Health & Cooking

 

OLIVE OILS

HEALTH BENEFITS

In addition to adding depth to the flavor of food, olive oil offers many health benefits.

Substituting olive oil for other fats in the diet may keep hearts healthy, reduce inflammation, lower the risk of certain cancers, and assist with controlling diabetes and weight gain. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat; it lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL). Saturated and trans fats — such as butter, animal fats, tropical oils and partially hydrogenated oils — do exactly the opposite.

 

Substituting olive oil for saturated fats or polyunsaturated fats may:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Inhibit the growth of certain cancers
  • Benefits people with diabetes
  • Lessen the severity of asthma and arthritis
  • Help your body maintain a lower weight
  • Reduce gastrointestinal problems (gall stones, ulcers and gastritis)

 

Butter Conversion Chart

Butter/Margarine Extra Virgin Olive Oil  
1 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon
1 tablespoon 2 1/4 teaspoons
1/4 cup 3 tablespoons
1/3 cup 1/4 cup
1/2 cup 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup 1/2 cup
3/4 cup 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
1 cup 3/4 cup

*NOTE: When recipe calls for butter, use 3/4 to 1 conversion. When a recipe calls for any type of oil (vegetable, canola, etc.), substitute same amount of our olive oil.

EVOO RECOMMENDATIONS:

Mild EVOO's: Best suited for baking, cheeses, soups, fish, and vegetables

Medium EVOO's: Best suited for grilled meats, heavy sauces, pastas

Robust EVOO's: Best suited for salads, pastas, soups, heavier sauces, risottos, rustic dishes

 

WHAT IS THE SMOKE POINT OF MY OLIVE OIL?

Many customers have asked about cooking our different gourmet oils and what temperatures they're safe to cook at. Different types of oils are made for higher cooking temperatures, while others are best very mildly cooked or used raw. Well made olive oils have a higher smoke point than all-purpose oils. On a technical level, an increase in free fatty acids (lower acidity) is what contributes to an olive oil having a higher smoke point. When heated below the smoke point, the chemical composition of the olive oil is not changed and health benefits are not lost.

The smoke point is the temperature where the oil will start to smoke, and thus will add a burnt flavor to your food. Also, if an oil is heated too far past its smoke point, it can start a fire – which none of us want in our kitchens! 

Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOOs)– True EVOOs (like The Olive Bin's) have a smoke point right under 400 C, the highest quality EVOO can tolerate up to 410F

Walnut Oil – 400 degrees

Sesame Oil – 410 degrees

Almond Oil – 420 degrees

Thus, you can sauté and cook vegetables with any of our oils; however, to stir fry on higher temperatures, sesame and almond oil are your best choices (and add delicious flavor to stir fry!).

Tip: pre-heat your pan/oil prior to adding food to prevent it from being absorbed by your food

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR OLIVE OIL

Not all extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is created equal. Many poor-quality oils are diluted with old oils, common-seed oils, preservatives, chemicals, fillers, etc. The U.S. does not have a controlled standard for classifying oils, so there are many that hold the label "EVOO" without actually holding the true values.

Because olive oil is perishable, it is best consumed fresh to optimize flavor and health benefits. Certain chemical components such as free fatty acids (FFA) and peroxide values increase over time, and "healthy" compounds decrease, degrading the oil and causing rancidity.

When olive oil is exposed to air, light or heat, it deteriorates and can become unfit for consumption. Rancid oil is harmful. Once purchased and bottled, our oil should be used within 12 months. To keep oil fresh as long as possible, keep your olive oil in the dark bottle it comes in from our store, and store in a cool, dark place (such as a cabinet; refrigeration not necessary). 

The Olive Bin's olive oils are gluten-free, dairy-free (even the Butter Olive Oil!), and Kosher. Olive oil should be used within 12-14 months from when the seal on the bottle is broken. Olive oil benefits and quality decreases with time. It's important to remember oilve oil is a perishable food - all bottled oil will go rancid eventually - but it is said when properly handled, sealed and stored in a cool dark place, olive oil will be 'good' for 18-24 months from the date it was harvested. If your bottle is older than two years, consider starting with a fresh one.

