Make your own olive oil bottles
We all know olive oil has the “healthy fats” that you’re supposed to eat to decrease your “bad cholesterol” (do you like my super technical medical terms? Yeah, that’s why I went to law school). But do you ever walk into your supermarket’s vinegar and oil aisle only to have a mini anxiety attack over the plethora of choices (and price ranges!) of olive oil? No? Oh, me neither…that must be some other foodie family blogger. Moving on…
When I was at the store yesterday, I estimated there were 20 different olive oils on the shelf, priced from $3.86 all the way to $34.00. In addition to the price difference, there are also different virginity levels or “grades of the oil: Premium Extra Virgin, Extra Virgin, Virgin, Standard, Super Slutty (just kidding). Some bottles say the olives are hand picked and others brag that the oil is cold pressed or filtered. To add an extra layer of confusion, you can also choose the country of origin for your olive oil: Spain, Greece, Italy, California, France–and sometimes they blend oil from different countries together to make an olive oil meritage.
I love dipping bread in olive oil while I drink a glass of wine…but if you’re like me you can easily do without the bread and olive oil and just double up on the wine if you have to put too much thought into it. So here’s what you really need to know about Olive Oil Varietals, a few tasting notes and some great ways to use olive oil after you’ve had your first glass of wine.
Olive Oil: The Quick and Dirty
• Look for olive oil in a tinted or metal bottle—OO is like a vampire—sunlight kills it
• Look for “born on” date—olive oil starts to lose its taste after 1 year—Extra Virgin Olive Oil keeps longest
• If you’re not using it for high heat cooking, make sure it says “unrefined”
• Store your olive oil in a dark cool place to keep its flavor intact
For dipping, dressing & drizzling: Use Extra Virgin because the acidity level is the lowest and its aroma and flavor can be most fully appreciated. Premium or Estate Extra Virgin, though more expensive, will make a favor difference in your cooking.
• One of the best meals I ever had in my entire life was at Don Alfonso on the Amalifo Coast. I bought two bottles of Olive Oil while I was there and savored every dip and drizzle.
• On my honeymoon, we did an Olive Oil tasting at Round Pond in Napa Valley, CA. The Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is perfect for salads.
• Last Summer at the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco, this guy recommended we try his unfiltered olive oil. He said it’s like “your favorite song, turned up.” He was right. It’s peppery, olive(y) and so flavorful. Drizzle atop pasta or fish off the grill.
For quick sautéing or when mixing with other ingredients: Use Virgin because the taste will be somewhat diluted by the cooking and mixing with other ingredients. I don’t have a favorite virgin oil. I usually look for the best price.
For high heat cooking: Use olive oil or grapeseed oil. Although Olive Oil’s smoke point is relatively high (400 degrees F) he flavor of the olive oil will disintegrate at higher heat so you might as well use a cheaper oil for high heat cooking.
How to Infuse Olive Oil
Infused olive oil is a great way to add a little extra kick of flavor to your standard olive oil and it makes a GREAT gift. I still recommend using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but you can save a little bit of money by adding your own depth of flavor with herbs and spices. There really isn’t a precise science to infusing olive oil. I’ve included a few of my favorite combinations, but you can really experiment and use whatever you like!*
Tools and Ingredients
Glass or nonreactive metal container
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs (i.e. Rosemary, Thyme, Basil,
Spices (i.e. Peppercorn, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes)
Citrus Fruits (i.e. meyer lemon, orange or kumquat)
• Find an awesome bottle. Remember: Olive oil is like a vampire and sunlight kills is so try to find a bottle with a dark tint. Ideally, you also want it to be air tight.
• After preparing your herbs, spices or citrus fruits by washing, grinding or zesting, place them in the awesome bottle.
• Pour olive oil into the bottle through the funnel. (Note that most recipes below call for heating the olive oil. This makes the flavor infuse more quickly but is not necessary)
• Allow ingredients to “awesomate” (technical term) for about two weeks (feel free to taste intermittently).
• Make a cool label (or just handwrite the ingredients like me).
Infused olive oil can be kept for up to a year, but tastes best when used in the first six months.
*Beware of using garlic to infuse your olive oil. When homemade garlic-infused oil is left unrefrigerated or kept for too long, the chance of botulism growing is very real. There have been a number of documented cases of people getting sick from their homemade garlic oils.
*I should also tell you to refrigerate infused oils. Refrigerated is the safest way to store infused oil. I store my oils at room temp, but then again, I’m a pretty bold risk taker.
Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
1 cup olive oil
Peel from 2 Meyer lemons
• Warm the olive oil and the peel over very low heat for 20 minutes.
• Allow to cool for half an hour.
• Strain and pour into an antique stoppered bottle, or any bottle you may have.
Chili Infused Olive Oil
2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
1. Combine the oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the oil and pepper flakes to a 4-ounce bottle.
Basil Infused Olive Oil
4 cups of packed basil leaves
2 cups of virgin olive oil (the flavors of extra-virgin olive oil will compete too much)
1. Combine basil and olive oil in a blender.
2. Puree the mixture until smooth.
3. In a saucepan, simmer the olive oil and basil puree over medium heat for 45 seconds.
4. Pour the heated mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove the basil.
5. Let the mixture sit for a few hours.
6. Pour the oil into an airtight jar. (don’t include the dark liquid at the bottom of the bowl, which is water mixed with finely ground basil)
Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
1. In small saucepan, combine oil & rosemary. Cook over low heat until a thermometer reaches 180 F, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temp.
