One of the key differences amongst many people in the Mediterranean countries and that of people in the UK or the rest of the world is the diet.
In Spain, for example, cooking relies heavily on the use of olive oil. In fact the so-called The Mediterranean diet is rich in virgin olive oil which helps lower the risk of such problems as heart disease, blood pressure, and even some cancers. There was even an International Conference held on the Healthy Effect of Virgin Olive Oil, such is the importance given to it by nutritionists.
Olive oil is used in not just cooking, but is employed in the textile industry, in the manufacture of toilet and cosmetic products such as shampoos and as a lubricant and for medicinal purposes.
Olive Oil From Spain Recipes
Olive oil is simply the fruit juice of crushed olives. The Spanish word for oil is aceite, which means the juice of the olive. It`s also known as aceite de oliva. And there are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, including Cornicabra, Hojiblanca, Lechín, Picual and Verdial.
Olive oil is simply the fruit juice of crushed olives.
What then is the process by which olive oil finds its way to our homes?
The tough, sinewy, old olive tree, is known by the experts as “Olea europaea.” The cultivated olive tree has abundant foliage, consisting of long, narrow leaves with a pale-green face and a gray-green reverse side. The olive groves at Andalusia, in the south of Spain, stretch for miles, with row after row of well-kept trees. When a breeze rustles through, the dual colouring of the leaves creates a beautiful shimmering effect.
It may take up to 50 years for one of these trees to reach a peak of olive production. Many in mainland Spain are over 400 years old. In Syria, Palestine and Tunisia, some base trunks have been alive for more than 1,000 years. The Spanish Balearic island of Majorca is also known for its millenarian olive trees with their massive girth and endless variety of forms. According to the viewer’s imagination, the tree trunks seem to take different shapes.
The most laborious part of the harvesting process is the picking of the olives from the trees. There are two ways to do this. The slower method is by hand picking, which guarantees a better quality oil, while the most popular method is vareo, or beating the branches with long rods to make the berries fall on fine netting or plastic that is spread under the tree. This system is quicker but causes damage to the trees and the berries. When the olives are black and ripe, they have their maximum oil content, which may range from 20 to 30 percent of the fresh fruit’s weight.
After being harvested, the olives are washed and then passed through a mill to be crushed. The resulting mass is transferred to a hydraulic press that squeezes out the vital oil. This contains impurities and foreign matter that are strained off through a series of decantation vats. Nowadays, in well-equipped factories, much of this process is accelerated by the use of modern machinery such as centrifugal separators. The end product is fine olive oil.
In the Spanish kitchen olive oil is used for a number of reasons. It`s used in frying, baking, drizzling, sautéing, marinating.
When you go along to the store to buy olive oil, don`t think that by buying what you might consider to be the ‘best’ say extra virgin oil you can use it for just any culinary purposes.
In general terms extra virgin olive oil, or virgin oil are better for seasonings. These two olive oils aren`t meant to be used for frying in, as they have strong flavours and aromas. Use the more basic pure olive oil for baking or frying, as they are milder in taste.
So, for soups and stews choose extra virgin oil, or virgin oil. The same for salad dressings, and certain pastries. Use one of those two for marinades, and for drizzling. For some baking and for frying use olive oil. If sautéing then virgin olive oil or olive oil is best. Grill foods using olive oil, then brush the cooked food with one of the virgin oils to enhance the flavour. And to help prevent pasta sticking pour a little olive oil in the pan.
Olive oil is truly a wonderful feature in any kitchen, whether in Spain, or anywhere else in the world.