Did you know that nearly 50% of the World’s olive oils are produced in Spain, making it the World’s largest exporter of extra virgin olive oil? Amazing isn’t it? Spain has more than 215 million olive trees! This includes over 200 varieties, each with its own unique flavours and aromas, and covering an incredible 2 million hectares! It’s typical to see olive oils from Italy or Greece in Canadian supermarkets and specialty stores, but it is worth expanding your olive oil horizons to give the Spanish varieties a try!
There are three factors for producing the best cold pressed olive oil: 1) The care given to the trees throughout the year; 2) The method in which the harvesting is done; and 3) The processing of the olives into oil is carried out as gently as possible. Done properly, the traditional method is used whereby harvesters knock the olive branches with long sticks (this action in Spanish is called vareo) and the ripe fruit falls into the nets that are spread under the trees. The vareo occurs when the olives are ripe (between November and February) and hundreds of pickers bring the fruit down from the trees. Only fully ripe and undamaged olives are suitable and for the finest olive oils, the olives are picked individually by hand to ensure less damage to the fruit.
Olive oil should, if possible, be consumed within a year of being processed, as it starts to lose flavour and nutritional value over time. It should be stored in a cool, dark place, preferably in dark glass or stoneware. Some very special varieties, originating from millennial trees, such as the Farga Millenial EVOO are bottled in such a way that they first see the light of day when you open the box.
The health benefits of cold pressed olive oil due to its large amounts of monosaturated fatty acids are undisputed. It can help prevent high cholesterol and therefore heart and circulation issues. It is also rich in Vitamin E, which is reportedly an extremely effective antioxidant.
In Spain, olive oil is used prolifically and is a staple ingredient in any household. For breakfast, it is drizzled on pan con tomate, it is used for cooking and frying and also used in marinades, sauces and to dress salads. Of course, we shouldn’t forget to mention the importance of olive oil in preserving a vast array of Spanish ingredients, such as vegetables, seafood and cheese, to name just a few.
The right oil should be chosen in each case; some oils can be fruity and sweet, while others can be coarse and rustic. Some, such as Naturvie’s EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) have a Intense and very complex aroma of banana, green kiwi and citric. Others, like El Lagar del Soto EVOO are initially sweet in the mouth then slightly bitter and have a somewhat spicy finish.
At Spanish Pig, we offer two premium types of extra virgin olive oil – Manzanilla Cacereña and Arbequina, both of which are delicious for salad dressings, dipping or for cooking. We love to use olive oil liberally in our kitchen, to add a luxurious quality to many dishes. It also makes a great gift!