2. Transfer the sprigs to a bottle, then add the oil. Seal and refrigerate up to 1 month
There are three basic grades of olive oil, and several types within each grade– Extra Virgin includes “premium extra virgin” and “extra virgin”
Virgin comprises “fine virgin,” “virgin,” and “semifine virgin”
Refined Olive Oil means that the oil has been chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes (characterized as defects) and neutralize the acid content.
All types of extra-virgin and virgin oils are made from the first pressing of the olives, which removes about 90 percent of the olives’ juice. Chemicals and high heat are not allowed in the production of extra-virgin or virgin oils — no further processing or refining occurs after the pressing process. Neither extra-virgin nor virgin oils are allowed to contain any refined olive oil.
Virgin olive oils
The highest quality olive oil is Extra Virgin followed closely by Virgin. The difference between EV and Plain V is just half a percentage point of acidity. However, that is all it takes to make a very good oil and a great oil.
- “Premium extra-virgin olive oil” is nature’s finest, thanks to its extremely low acidity (It is best suited for using uncooked in dishes where you can appreciate its exquisite aroma and flavor. Try it in salads, as a dip for bread, or as a condiment.
- “Extra-virgin olive oil” has a fruity taste and may be pale yellow to bright green in color. In general, the deeper the color, the more flavor it yields. As with the premium version, it is best to use extra-virgin olive oil uncooked in order to appreciate its flavor.
- “Fine virgin olive oil” must have a “good” taste and an acidity level of no more than 1.5 percent. Fine virgin olive oil is less expensive than extra-virgin oil but it is close in quality and is good uncooked.
- “Virgin olive oil” must have a “good” taste, and its acidity must be 2 percent or less. Like other virgin oils, it cannot contain any refined oil. Virgin olive oil is good for cooking, but it also has enough flavor to be enjoyed uncooked if you’re in a pinch.
- “Refined Olive Oil” Refined means that the oil has been chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes (characterized as defects) and neutralize the acid content. Refined oil is commonly regarded as lower quality than virgin oil; oils with the retail labels extra-virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil cannot contain any refined oil.
2. Country of Origin
When buying olive oil, you’ll see varieties from all over the globe. Most of the world’s supply is produced from olives grown in Spain, Italy, and Greece, but other areas, including France and California, also get a piece of the action. Here’s what you need to know about olive oil and geography:
• Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow with a fruity, nutty flavor. Spain produces about 45 percent of the world’s olive supply.
• Italian olive oil is often dark green and has an herbal aroma and a grassy flavor. Italy grows about 20 percent of the world’s olives.
• Greek olive oil packs a strong flavor and aroma and tends to be green. Greece produces about 13 percent of the world’s olive supply.
• French olive oil is typically pale in color and has a milder flavor than other varieties.
• Californian olive oil is light in color and flavor, with a bit of a fruity taste.
Some producers only use olives that are grown in a specific area of a country. These regional oils are usually known for their unique flavors.
Estate olive oils are the cream of the crop. Estate oils are produced using olives from a single olive farm. These olives are usually handpicked, then pressed
Green olive oils come from unripe olives and impart a slightly bitter, pungent flavor.
Emerald-tinged oils have fruity, grassy, and peppery flavors that dominate the foods in which you use them. These oils are great with neutral-flavored foods that allow their bold flavors to shine. You can pair green olive oils with strongly flavored foods as long as they complement the oils’ pungent tastes.
Golden glimmering Olive oils are made from ripe olives.
Olives turn from green to bluish-purple to black as they ripen. Oils made from ripe olives have a milder, smoother, somewhat buttery taste without bitterness. These oils are perfect for foods with subtle flavors because the gentle taste of a ripe olive oil won’t overshadow mildly flavored foods.
Tips for Cooking with Olive Oil
• Use to enhance and build flavors and to add body and depth
• Olive Oil’s low acidity means it can balance high acid foods like tomatoes, vinegar, wine and lemon juice
• Drizzle it over salad or mix it into salad dressing.
• Use in marinades or sauces for meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Oil penetrates nicely into the first few layers of the food being marinated.
• Add at the end of cooking for a burst of flavor.
• Drizzle over cooked pasta or vegetables.
• Use instead of butter or margarine as a healthy dip for bread. Pour a little olive oil into a small side dish and add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, which will pool in the middle and look very attractive.
• For an easy appetizer, toast baguette slices under the broiler, rub them lightly with a cut clove of garlic, and add a little drizzle of olive oil.
• Replace butter with olive oil in mashed potatoes or on baked potatoes. For the ultimate mashed potatoes, whip together cooked potatoes, roasted garlic, and olive oil; season to taste.
• Make a tasty, heart-healthy dip by mixing cooked white beans, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor; season to taste with your favorite herbs.
• Use olive oil in your sauces — whisking will help emulsify, or blend, the watery ingredients with the oil in the sauce.
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