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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.

 


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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