DEFINING THE POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF OLIVE OIL

The first way to characterize olive oil is to chemically analyze samples for positive traits to determine healthy and stability measurements. The second way is through organoleptic, or sensory experience. The latter describes what you experience when you taste an oil - bitter, nutty, fruity, tart, etc.

 

THE COMPOSITION OF OLIVE OIL

Becoming familiar with the chemical composition of olive oil will help you choose an oil that enhances your cooking and intensifies the dining experience. These four key characteristics will help you make an educated decision about which olive oil is right for you.

POLYPHENOLS: Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods that determine the level of bitterness and pungency (whether it is mild, medium, or robust/bold). Polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and Hydroxytyrosol impart intensity connected with pepper, bitterness, and other desirable flavor characteristics. Recent studies indicate that these potent phenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high-quality extra virgin olive oil. The higher the polyphenol level, the healthier the oil. A polyphenol value between 220 and 400 can be considered high, and some oils have even higher levels. Phenols in olive oil decrease over time or when exposed to heat, oxygen, and light. Consuming fresh, well-made olive oil with high polyphenol content is crucial when looking to obtain the maximum health benefit commonly associated with consuming extra virgin olive oil.

OLEIC ACID: Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Olive oil is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats. The range found in EVOO is between 55-85%. Extra virgin olive oil high in oleic acid has greater resistance to oxidation. The higher the oleic acid, the better the oil; the higher the nutritional value; and the better the shelf life of the oil.

FFA (Free Fatty Acid): Based on IOOC standards, the maximum limit for free fatty acid in EVOO is 0.8g per 100g (.8%). A low FFA is desirable. FFA speaks to the condition of the fruit at the time of crush. The higher the FFA, the greater the indication of poor quality fruit caused by damaged crops, overripeness, insect infestation, overheating during production, or too much of a delay between harvest and crush. FFA content is directly related to the smoke point of an olive oil and how fast the oil goes rancid. Lower is better!

PEROXIDE VALUE: Based on IOOC standards, the maximum peroxide value for EVOO is 20. A very low peroxide value is desirable. Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which create a series of chain reactions that generate volatile substances responsible for a typical musty/rancid oil smell. These reactions are accelerated by high temperature, light, and oxygen exposure.

The chemistry of an olive oil is dictated by many factors including time of harvesting, crushing quickly, olive variety, and the entire quality of process.

Examining the make-up of olive oil helps us understand the potential health benefits, determine the shelf life, and even predict how the oil will react when combined with other ingredients in our recipes.

EVOO Qualification (less than 10% of all oil produced!): Require < 0.8% acidity (FFA), superior taste, first-cold pressed, no defects

VOO Qualification: Less than 2% acidity (FFA)

Pure Olive Oil: Typically a blend of refined/virgin olive oils, usually a blend from olives that don't qualify for EVOO production

Grade A Olive Oil: Acidity (FFA) < 14%

SAMPLING OLIVE OIL

Flavors in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors including the type of olive (varietal), ripeness at harvest, growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), handling of fruit from tree to mill, and the milling process itself. 

The more bitter and pepper in an olive oil, the greater the health benefits! This is a sign of freshness and high quality/concentration of phenols within the olive oil. As the oils oxide, the “healthy burn” diminishes alongside the phenol concentration. Therefore....A higher phenol concentration correlates to a more robust olive oil!

