- Hi, i am trying to find some facts about the history
of olive oil, but have come across slight problem, it
seems that I can´t find the origin for the name virgin
olive oil. Does it have any symbolic values from
ancient Rome or Greece, or is it far later and
connected to the use of olive oil in the medieval
church. Anyone with a clue?
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- One of our friends asked about the patera and the cost, as well as how
to get one.
Mr. Simkins does not have a website. He works from his home just south
of Nottingham, and is a wonderful correspondant. His patera cost me about
$40-50 US, depending on the currency exchange, while the India made one
costs $17-30 US, depending on which merchant you choose. I have both and I
will try and take some comparison photos as soon as I get a spare hour.
I think the Indian made patera will be good for knocking about to show
people the basic shape. Get one for cooking and one for display. On the
other hand my "Simkin's patera" will be something my grand-children look at
an say "...gee, grandda had weird pans".
I can send Mr. Simkin's address if people become interested.
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- I can't help much with the history of olive oil other than to clarify
the origin of 'virgin' olive oil name.
The virgin prefix refers to the 'first-pressing' of the oil. The
classification is relatively new one however, born to differentiate the
only type of olive oil that used to be produced from the newer oils
produced during this century, by industrialized processes.
Let me explain. Once upon a time olive oil was made thus (and still is
in many frantoie around the med.):
You collected your olives during their period of harvest, in Italy this
is from October to early December. When picked earlier the olives have
more water and so produce less of a percentage of oil to weight but the
oil is light, fresh and very green. When picked later the water level
is lower (giving a higher yield of oil in percentage terms) though the
oil is heavier and the yield of fruit from the tree is lower through
loss and insect attack (which makes for higher acidity, the big no-no of
the olive oil trade).
I digress, the fruit is then taken to a frantoio where the fruit is
placed in a large pressing machine which consist of a lower stone plate
with raised sides (now made of steel) with a pair of wheel stones
attached to an arm powered by a central spindle which crush the fruit
and pits of the olive to produce a paste (like epitrium but with the
stones in it as well). This paste is then channelled out onto raffia
basket disks (now made of a plastic, imitation raffia) which are then
loaded onto a press in stacks of ten disks or more, typically the press
requires 200 kg of olives per stack.
This stack is then placed in a hydraulic press and squeezed until all*
the water and oil are extracted. (*all that can be extracted in this
way), The disks are then sluiced with hot water to remove the last of
the oil which is all collected in a pit at the bottom of the press.
Now here the methods of proceeding differ. Before the invention of the
centrifuge, the oil and water was allowed to stand to separate fully and
then the oil (typically between 7-15% of initial fruit weight) drawn off
and the water discarded.
Since the centrifuge was invented this is now done by spinning off the
oil from the water giving you finished oil immediately.
This IS virgin olive oil, first pressing, unadulterated oil. Most small
frantoie finish here and discard the cakes of pressed olive mush.
Industrial producers however submit the mush to a second pressing using
far stronger presses and the addition of water to soak the mush once
more, this produces one or two subsequent pressings of lower quality
oil, known as olive oil or even olive pumice oil when made from just
pressed pits (a by product of canned olive production).
For historical purposes the distinction is un-necessary, the only oil
the ancients made was (vrigin) olive oil, which EEC law has designated
as Extra-Virgin or Virgin olive oil to allow the industrially produced
oils to be called olive oil rather than "oil made from the reconstituted
left-overs of the production of true olive oil" which might be less
appealing from a marketing point of view.
Hope this is of help in some small way.
NB: I have a few trees of my own and make my own oil each year via
visit to one of the frantoie here in the Castelli Romani.
On Wednesday, August 1, 2001, at 11:30 , Daniel Serra wrote:
> Hi, i am trying to find some facts about the history
> of olive oil, but have come across slight problem, it
> seems that I can´t find the origin for the name virgin
> olive oil. Does it have any symbolic values from
> ancient Rome or Greece, or is it far later and
> connected to the use of olive oil in the medieval
> church. Anyone with a clue?
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Get your free @... address at http://mail.yahoo.co.uk
> or your free @... address at http://mail.yahoo.ie
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