By Chef Selwyn Richards
A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is a must-have staple in many kitchens, partly because its delicious flavor and versatile nature allow it to be used in countless ways. For starters, extra virgin olive oil is perfect in homemade salad dressings, on roasted vegetables and as a key ingredient in a wide range of recipes.
In addition to tasting great, olive oil is also good for you. Naturally low in saturated fat, it is a healthy alternative to butter, margarine and many other oils. Versatility, great taste and a healthy profile make it easy to see why many cooks and chefs always have a bottle close at hand.
What many people do not realize about olive oil, however, is that it is actually a perishable fruit juice with some finicky preferences. This means proper care and precautions must be taken in order to keep your olive oil tasting and smelling the way it should.
The Four Natural Enemies of Olive Oil
1. Time. Because it is a perishable fruit juice, olive oil does not have an unlimited shelf life. Try to choose bottles with a clearly marked “harvest date” and make sure that date occurred within the last 18 months to 2 years. It is also recommended that you only buy as much olive oil as you can use within 15 – 30 days of opening.
2. Temperature. Heat will cause olive oil to degrade quickly. Therefore, do not store your olive oil near your oven or stove-top because the higher ambient heat in those areas will cause it to break down faster.
3. Oxygen. Like a fine wine, exposure to oxygen for any length of time will cause your olive oil to turn rancid. To prevent this, store your olive oil in an airtight container with the lid securely fastened whenever it is not in use.
4. Light. Exposure to light will also cause olive oil to degrade more quickly. Avoid storing your olive oil in clear bottles or out on your counter tops. Dark green bottles are the best for blocking out sunlight, but other dark bottles will also work. Storing bottles inside a cabinet when not in use can also prolong the life of your olive oil. A cool, dark place is your best bet to prolong the life of your oil.
Avoiding the four natural enemies of olive oil will keep it fresh and full of flavor for a longer period of time. With a little bit of effort, you can preserve the delicious natural flavors of your quality olive oils.
Selwyn Richards is an award-winning master chef. He is also the President and Executive Chef at The Art of Catering Inc. and is the author of “The Art of Cooking: Soul of The Caribbean”. Chef Selwyn can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone — (905) 619-1059.