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Organic oil

In the last few years the Cooperativa Agricoltura Progresso has increased the production of organic extra virgin olive oil.

When we talk about organic olive oil we talk about a real “king” of the Mediterranean Diet, enriched by its healthiness. As a matter of fact, it has a strong antioxidant effect and it fights “bad” cholesterol in favor of the “good” one. It is also good for the cardiovascular system. Olive oil, and organic olive oil as well, is almost entirely produced in the Mediterranean area. Italy is one of the main producer of olive oil after Spain. No wonder that more and more people are interested in the production and diffusion of organic olive oil. It is so important for our diet and health that you must also consider the fact that no chemical substances of synthesis are used to grow the olives organically. The techniques used in the oil mill don’t modify the healthy and organoleptic properties of the organic oil. Moreover, all olives used to produce organic olive oil are local, and not a mix of imported olives that have no certain or traceable origin.

Organic oil: from the growing to the harvest

Organic oil must undergo the same process as any other organic product. Firms that produce organic food and want to start producing organic oil as well, must follow the recommendations of the EC regulation and undergo a series of strict controls by control and certifying bodies in charge for organic products.

This regulation guarantees not only that chemical substances such as fertilizers and pesticides are not used, but it also imposes that the olives are entirely local. The harvest of organic olives takes place between the end of October and the beginning of November. Olives must be harvested from the plant (in order to safeguard the organoleptic properties of the oil) and preferably with hands (limiting the use of mechanical tools), always using a net to harvest the olives, so that they don’t fall directly on the soil.

After the harvest olives must be immediately carried to the oil mill, in order to avoid fermentation on the soil, in well-ventilated boxes, in order to guarantee a good ventilation for the olives.

Organic oil: Rules in the oil mill

The storage of the olives in the mill must be accurate so that it doesn’t alter the quality of the olives. This is even more important for olives that come from an organic farming. In order to avoid fermentation, that causes a bigger acidity level of the oil and, in wider terms, also threatens its quality, we highly recommend to:

  • Take the olives to the mill and store them in plastic boxes, in order to guarantee a good ventilation and avoid a mass on the parking area. Avoid putting olives in sacks;
  • Prepare the storage of the olives in covered places in order to protect them from bad weather, but make sure that they are well-ventilated;
  • Use as brief as possible storage times in the mill (max. 48h after the harvest);
  • Take the olives to mills that only deal with “organic” olives;
  • Accurately wash boxes and containers used for “organic” olives.

On the outer layer of the olive, even if taken directly from the plant, you could find soil or dust. You also have to consider that “drift effect” or draughts (currents of air) that could leave unwanted remains on the drupes. Defoliation and wash of the olives guarantee more hygiene during the process. The next phase is the grinding. The machines used to grind the olives are mills (with grinders and presser) or particular crushers.

Pressers, although bulky and irregular in their work, represent a better system to process the olives than crushers, the use of which can lead to the heating of the olive paste and hence partly deteriorate the organoleptic properties of the olive oil. What you obtain from the grinding and pressing of the olives is a so called olive paste that contains both oil and water.

The next phase is the kneading that aims at separating olive oil from water and facilitating the aggregation of the oil droplets. During this phase temperature must not be higher than 27°C (mixing the paste can lead to a higher temperature). The increase in temperature and the duration of the process (which do lead to a major quantity of oil) may damage the level of antioxidants present in the olive oil. They can also cause an increase in the number of peroxides in the oil. Moreover, when the olive paste lies in the kneading machine, polyphenols present in the water risk oxidation and this may consequently lead to an impoverishment of the oil in terms of components. In addition to nutritional facts, organoleptic properties may be influenced by higher temperature, too (30 – 35°C). This is due to the increase in the number of polyphenols, responsible for the bitter taste. The extraction of the oil from the oil paste can occur through pressure, percolation and centrifuge. The pressure system initially included the use of manual presses. Later on hydraulic presses were used.

The percolation system consists of separating oil from vegetation water through stainless steel thin plates. Olive oil adheres more than water to the thin plates, and then slides into a container. It’s true that this system calls for very long extraction times and more expenses, but the oil obtained through it shows superior organoleptic properties.

In the last few years the centrifuge system has replaced the pressure system because of reduced labor costs, better results and reduced duration of the extraction process.

The quality of the organic oil extracted through these three systems differs as regards the values of such antioxidants as polyphenols and phenols, which are more often to be found in oil that has been extracted through the percolation system or pressure. The organoleptic properties don’t vary (i.e. taste and smell).

Once you’ve obtained the oil you just have to store it. Organic oil must be stored for at least one year waiting for “olio nuovo” (the new oil, T.N.). Storage is essential for preserving the organoleptic properties of the final product. Since oil easily absorbs volatile and fat-soluble smelly substances risking to damage its organoleptic properties, it is highly recommended to store it in a place where there are no smell sources at all. During the storage phase, the following alterations may occur: a) alterations due to contact with unsuitable materials; b) alterations due to prolonged contact with watery impurities; c) alterations due to absorption of oxygen.

Alterations may also occur due to contact with the materials the storage or packaging containers are made of: the surface in contact with the oil releases metals. In this regard, only metal cans may be dangerous; in case of steel tanks and glass bottles this problem doesn’t occur.

Alterations due to contact between olive oil and vegetation water, the so called “sludge” (which is still to be found in the product after the extraction), are mainly due to the fermentation processes of the water-soluble substances of the watery layer. In case of healthy environment and prolonged contact with the oil, the watery layer could cause the oil the following defects: 1) the “sludge” defect, due to the typical smell of the fermented vegetation waters; 2) the “putrid” defect, due to the anaerobic fermentation of the remains; 3) increase in the level of free acidity because of the lipolysis of the enzymes during the “water phase”. In order to avoid these problems it is necessary to separate the remains from the oil as soon as possible, through pouring or filtration with hydrophilic products. The oxygen alterations of the extra virgin olive oil are due to the autoxidation phenomenon that can be delayed through some techniques, but not avoided. In order to limit and delay the oxygen alterations it is necessary to avoid exposing the oil to light, air and temperature which are higher than 15-20°.

Cooperative Agricoltura Progresso, genuine and organic.