Glossary of Terms
Olive Oil Terms
Antioxidants are a group of compounds that are produced by the body and that occur naturally in many foods. Antioxidants work together in the body to maintain our health and energy well into the late decades of life. They do this by protecting us from damage caused by free radicals, which can injure healthy cells and tissues. The body produces free radicals in the normal course of energy production, but there are also substances in our surrounding environment—certain chemicals, smoke, toxins, solar radiation—that trigger the production of free radicals. Don’t underestimate the threat free radicals pose to our health and well-being. Scientists now believe that free radicals are causal factors in nearly every known disease, from heart disease to arthritis to cancer to cataracts. In fact, free radicals are a major culprit in the aging process itself.
Bitter is a taste characteristic of good olive oil. If you were to try an olive picked off a tree it would be incredibly bitter – and so is good olive oil. Bitterness, along with pungency and fruitiness are all present and well-balanced in the very best olive oils.
“Cold pressed” is an outdated and largely unregulated label description for olive oil. It is now cold extracted with a centrifuge.
Fifty years ago when most oil was made in vertical presses, the paste was pressed to make olive oil (first press) and then mixed with hot water or steam and pressed again to remove more oil. This “second pressing” was not as good; the heat had evaporated some of the delicate flavours and healthy components.
Today the paste is almost always warmed to room temperature during the malaxation process before being centrifuged using horizontal decanters. (Olives are harvested in the winter when it is cold).
Heating the paste excessively increases yield but degrades flavour. Producers would lose money by attempting to extract a little more oil by overheating and degrading the flavor of the oil to the point where it would not qualify as more profitable extra virgin.
Regulation 1019 of 2002 determines the use of the term “Cold Pressed” in the EU. During Malaxation and Extraction the olive paste must be kept under 27ºC (80.6ºF). After the oil is pressed out of the paste, the dry pomace (pits and flesh) is sometimes sold to refineries where steam and solvents are used to remove any residual oil. This oil is called olive pomace oil.
A cultivar is a plant or group of plants selected for desirable characteristics. In regards to olive oil it is the type of olive used.
To make something unpleasant more acceptable. In regards to olive oil this means the unpleasantness of rancid olive oils are made more acceptable by the use of chemicals.
This is the highest quality of olive oil.
Extra Virgin olive oil has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams (0.8%). Extra virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries.
Note that extra virgin olive oils vary widely in taste, color, and appearance. Their taste and aroma should reflect the fact that they were made from olives and have some positive attributes and no taste defects.
The oil is extracted using a continuous centrifugation system. Great care must be taken to prevent the oil from being subjected to high temperatures. An advantage of the continuous system, compared to the vertical pressing method previously employed, is that it significantly reduces the time between processing the olives and storing the oil. The sooner the oil is transferred to storage, the less time for the degenerative effects of the light and air in the mill to take effect.
This method is far superior in efficiency and prevention of defects if a very low temperature is ensured throughout the process.
Fat is a nutrient. It is crucial for normal body function and without it we could not live. Not only does fat supply us with energy, it also makes it possible for other nutrients to do their jobs.
At room temperature fats may be present in either liquid or solid form, this depends on their structure and composition. We tend to refer to fats which are liquid at room temperature as oils. Fats which are solid at room temperature are generally referred to as fats.
Filtering involves putting the oil through a thick layer of cotton to trap any tiny particles of olive fruit that may be in the oil.
Some producers remove those fruit particles (sediment) naturally with gravity.
As a general rule, the fruit particles – similar to pulp in orange juice – can really enhance the taste and flavour of the extra virgin olive oil. However, over time those same fruit particles will eventually ferment. That’s why there is a best before date on the bottle.
First press is no longer an official definition for olive oil. A century ago, oil was pressed in screw or hydraulic presses. The paste was subjected to increasingly high pressures with subsequent degradation in the flavour of the oil. Today the vast majority of oil is extracted in continuous centrifugal systems.
Technically, olive oil which has had herbs or fruits infused in them cannot be called extra virgin olive oil. According to IOOC regulations it must be called “fruit juice”. In reality, few producers comply with this and you will see labels such as “lemon infused olive oil” or “Basil Olive Oil”.
Defects in flavour or aroma dictated by the International Olive Oil Council for extra virgin olive oil:
Musty: If you’ve ever opened a “corked” wine, you’re familiar with this spoiled smell and taste, indicating the presence of mouldy olives in the mix.
Winey-Vinegary: This flaw, caused by air exposure, can often be detected on the nose as an ammonia-like smell (like cat urine), or nail-polish remover (acetone) with a touch of spoiled milk.
Muddy Sediment: Characteristic of oils in prolonged contact with the sediment in tanks or vats.
