Your guide to olive oil

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Ever wondered what makes an oil extra virgin? Or if 'light' olive oil is better for you? Rob McGavin from Cobram Estate, one of Australia's leading producers of premium olive oil, lays out the facts to Yahoo7 Lifestyle.

How is EVOO different to other types olive oil?

In short Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the only mainstream cooking oil that has NOT been refined with heat and chemicals and is therefore the natural juice of the olive. If you squeeze a fresh orange you get orange juice and if you squeeze a fresh olive you get EVOO. The International Olive Oil Council has classified virgin olive oil by its acidity in the general categories set out below. To be classified as virgin olive oil, it must also be extracted from sound olive fruit by mechanical processes of milling, pressing and centrifuging. It must meet some basic tests to ascertain that there has been no alteration in the nature of the oil.

A number of different classifications exist, but before one can understand Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one has to understand the differences between virgin oils and refined oils.

“Pure Olive Oil”, “100% Pure Olive Oil” or “Olive Oil” - All of these terms mean the same thing. Pure olive oil is chemically refined olive oil that may have some virgin olive oil added- the latter being used to add some character to the almost flavourless refined oil. The word ‘pure’ is simply a marketing term.

Extra Light - Extra Light oils are the same as Pure oils as they are also chemically refined with a small amount of virgin oil added. The term ‘Light’ actually means that they are “lighter” in aroma and flavor than Extra Virgin however they do contain slightly more calories than extra virgin/virgin oils. The name trying to trick consumers into thinking they are light in fat!

Refined - Refined oils, as the name suggests, are olive oils of inferior quality that have been subjected to chemical processes such as gum extraction (the application of mineral acids to aid in the removal of acidity from the oil), neutralisation (the addition of a strong alkali to remove excess free fatty acids), decolourisation (heating the oil and using clay or activated carbon to lighten the oil colour), treating with superheated steam under a vacuum (to remove the smell).

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How can you tell if you have a high quality olive oil?

Buy Cobram Estate and you will be guaranteed to get the highest quality Extra Virgin Olive oil grown right here in Australia. In Australia you can also look for the Australian Olive Association authenticity of quality logo on the bottle.

If in doubt smell the olive oil- if it smells fresh or the smell reminds you of anything fresh then it is good quality. If it smells old, oily, rancid, fusty, musty or anything old or rotten it is not EVOO. If you taste the EVOO it should also leave your mouth feeling clean -NOT oily and be a pleasant experience. It is normal for an EVOO to have some bitterness and pepper feeling in the back of the throat. This is a very positive attribute and sets good EVOO apart from bad oils.

The on the nose positive attributes that are displayed in a quality Extra Virgin Olive are fruit flavours such as a fresh ripe or green olives, cut grass, or floral notes, while the on the plate positive attributes are green grass, bitterness, and pungency on the back palate like pepper.

Does the type of olive affect the flavour of the oil?

Yes it does. Different varieties of olives create different styles of oil from mild and sweet to fruity and robust.

What types of olives does Cobram Estate grow?

Cobram Estate’s Boundary Bend and Boort groves grow more than fourteen varieties of olives. Arbequina, Barnea, Coratina, Picual and Frantoio. Leccino, Hojiblanca, Koroneiki and Picholine.

Where are Cobram’s olive groves?

We have two major grove locations in Victoria at Boundary Bend and Boort. The Boundary Bend Estate is located up the river from Cobram Estate near the township of Boundary Bend. Established in 1998 Boundary Bend is one of Australia's largest olive groves thriving on the same Mediterranean climate with almost 3000 hectares of olive trees. The Boort Estate is one of the world's largest single estate olive groves, it's located in the Boort district, 120km northwest of Bendigo in Victoria.

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Can you tell me when were the first olive trees grown in Australia, and when were they planted?

The olive industry begun in the early 1800’s it is reported that the first olive tree was planted around Parramatta in 1805.

How does Australia’s olive oil industry compare with more established industries around the world?

It’s completely different because Australia is mechanical in its harvesting process. Therefore the fruit is pressed quicker than traditional harvesting methods which in turn ensures the quality of the oil is of a higher standard on average than anywhere else in the world. Like any fruit, it is at its best immediately after harvest and the quicker the olives are sent to the mill for squeezing the better.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about olive oil?

The biggest misconceptions with Extra Virgin Olive Oils is that you shouldn’t cook or fry with EVOO. The oil does not start to change composition until it reaches smoke point which is between 220-250 degrees. Most cooking is done well below that temperature. It’s in fact healthier for you if you cook or fry in EVOO.

What’s Cobram’s most popular oil?

Cobram Estate has two popular oils Classic (Purple label) which can be found in all leading supermarkets and Hojiblanca our single varietal ultra-premium oil, available in selected Woolworth’s store and selected independent deli’s and stores.

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What are the health benefits of eating olive oil?

The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil have long been researched and include:
- Rich source of monounsaturated fats, which may reduce risks of heart and cardiovascular disease
- Olive oil contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants that aren't found in other oils.
- Lowering effect on blood pressure.
- Beneficial during pregnancy and whilst breast feeding.
- Helps to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
- Olive oil-rich diets may lead to greater and long lasting weight loss than a low-fat diet.
- Beneficial for the stomach, pancreas and intestines.
- Helps with anti-ageing, osteoporosis and skin damage.
- May help bolster the immune system.
- Contains a protective element which may assist against certain malignant tumours in the breast and prostate.

Best way to enjoy it?

We have listed ten ways to enjoy EVOO:
- In salad dressings;
- In mayonnaise;
- In dips for dipping vegetables into;
- Great for dipping bread into;
- In Pesto Sauce;
- To drizzle on grilled fish, vegetables and meat;
- For marinating meat and fish for the barbecue;
- In cold soups, like gazpacho;
- To pan-fry and deep-fry food; and
- In cakes and biscuits.

Visit the Cobram Estate website for more information

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