Olive Oil FAQ

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OLIVE OIL FAQ

Is oil made from green or black olives?
All green olives eventually go black. The olives in Spain are mostly green in mid November but by January almost all of them have turned black.

Is olive oil made from the stones or the flesh of the olives?
The oil in olives is concentrated in the flesh not in the stones. After milling, the stones are mostly intact. Stones do not make any distinctive contribution to the flavour of the oil and in some extraction techniques the stones are removed.

What is the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality and most expensive. Extra virgin olive oil must be extracted using only mechanical means without the addition of any solvents and with a temperature of less than 30C.

Extra virgin olive oil must have less than 0.8% free fatty acid because better oils have a low acidity. Each time an olive producer takes a load of olives to the mill, a random sample is taken and this is analysed in a laboratory. The acidity influences the amount that is paid for the olives.

Extra virgin olive oil must have a peroxide value of less than 20. The peroxide level is an indication of how much oxidation has happened, all oils oxidise but excessive oxidation results in rancid flavours.

In order for an oil to qualify as “extra virgin” the oil must also pass an official chemical test in a laboratory and has to be evaluated by a trained tasting panel recognized by the International Olive Council.

What is the basic process of olive oil extraction?
First the olives are ground up into a paste. This was traditionally done with 3 massive heavy conical stones which were dragged around in a circle by a donkey. One of the cooperatives where we take the olives uses a more old-fashioned technique (click here for more info).  Nowadays,  the olives are ground up using electric motors. Traditionally the olive oil paste was then spread out on circular mats which were stacked in a press and pressure applied to squeeze the oil out of the paste. Pressing the olive paste would now be considered an old-fashioned technique and nowadays most oil is extracted in centrifuge-based systems.

Can I use olive oil for frying?
Olive oil is versatile and can be used for roasting, sautéeing, shallow frying, dressing and drizzling. Since it has a high smoking point (210ºC) which is higher than the ideal recommended frying temperature of 180ºC for most foods, it can also be used for deep-fat frying and many chefs recommend it.

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Cortijo de la Plata extra virgin olive oil

harvest1

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HARVESTING THE OLIVES
Every December we pick our olives at the cortijo and take them to the olive cooperative to be pressed. Olives can be harvested any time between the beginning of December and the end of March and we prefer to pick ours as early as possible to avoid losing the crop to heavy winds or snow.

Large nets are placed on either side of each tree and the olives are knocked down from the higher branches using long, light sticks. The olives on the lower branches are combed off the trees with long-fingered, olive combs. The nets are carefully dragged down from tree to tree and the olives are bagged at the end of each row. It is not necessary to remove all branches and leaves as these removed at the cooperative. We generally take the bags to the cooperative every 3 or 4 days.

Unlike grapes, green and black olives grow on the same tree: the green olive is simply picked earlier in November.

cooperative2PRODUCING THE OIL
There are a large number of oil cooperatives throughout Andalucia, each producing a distinctive oil. When deciding where to take your olives, you will need to taste the oil that each produces to see which one you prefer. The cooperative we use is the Cooperativa Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro in Diezma in the province of Granada. They produce an extra virgin olive oil from early harvest, picual olives using mechanical means. The oil is versatile and can be used for roasting, sautéeing, shallow-frying, dressing and drizzling. It contains no preservatives and is 100% nut free.

cooperative1WHAT HAPPENS AT THE COOPERATIVE
When it’s your turn, you first empty your bags of olives through the metal grid. The leaves and branches are then removed and the olives pass onto a conveyor belt and up to the weighing machine. As the olives proceed along the conveyor belt, a random sample of olives are collected for analysis. These are sent off the laboratory to measure the acidity level and this is used to calculate how many litres of olive oil you will be entitled to. Generally speaking, 5kg of olives produce 1 litre of oil. You can either opt to be paid in oil or in cash.
There are two way of collecting the olives: “vuelo” and “suelo”. The vuelo olives are collected directly from the tree whereas the suelo olives are picked up from the ground. A higher price is paid for the vuelo olives.

WORLD OLIVE OIL PRODUCTION
Spain produces around 50% of total global olive oil production. This is followed by Italy (15%), Greece (13%) and Turkey (5%).
Italy exports more oil than it produces and imports a lot of oil from Spain.

OLIVE OIL FAQ
See these links to BUY OUR OLIVE OIL and for our Olive Oil FAQ.