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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Storing Olive Oil

Storing Olive Oil


I got a phone call from a county resident that put olive oil in the refrigerator during a hot stretch we recently experienced in Northeast Wisconsin. Concern was expressed because the olive oil solidified and became cloudy.

Temperature is also important in preventing degradation of olive oil. Experts recommend storing the oil at 57 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a wine cellar. Aren't lucky enough to have a wine cellar? A room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit will be fine. If your kitchen is routinely warmer than that, you can refrigerate the oil.

In fact, refrigeration is best for long-term storage of all olive oils except premium extra-virgin ones. Consider keeping small amounts of olive oil in a sealed container at room temperature -- perhaps in a small, capped porcelain jug that keeps out air and light. This way, your olive oil is instantly ready to use. Keep the rest in the refrigerator, but remember that refrigerated olive oil will solidify and turn cloudy, making it difficult to use. Returning it to room temperature restores its fluidity and color.

If you don't want to refrigerate your olive oil, keep it in a dark, cool cupboard away from the stove or other heat-producing appliances.

Because of olive oil's high monounsaturated fat content, it can be stored longer than most other oils -- as long as it's stored properly. Oils are fragile and need to be treated gently to preserve their healthful properties and to keep them from becoming a health hazard full of free radicals.

When choosing your storage location, remember that heat, air, and light are the enemies of oil. These elements help create free radicals, which eventually lead to excessive oxidation and rancidity in the oil that will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Even worse, oxidation and free radicals contribute to heart disease and cancer.

The best storage containers for olive oil are made of either tinted glass (to keep out light) or a nonreactive metal, such as stainless steel. Avoid metal containers made of iron or copper because the chemical reactions between the olive oil and those metals create toxic compounds. Avoid most plastic, too; oil can absorb noxious substances such as polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) out of the plastic. Containers also need a tight cap or lid to keep out unwanted air.

Unlike wine, oil does not improve with age. As olive oil gets older, it gradually breaks down, more free oleic acid is formed, the acidity level rises, and flavor weakens. You'll get the best quality and flavor from your olive oil if you use it within a year of pressing. Olive oil remains at its peak for about two or three months after pressing, but unfortunately, few labels carry bottling dates or "use by" dates, let alone pressing dates.

Freshness is crucial when it comes to olive oil. Fresh oil tastes great! Rancid oil tastes terrible! So we go to great lengths to ensure our oil stays as fresh as possible once we harvest and crush our olives.

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