Wednesday, November 17, 2010

has your extra virgin olive oil gone bad?

regular readers know i am addicted to extra virgin olive oil. i use it in almost all of my cooking, use it as an anti-aging serum for my face, use it to soften my name it, e.v.o.o. is my solution. i have a shelf full of different types of olive oil from "big" green, peppery oils used as a condiment...poured or drizzled as a finishing softer, "fruiter" oils used in my cooking or baking.

today i read a wonderful article discussing ways to tell if your oil is fresh...because extra virgin olive oil does go bad and can ruin a dish. the article is so good...and so full of really good tips...that i thought i would share part of it with you and provide the link so you can finish reading and check out the entire site which is dedicated to all things olive oil. and enjoy. for fellow extra virgin olive oil addicts, the olive oil times is a wonderful website to follow.

"Good Oils Gone Bad: Recognizing Rancidity and Other Defects
By Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne
Olive Oil Times Contributor Reporting from Sonoma County, California

The joy of olive oil lies in its many delightful aromas and flavors—from voluptuous ripe olive to bright green grassy notes and from a soft subtle finish to a zippy peppery kick—there is a world of sensory exploration awaiting the adventurer. But like any great explorer, you will be faced with risks—crocodiles in those placid waters. This is an introduction to the most common defects you will find in olive oil: what they are called, what causes them, and how to recognize their presence.

Any discussion of defects must start with rancidity. The sad truth is that most people in the US, for example, are accustomed to the flavor of rancid olive oil. Olive oil is no longer an occasional presence in the kitchen so it is time to change that. We need to start by recognizing one essential fact about olive oil: it is a perishable product. Olive oil tastes best when it is fresh. Think of olive oil on a freshness continuum that goes from just-made, harvest-fresh at one end, to completely rancid at the other. How long it takes an olive oil to go from one end of this freshness continuum to the other depends on many factors: storage temperature, exposure to air and light, and the amount of natural antioxidants in the olive oil in the first place. All olive oils, even the finest ones, will get rancid eventually. This is why you must never hoard olive oil: use it and enjoy it. Waiting for a special occasion to use your good olive oil? How about dinner!

Do you have a clear sense of what rancid oil smells and tastes like? A good image for many people is the smell of crayons. Another helpful item—something that almost everyone has tasted—is rancid nuts. Rancid is fat gone bad, something all of us have encountered at some time. On a rancid scale of 0 to 10, almost everyone will notice a 9 or a 10. The trick is to develop the confidence to pick out rancidity when it is a 5, or a 3, or lower. The flavor of rancidity in olive oil is usually accompanied by a greasy mouthfeel; in fact, the greasiness often is noticeable first.

Go to your cupboard and pull out the olive oil. How old is it? Is there a “Best By” date? Generally that date is two years from the time that it was bottled. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you when it was harvested and milled. A harvest
date is the most reliable indicator since it tells you when the olive oil was actually made. Sniff it. Taste it. Crayons? Putty? Old peanuts? Don’t feel bad about throwing out old olive oil, feel good about it! Don’t be surprised if the purge of your pantry includes not just old olive oil but things like old whole wheat flour (which gets rancid because of the oils in the wheat germ), crackers and cereals.

A general rule of thumb is that olive oil is best consumed within a year of harvest. Most oils, if unopened and stored in a cool dark place, will still be good for up to two years, but they steadily lose the fresh fruitiness that you want in olive oil. Greener harvest, robust olive oils will keep better than delicate ripe ones because of the higher content of compounds called polyphenols in greener oils. You can recognize the presence of these polyphenols because they contribute pepperiness and bitterness to the flavor of an oil. If an oil is delicate and soft, made from ripe olives, then you will want to use it quickly, within six months or a year at the most.

The second most common defect of olive oil is called “fusty.” It is caused by fermentation in the absence of oxygen; this occurs within the olives before they are milled. This is why it is so important for olives to be processed into oil within as short a time as possible after harvest. Olives left to sit in bags or piles for
even a few days will produce fusty olive oil.

And what does fusty smell and taste like? Unfortunately, the answer for a lot of people is “olive oil.” For many people, both in the US and abroad, fusty flavors in olive oil are the norm. When I was training for an olive oil taste panel, I remember vividly the day I poured my usual supposedly extra virgin olive oil into a warm skillet and was enveloped by the smell of fustiness. I threw out that bottle and never looked back."

continue reading this article by clicking here

for more information on extra virgin olive oil harvest and press, please visit my post help, i am addicted to extra virgin olive oil!

best and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

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Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Diane, excellent post. I, too, use extra virgin olive oil for everything. Too many people who use it infrequently buy it in huge bottles then want to "use it up" after it's gone rancid.

Jo said...

I use it so often that I've never had it gone bad, but wow, that would be an expensive lesson!

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks, jean, for the kind words. i use evoo literally every day and still never buy the huge tins...once it goes bad, it is really, really bad.

i visited your it...and will visit frequently...nice to "meet" you

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks jo....lovely to hear from a fellow e.v.o.o. aficionado!

ekseng said...

thanks, I have been trying to confirm that the extra virgin olive oil I was consuming tasted off - buttery and lack aroma and pepperiness. my sister and nephew said it was fine. anyway I threw out the bottle as it was frustrating not being able to enjoy fresh tasting evoo. Your blog confirm I was right. I hoarded too many evoo bottles.