and the oil may taste rancid.

In general, olive oil is a good source of vitamin E and is rich in monounsaturated fats. However, extra virgin olive oil has the highest content levels of these healthful nutrients and has the most exquisite flavours. It should come as no wonder that extra virgin olive oil is known as the queen of oils.

Olive oil acidity

The maximum acidity by quality oil down by November 1, 2003 in accordance with Reg (EC) from 1513 to 1501, amendment to Reg 136/66/EEC as follows:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil       Max 0.8°

Virgin Olive Oil                      Max 2°

Lampante Oil                          > 2%, < 3%

Olive oil productions process

The production process of olive oil is :

Picking the fruit from olive trees.
Washing. The washing is done after separating leaves and other light objects. The good washing of the olive is necessary for superior product quality.
Grinding. Grinding takes place in a special mill with sprockets which crushe the olives and the nucleus.
Massage. After grinding, the olive mass is kneaded for about 30 minutes. Then, depending on the type of machinery either it’s been drived to hydraulic presses at 27°C where oil is being extracted or heated to about 40°C and then is been drived in centrifugal separators where the oil is separated from the olive paste, from water and other remaining ingredients.

In any case, the processing of olives and the extraction of its olive oil, is entirely mechanical, without using chemicals or other substances. This oil, classified as ‘Virgin’, which according to the severity is classified as extra virgin or not. Then the oil is filtered and stored or packaged.

 

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In Crete, we are blessed to live in a place, which is the birthplace of olive cultivation, which history began from the ancient time of the Minoan civilization.

Olive oil as a way of developing tourism

Wherever you look at in Crete, you will see an olive tree. There are many, but not all are the same. In Crete there are three well-established varieties of olives. Each variety varies in taste, calories and nutrients. The differences in the nutrients mainly concern quantities and antioxidant action. Studies have shown that Cretan olives have more types of antioxidants, especially 19 kinds of polyphenols.

Koroneiki or Psilolia

It is the most famous variety of fine olive oil production, occupying 60% of Greek production. It has small size fruits and ripen from October to December. It is known as a very productive variety, resistant to dry and hot conditions and the content of the olive oil is 27%. The tree needs little care and can withstand low temperatures.

Chondrolia or Throumbolia

Grown extensively in Greece for the production of olive oil and table olives. The tree reaches a height of 5-10 meters and the fruit content in olive oil reaches 28%. The fruit of Chondrolia during ripe stage on the tree loses part of its humidity and oleuropein, a substance responsible for the bitter taste of olives. Variety is demanding to moisture and nutrients, and during dry periods it doesn’t fructify.

Tsounati or Mouratolia

This variety blooms from the end of April until the end of May and the fruit ripens from late October until the end of November. Withstand low temperatures produces good quality olive oil. The fruit has a medium oil content close to 25% and requires good soil and cultivation.


As I promised on our Facebook page Tours on Crete when posting an article about olive oil and how many fake and low quality oil is offered in our supermarkets, today I’d like to speak about Cretan olive oil and it’s history.

Oldest Olive tree

Olive Tree of Vouves

The olive tree has been declared by the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities as a natural monument because of its shape and the exceptional aesthetics of its relied truck, reminiscent of exceptional woodwork.

The tree is located at Ano Vouves and belongs to Panagiotis Karapatakis. Its variety is called mastoid and is grafted on a rootstock of a wild olive tree. From this tree, the winner of the men’s’ marathon in the Olympic Games Athens 2004 was crowned.

The trunk at a height of 0.9m from the ground has a diameter of 3.70m and a circumference of 8.10m, while its base has a diameter of 4.53m and a circumference of 12.55m. Locals say that the olive is the oldest in the world, but this is not true as the olive tree at Azorias is older.

Olive Oil

Image result for olive oil crete image

Made from the natural juice of the olive, olive oil is truly a precious “elixir” of life, and helps the people of the Island of Crete maintain health and long life, as well as enjoying delicious food!

It’s a great mystery to anyone who has picked an olive from the tree to work out how someone could have thought that this small fruit would be transformed into a delicious meze on its own or into a nutritious tasty, and health giving oil. Even when looking fat and ripe – straight from the tree, it tastes awful!

But someone did work this out! And from its use in ancient times and the results of study after study, the oil that is pressed from the olive has proven to be a precious gift of nature. The ancient land of Crete is home to 30 million olive trees and the Cretans make full use of the abundant fruit and have been cultivating the olive tree since 3500 BC during the early Minoan period. The Minoan palace of Knossos has an olive press room.

