You buy olive oil. You cook with olive oil. You know olive oil is good for you. But do you really know your olive oil? Olives, like grapes, are a fruit, and, like wine from grapes, olive oil is made from different varieties of olives, each exuding its own unique characteristics and flavors. Because the taste of your vegan recipes is just as important as choosing the healthiest cooking oil for your vegan family, we asked Dawn Foster of Foster Fine Foods, to give us a guide on becoming olive oil experts.
Become a somm-oil-ier
Foster Fine Foods is currently featuring two exciting new single varietal, extra virgin olive oils from the Las Doscientas estate in Chile. What makes single varietals so special? “Single varietal olives are as different as night and day (or merlot and cabernet),” says Foster. “There are literally hundreds of olive varieties cultivated in the world.” That means once you tune in to the many nuances of the wide variety of olive oils, you can expertly choose the ones that will go best with your vegan meals.
1.Pack your olive oil passport
Isn’t it true that as soon as you hear the word “olive oil”, you think of Italy? Foster recommends expanding your olive oil horizons. “There are other countries, like Spain, Greece and most recently Chile, which are also producing high-quality and very interesting olive oils, some of which are new to the US,” the gourmet food expert explains. “You might even organize a multi-national olive oil tasting, one night, for your friends!”
2. Opt for younger olive oils
Check the date of bottling or “use by” date on olive oil. “Unlike wines, olive oils do not improve with age,” warns Foster. “Olive oils are generally good for two years after bottling.”
3. Insist upon real olive oil
According to Foster, many olive oils on the shelf today are not authentic – not really extra virgin, or not even all olive oil! Look for brands, and retailers, that you trust.
4. Pay up for quality olive oil
“Unfortunately, but understandably, the best indicator of real extra virgin olive oil is price,” says Foster. “Expect to pay at least $15 to $20, and up to even $40 for some Italian oils, to really get 100 percent extra virgin olive oil.”
5. Become a pro at olive oil tasting
Before you dunk that piece of bread into the olive oil for a taste, sample the oil without any other accoutrements. “To truly taste an oil, try pouring about an ounce in a glass, covering it with one hand to warm and bring out the aromas, and then swirling, uncovering, and sniffing,” instructs Foster.
6. Your nose knows about olive oil
Ask yourself: What do I smell? Is the oil fruity? Does its aroma perhaps remind me of raw almonds, or fresh green apples or tomatoes? Is the aroma something more intense, like freshly cut herbs or grass, or a really earthy artichoke? There’s no right answer here. Simply have some fun with this!
7. Give the olive oil a swirl
“When tasting fine olive oils, just like with wine, don’t simply swallow,” says Foster. “Go slowly – swirl it around your mouth a bit, and hold it.” This will allow you to fully experience an olive oil’s sweetness, saltiness, acidity, and bitterness.
8. Slurp your olive oil
If you’ve ever taken a wine tasting class, you will understand the slurp. “With the oil still in your mouth, breathe in sharply to blend some air in with the oil,” says Foster. “The oxygen will bring out the more subtle tastes of the oil.”
9. Time to truly taste the olive oil
Think about and try to describe what you taste. Is your oil smooth and light, perhaps fruity or buttery or even nutty? Or is it really peppery and sharp, almost shockingly so? “If the latter, don’t be alarmed,” Foster says. “Some of the finest olive oils are extremely strong and peppery. An acquired taste, perhaps – but worth it because it is the closest you will ever come to biting into an olive.” If too strong for you, simply search for a lighter oil.
10. Get cooking with your olive oil
“Now that you’ve truly tasted your oil, break out the bread – and, while you’re at it, your pots and pans,” encourages Foster. “Light oils (like white wines) work well with salads and vegetables, while stronger, more peppery, oils are great with fried potatoes and stews.” Now that you know your olive oils, it’s time to experiment to see which olive oils are best suited for your vegan recipes.
Check out our growing collection of tasty vegan recipes!