Grassy or “greener” tasting oils results from chlorophyll from the fruit, most likely from pressing before ripe

The four steps of tasting: Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swallow

    1. Swirl the oil in the palm of your hand to heat up the oil to bring out the flavor, covering the top with your other palm
      • The goal of this step is to release the aroma from the oil
    2. Smell the aroma of the oil
      • Make observations on freshness, how strong the aroma is, what the smell is
    3. Sip the oil along simultaneously with air, notice the retro-nasal aromas
    4. Swallow the oil and notice the bitterness - think about the taste profile 
    5. Refresh the palate with bread or apples

 

 

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR BALSAMIC VINEGAR

The balsamic vinegars found at The Olive Bin are gluten-free, dairy-free (no pasteurization), no sugar added, and vegan. They are not Kosher certified. We recommend a shelf life of 5 years for your balsamic vinegar. Vinegar does not really expire, it just becomes more acidic over time. Only natural flavoring is included in the balsamic - flavors derived from the fruit / herb themselves - botanical essential oils. Our espresso balsamic does not contain caffeine.

HOW CAN I USE THE OLIVE BIN'S BALSAMICS IN BAKING?

We’ve had lots of questions from our customers recently regarding balsamic vinegar uses in baking. We have many delicious flavors in both our olive oils and balsamic vinegars; but these two products are very different in consistency, and thus their roles are very different for baking. 

Baked good recipes most commonly call for apple cider or white vinegar, and it can be tricky substituting one vinegar (balsamic, for example) in for another. Typically, it is okay to substitute them out: you don’t have to worry about the substitution ruining the recipe or changing the consistency, but realize it might change your flavor slightly. We’ve found this BH&G article helpful in remembering the characteristics of different vinegars.

Vinegar can also be used in baking to create a chemical reaction with baking soda, making the recipe light and fluffy. Often, vinegar can take the place of eggs for this very reason – leaving the recipe healthier (and it’s a great option in baking for your vegan friends). 

The nice part about our balsamics is that their flavorings can create additional subtle twists in a recipe, and the flavors often take away some of the tartness that can show up with traditional vinegars in the final taste of a baked good. For a baked good with more of the traditional tart flavor of vinegar, use one of our white balsamic vinegars; or for a mellower, sweeter flavor, try a dark balsamic. Because of balsamic’s sweet and tangy characteristics, you can play up the tanginess by using it with berry flavors; or contrast it by pairing with a dark chocolate.

Ultimately, as with any baking, the best thing to do is experiment! Try putting one of your favorite Olive Bin flavored balsamics into a recipe, and see how it turns out. If it’s too tart, try using less balsamic the next time around. Allow yourself to fail; the next batch will be even better for it.

 

HOW DO I MAKE A BALSAMIC REDUCTION?

As everyone is playing around with their new olive oils and vinegars, we wanted to give you a tip on another way to jazz up your food using balsamic vinegar: the reduction. A balsamic reduction is a concentrated version of balsamic vinegar, cooked down to intensify the balsamic flavor and thicken the consistency. Many people use balsamic reductions as a glaze or a drizzle over meats and veggies.

The basic process for creating a balsamic reduction:

  1. Take any amount of balsamic vinegar – you can do just a cup or amount needed for a recipe, or a whole bottle and save for use – and placing it in a stock pot or large saucepan.
  2. Heat the balsamic vinegar on high until it starts to boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook – stirring continually – until volume of vinegar has reduced 50-75 percent. (This depends on how thick you want your reduction and how concentrated you’d like the flavor.)
    1. You can add a small amount of sugar at this stage to slightly sweeten the reduction. Try approximately ½ teaspoon per 2 cups of balsamic vinegar, more or less to taste.
  4. Remove from heat and allow reduction to cool.

Like balsamic vinegar, you can store in a cool, dark place (not refrigerated) and it will be good for years. Be sure to store in an airtight container – and then the acetic content of the balsamic will keep it stable (no worry of bacteria growth or it going rancid in any way).

Many people have recipes for flavored balsamic reductions; however, with The Olive Bin’s flavored balsamics, you can easily make a flavored reduction – without even adding any additional ingredients! Try a Raspberry reduction (with our Raspberry balsamic vinegar) over oatmeal or pancakes; or a savory reduction to spread over vegetables for an added kick.

Keep in mind that, because balsamic reductions are more concentrated in taste, you’ll need less of a reduction than you would typically use of straight balsamic vinegar.