Civilization and Olive Oil

 The olive is a favourite subject in Minoan art. Olive trees, olive branches and olive blooms are depicted in many wall paintings and relief works, found at the palace of Knossos (1600-1400 BC) and displayed in the Heraclion Museum today.

Wall-painting
with olive foliage
Storage-jar (pithos) from
Psira island

Of the most well known, is the wall painting depicting an olive tree between wild goats, the relief with the bull and the olive tree at the balcony of the northern entrance of Knossos palace, the wall-painting with “The dance in the Sacred Grove” and other scenes with olive foliage, blooming branch, branches and relief olives.

 

Olive branches and leaves are often depicted on the vases of the Minoan period. Characteristic examples are to be found in the storage-jar discovered at the small island Psira off the coastline of north-eastern Crete which is decorated with bull’s heads and olive shoots on either side (1600-1500 B.C) as in the cup with the olive branch in bloom from Knossos (1600-1500 B.C), both now displayed in the Heraklion Museum.

Rushing bull and olive-tree

 

The olive was a favourite subject even in the craft of gold-plating in the Minoan period. Characteristic of this is the superb piece of jewellery made up of a bunch of golden olive leaves found in the pre-palatial cemetery on the small island just outside today’s settlement of Mochlos to the north of the village of Lastros in Sitia.

Olive – trees on the fresco  “Dance at the Sacred grove”Knossos

 

At the Olympic games that started in 776 B.C, ancient Greeks were crowning the winners with a wreath (“kotinos”) made of branches cutted always off the same wild olive-tree, known as “kallistefanos” (which means “for beautiful wreaths”).

Wild goats and olive-tree

 

Also at the Panathenea games (600 B.C), the winner’s prize was a decorated amphora, full of olive-oil which was produced of the “Mories” (Sacred) olive-trees belonging to Godess Athena.

Wall-painting with
olive-tree branch
Olive branch
in bloom

Today the Cretans still eat far more olive oil than any other people in the world. And as a famous study proved, are the healthiest and longest living people.

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Seaside settlement of Agios Pavlos is located 58 km south of Rethymno, west from Agia Galini, on the edge of Akrotiri Melissa. To get here you have to pass the villages of Akoumia or Saktouria.

Ag. Paulos it is a quite tranquil place, hidden in a windy bay, suitable for family holidays or one day relax. In the bay there is a beautiful beach with deep green waters and a wonderful sandy beach. Nearby there are several rooms for rent and taverns, where basic services (umbrellas, beach bikes, etc.) are provided.


the perfect beach attracts most of the visitors, some of them prefer to visit St. Paul village itself, to have short accommodation and food there. The Akumiani Gialia, is located behind the western edge of the bay and is probably the best beach in Rethymnon area.. You can get there from a path that starts from St. Paul village. According to newer researchers, Saint Paul visited this beach and harbour for the start of his trip to Rome.


 

TSIKNOPEMTI AND GREEN MONDAY – TWO GREAT CULINARY CUSTOMS!

These past few weeks there have been quite a lot of food traditions going on around us. Have you smelt a mouthwatering barbeque in your neighbourhood? Or driven past a park or field and seen families stretched out on picnic blankets with all sorts of delights in front of them?

The reason for all this activity is quite simple: Easter is approaching!

In the Greek world, the approach to Easter is marked by a number of traditional culinary customs, as people prepare to fast. Fasting lasts for 50 days before Easter (it’s actually 48 days because two fasting days fall into the carnival period).  Fasting means that people avoid meat, dairy and most fish.

So of course, there must be one final party to enjoy meat before fasting begins, and this occurs on a Thursday and is known as Sykoses.  This name comes from the Greek verb ‘sikono’, which means ‘to lift’ – what happens on this day is that all meat is ‘lifted’ or taken away in preparation for fasting.

On this day every year, you’ll see people barbequing in their backyards, in village squares or on town streets. Even office workers will set up barbeques on their office balconies, or on the street!

The air in towns, villages and neighbourhoods is thick with the fragrance – and smoke – of grilled meat.  This smoke is called ‘tsikna’ in Greek, and so the day has come to be known as ‘Tsiknopemti’, or ‘The Thursday of Tsikna’.

But of course, celebrating the end of eating meat for 40 days is not enough for Greeks: people then have to celebrate the start of eating only vegetables! This day is called ‘Kathari Deftera’, or Green Monday (although this literally translates as ‘Clean Monday’).

On Kathari Deftera, families go out into the fields and reconnect with the earth and all things green! They spread blankets on the ground and unpack a never-ending stream of vegetarian treats.

