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Olive Oil + Vinegar 101

Have you browsed our selection of high-quality oils and vinegars from our Partner from Olivelle? If the answer is yes, but you still don't quite understand the concept, we've put together this FAQ page for you to have a better understanding! From Olivelle: 

WHAT IS OLIVE OIL?

Olive oil is a “fruit juice” produced by the pressing of the olive fruit. It is naturally high in beneficial Monosaturated fats and low in dreadful Saturated Fat.

GRADES OF OLIVE OIL

According to the international olive oil council, olive oils are graded on 3 things by a panel of skilled grading experts including: the amount of free acidity, their smell (aroma), and their taste qualities.

 Virgin Olive Oil

This is merely a technical term of any olive oil that is produced purely from mechanical or other physical methods, under thermal conditions that do not cause any alteration of the oil. There are different grades of "virgin" olive oil that are further explained.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil is virgin olive oil of perfect aroma and flavor with a free acidity below 8%. Note: many of these oils are "commercial" extra virgin olive oils, blended to a standard maintained year to year, and to a price. They may come from different regions and countries. Other "single-estate" oils are often un-blended, more expensive, and very pronounced in flavor. Just like grapes from wine making, the flavor of these olives can change from year to year and field to field depending on soil, humidity, moisture, and  other natural factors.
  • Virgin Olive Oil/ Ordinary Olive Oil is virgin olive oil with a lighter flavor and a free acidity of levels up to 3.3%.
  • Lampante Virgin Olive Oil (lamp oil) is poor tasting and poor smelling virgin olive oil with a free acidity above 3.3%. This oil is unfit for human consumption in its original state and needs to be refined to make it suitable as food safe. Generally suitable for "technical purposes" only, for example, textile or cosmetic industries.

 Three further grades, lower than virgin, make up 90% of the world olive oil production:

  • Refined Olive Oil from virgin oils, usually lampante oil, and produced using heat and chemicals. Minimal flavor and health qualities still exist.
  • Pure Olive Oil and Light Olive Oil is a specific foodservice term meaning “oil fit for human consumption that is made purely of olive oil.” Minimal flavor and health qualities exist. Generally you will see Pure Light Oil on the grocery store shelf. The term “light” is strictly attributed to color and flavor has no attribute to health.
  • Pomace Oil is made from debris left over after extraction of virgin oils. It is treated with solvents such as hexane, carbon sulphide, or trichlorethylene. Most discerning cooks a void this category completely.

WHAT IS VINEGAR?

The dictionary defines vinegar as “sour wine” or “a sour liquid obtained by acetic fermentation of diluted alcoholic liquids and used as a condiment or preservative.” It can be made from any fruit or material containing sugar.

HOW IS VINEGAR MADE?

Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of harmless microorganisms (yeast and “Acetobacter”) that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acetic acid.

  • The first process is called alcoholic fermentation and occurs when yeasts change natural sugars to alcohol under controlled conditions.
  • In the second process, a group of bacteria (called “Acetobacter” ) converts the alcohol portion to acid. This is the acetic, or acid fermentation, that forms vinegar. Proper bacteria cultures are important; timing is important; and fermentation should be carefully controlled.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy is made from white, sugary Trebbiano grapes grown on the hills around Modena in the region of Reggio Emilia. These grapes are cooked down to create grape “must” creating a naturally higher sugar content and resulting in a sweet and tart, well balanced vinegar.  The “must” is then matured by a long and slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation.  Balsamic vinegar is placed in wooden casks to begin the aging process in which it evaporates by about 10% each year, creating a thicker, sweeter substance as the years pass. 

WINE VINEGAR

Wine Vinegar is obtained through the acetous fermentation of a selected blend of wines. The taste is distinctly acidic, and the aroma reminiscent of the wine from which it comes.

WHAT IS “MOTHER?”

“Mother” is a naturally occurring cellulose (a natural carbohydrate which is the fiber in foods like celery and lettuce) produced by the harmless vinegar bacteria. Today, most manufacturers pasteurize their product before bottling to prevent these bacteria from forming “mother” while sitting on the retail shelf. Because Olivelle’s vinegars are all natural they will, over time, form mother, considered a sign of quality by many.

Mother of vinegar can appear in different forms including:  slimy, gummy, jelly-like substance; a  thin or layering film that can form on the top of the vinegar; an overall cloudy-ness; or a wispy, spider like web throughout the bottle. Vinegar containing “mother” is not harmful or spoiled. The mother can either be left alone, continuing to use as normal,  or simply removed by straining or filtering.  

HOW IS VINEGAR USED?

Balsamic Vinegarhas a versatility that is surprising to many. It can add depth to everything from salad dressings, sauces, gravies, dips, marinades, desserts, soups, vegetables, and drizzling over cheeses and fruits.

Wine Vinegarcan be used to bring out the sweetness in strawberries and melons, add a twist to spicy salsas and marinades and wake up the flavor of sauces and glazes. This product is perfect for today’s lighter cooking style -- replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of White Wine Vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat. The tart, tangy taste also reduces the need for salt.

HOW LONG DOES VINEGAR LAST?

Because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. While some changes can be observed, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.

Shop our best-selling + high-quality line of Oils, Vinegars, Salts, Seasonings, Spices, and Dipping Herbs from Olivelle here: 

https://thecooksnookmcpherson.com/collections/olivelle