3 Tips to Choose a Good Quality EVOO off the Shelf at your own Grocery Store!
We have all stood in front of a wall full of "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" at the grocery store and wondered, how do I choose a good quality one? It is not an easy task especially since we can't rely on our smell or taste evalutions! But here are 3 tips that can help you choose a good quality EVOO, even under limiting circumstances!
In our last post Yellow or Green EVOO? Which one is Better? we saw how the color of your EVOO can be a determining factor. In summary: green is best! But often, the bottles that hold the EVOO are of dark-colored glass, making it difficult to actually see the true color of the oil. This is not done to fool the public rather, for optimal storage, EVOO should not be exposed to light or heat sources (more on this in another post) and therefore dark colored bottles are used to limit light exposure. Hence, you may not always be able to use the color of the EVOO as an indicator when choosing off the shelf.
The important thing to remember is that EVOO is a living organism. When it is freshly milled, it has a thick density which is not at all watery! As it ages, the density will very slowly fade away along with its green, vibrant hues. The newer the oil, the thicker the density. There are a few factors that influence the density of EVOO besides age. Since there are over 1000 cultivars of olives worldwide, some cultivars will naturally produce a denser oil then others. Also, the processes used to harvest and mill the olives, whether or not water is added during the milling process, the temperature the olives are milled at; all these can impact the density of the oil. There are many other factors, but the main thing to remember is that if the oil is watery, thin and faded, it is not a quality oil! A good quality EVOO will have a thicker density! How do you determine the density at a grocery store where they frown upon opening the bottles on the shelf? It's not an easy task! But, by swirling the bottle in your hands, you should be able to tell by staring close to the lid area, if the oil is excessively watery or if it has some density to it. If it has the density of water, or appears to be very "thin" it is not a good quality EVOO. Try to find an EVOO that likes to stick to the bottle, isn't splashy but rather moves slowly, and you can sense the density! Again, depending on the bottle, this may be challenging. But worth a try :)
Just like a fine wine, a good EVOO will be able to be traced back to one region and ideally, to a locally, single-sourced Olive Oil Mill. Most of our "typical" economical EVOO we find in grocery stores are from oil brokers. They will buy oil in bulk from many different regions and at times, different countries. This means the cultivars of olives will be mixed and the methods of milling, pesticides used, and age of the oil and will vary greatly. These brokers will then decide how to blend the oils in the most economical beneficial way. It doesn't necessarily mean these oils are bad for you, but they are certainly not of superior, pure quality. If however, the label reads terms such as "Single-sourced", "Produced in...", "D.O.P (for Italian EVOOs)" or they specify the cultivar (name of the cultivated variety) of olive the EVOO is derived from, then that becomes a strong indication that the quality of the EVOO is superior. Just remember that "produced in" is not the same thing as "bottled in". The best sign is if you can actually trace the EVOO back to the farm and mill it was produced at, either by website or social media account. Then you can actually SEE where your EVOO comes from and you are supporting a "local" business instead of a big broker.
In the case of Papa Vince's EVOO, we are extermely transparent in our processes and procedures used to turn our fantastic cultivar, Nocellara del Belice, into our exceptional cold-pressed, single-sourced, D.O.P Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We are so transparent that we even offer harvesting tours every year (COVID permitting) from October - December! On our tours, you can harvest and press your own olives and bring home your very own fresh milled EVOO! Learn our story here Papa Vince's Story