There is no ‘salad’ on the menu, but greens are simply washed and eaten raw. On a typical family’s Kathari Deftera picnic blanket, you could expect to find the following:

Maroulia (lettuce), rokka (rocket plant), tomates (tomatoes), anginares (artichokes), piperia (peppers), panjaria (beetroots), elies (olives – both green and black),  tahini, houmous, moungra (cauliflower specialty), lagana bread, daktilies (soft sesame seed covered bread), taramosalata (smoked cod’s roe),  repanakia (radishes), koliandros (coriander), kouloumbra (kohlrabi), and angourakia (small cucumbers).

‘Kali Sarakosti’ is the wish exchanged by all on this day, and Kathari Deftera sets an end to carnival, to meat eating and cheese eating.  Fasting begins, and with it comes a host of imaginative and delicious vegetarian meals!

 


Saint Peter's Basilica

TO A non-Christian, or even to a Christian who prefers to keep doctrine and worship as simple as possible, the Catholic and Orthodox churches can look pretty similar. Both use elaborate ceremonies of ancient origin and have multiple ranks of robed clergy; both claim continuity with the dawn of the Christian era; both have rich theological and scholarly traditions and generally, long institutional memories. Only an apparently tiny difference separates the versions they use of the creed setting out their basic beliefs in a triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why, then, do the two religious bodies not simply unite? On February 12th Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, will meet in Cuba. Though not unprecedented in the last ten centuries such a meeting is nonetheless unusual. Why?

Part of the answer is that precisely because both institutions have long memories, differences which emerged many centuries ago still matter. The formal parting between the Christian West and the Christian East occurred in 1054; to some extent it reflected cultural and geopolitical competition between the Greek-speaking “east Roman” empire, in other words Byzantium, and Latin-speaking western Europe where Roman authority had collapsed in the fifth century, but new centres of power had emerged. Tensions rose in the early 11th century when the Catholic Normans overran Greek-speaking southern Italy and imposed Latin practices on the churches there. The Patriarch of Constantinople retaliated by putting a stop to outposts of Latin-style worship in his home city, and the pope sent a delegation to Constantinople to sort the matter out. The delegation’s leader, Cardinal Humbert, excommunicated the Patriarch; the Patriarch promptly did the same to the visitor.

In the run-up to that final rupture there had been growing differences over the pope’s claim to authority over the whole of Christendom, in contrast with the Orthodox view that all the ancient centres of the Christian world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem as well as Rome and Constantinople) were approximately equal in status. The Orthodox took issue with the pope for mandating a version of the creed which in their view amounted to a subtle downgrading of the Holy Spirit. To this theological difference was added a massive geopolitical grievance: in 1204 Latin armies ransacked Constantinople, which was still the Christian world’s greatest centre of commerce and culture and imposed a Latin regime for about six decades. In the Orthodox collective memory, this act of betrayal by fellow Christians weakened the great city and rendered inevitable its conquest by the Muslim Turks in 1453. Having gone their separate ways, the Christian West and Christian East spawned different theological traditions. The West developed the idea of purgatory and of “penal substitution” (the idea that Christ’s self-sacrifice was a necessary payoff to a punitive Father-God). Neither teaching appeals to Orthodox Christians. The East, with a penchant for mixing the intellectual and the mystical, explored the idea that God was both inaccessible to human reason but accessible to the human heart.

To the Orthodox believer, Catholic theology seems excessively categorical and legalistic; to the Catholic mind, Orthodox thinking in its mystical flights can seem vague and ambivalent. In a few hours of set-piece discussion in Havana airport on February 12th, the pope and Patriarch will hardly be able to resolve these centuries-old differences. But at least they may understand each other a little better.

Source: The Economist


The scenic village of Zaros is one of the most important villages in Psiloritis Riza and one of the most historic main villages of Crete with a total population of 2,000 who mostly work in agriculture, tourism, beekeeping and animal husbandry.

Zaros

It is approximately 45 km from Heraklion and its name derives from the words Za(much) and Rous(flow). The area has always been inhabited during the times of recorder history, due to the abundance of water. Also, there used to be quite a few watermills, whose ruins remain along a water canal, while nowadays there is only one working at Votomos. The natural environment of Zaros is quite rich in ecological and geomorphological terms, and features special landscapes. Its environmental resources are unique and its flora and fauna is of special value. At the same time, it features some significant cultural elements, discovered in traces that date from the Late Minoan period until our days. Its natural and cultural adequacy, as well as the utilization of traditional farming activities have provided a solid ground for sustainable development. Nowadays, in Zaros, there is a regional health clinic, a kindergarten, an Elementary School, a Junior High School, banks and hostels for visitors. The Byzantine monasteries decorated with magnificent murals, the gorges, the crystal-clear beaches of the South and the live concerts of Cretan music are some places that are worth visiting in this naturally beautiful region.