Heated, Cooked, or Burnt: A vaguely unpleasant flavour component caused by high- heat processing or prolonged exposure to overheated equipment.
Metallic: Prolonged contact with metal or plastic can cause flavours to leech into the oil.
Rancid: Rancidity is a condition that commonly occurs after the oil has been bottled, and is common in oils improperly stored or purchased from supermarkets or gourmet shops with low turnover. Some flavour descriptors of this defect include: varnish, putty, wax, or old salami tastes.
Zero Fruity Flavour: The absence of a fruity characteristic indicates the oil was stripped of its flavour (including any “off” flavours like the ones above) with solvents and high heat.
This is the process of collecting the olives. There are three main ways of doing this:
Brucatura – The olives are hand picked and placed in a basket hanging from the harvester’s belt. This method is the most labour intensive and is used to collect from the youngest trees.
Bacchiatura & Raccattatura or Beating Down & Picking Up – This involves placing a net beneath the trees as the branches are being hit forcefully to loosen the olives. The olives then fall onto the net and are ready to be collected. Recently this method is being replaced with a vibrating comb. It performs the same job but in a much gentler manner preventing bruising on the fruit.
Mechanical – A mechanical arm clasps the tree’s trunk and shakes the tree causing the desired olive to fall off. This method has actually been proven to be the most beneficial to the tree as it simulates a wind storm. Beneath the ground, the tree’s weaker roots are displaced and the nutrients are more efficiently absorbed by the strongest roots. The vibration also encourages the growth of new roots to replace those that have been shed. As a result, the trees build a stronger foundation that will protect them when threatening weather approaches.
Oils have been hydrogenated for many decades, to prolong their shelf life and make the oils more stable. Hydrogenated oil is oil in which the essential fatty acids have been converted to a different form chemically, which has several effects. It also has a higher melting point, and is often used in frying for this reason. When hydrogenated, the chemical structure of the oil is changed, which scientists in the 1990s began to realize could result in negative health effects.
Hydrogenated oil is made by forcing hydrogen gas into oil at high pressure. Both animal and vegetable fats can be and are hydrogenated. In general, the more solid the oil is, the more hydrogenated it is.
The International Olive Council is the only intergovernmental organization in the world to bring together olive oil and table olive producing and consuming stakeholders.
Lampante is Italian for lamp oil. It is not fit for consumption as is.
Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams (3.3%).
It is intended for refining or for technical use. These oils come from bad fruit or careless processing.
Light Olive oil or simply Olive Oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams (1.0%). The cheap refined oil is mixed with more flavorful virgin oil. Some countries require a more specific designation. Most of the olive oil sold in the world falls into this category. Different blends are made, with more or less virgin oil, to achieve different tastes at different prices. Oils described as “Light” or “Extra Light” in North America fall in this category, and are most likely made with a large proportion of refined oil.
Frangitura or milling is a traditional mechanical process that crushes the olives. Crushing the pulp from which the oil will be extracted is a necessary step. The temperature should always remain very low. This process must be carried out as quickly as possible to minimize the oils contact with air and light.
Pressing – Two large granite wheels turn on a granite base, crushing or pressing the olives.
Finely Slicing – the more modern technique involves finely slicing the olives before extraction. The oil, olive pulp and pits are then mixed in order to reduce the volume and separate the olive’s water from its oil. This stage in the process produces a delicate mix of the olive pulp encouraging it to combine as one.
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found naturally in many plant sources and in animal products. It is an omega-nine fatty acid, and considered one of the healthier sources of fat in the diet. It’s commonly used as a replacement for animal fat sources that are high in saturated fat. As a fat, oleic acid is one of the better ones to consume. As a replacement for other saturated fats, it can lower total cholesterol level and raise levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) while lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), also known as the “bad” cholesterol. From a health standpoint, oleic acid exhibits further benefits. It has been shown to slow the development of heart disease, and promotes the production of antioxidants.
Oleocanthal is a natural organic compound isolated from extra virgin olive oil. It is responsible for the slightly peppery “bite” of extra virgin olive oil.
Oleocanthal has been found to be have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The Panel Test is the sensory evaluation of olive oil, in other words, the official organoleptic assessment of the olive oil. This test is performed by certified olive oil tasters and is based on the standards of the International Olive Council (IOC), as well as on the Regulation (EC) 640/2008 of the European Commission.
Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) is a legal framework defined in European Union law to protect the names of regional foods. The law (enforced within the EU and being gradually expanded internationally via bilateral agreements between the EU and non-EU countries) ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed in business to be identified as such.
Oleocanthal (meaning olive sting) was discovered by scientists who described the taste as a similarity between the back of the throat “burn” from both Ibuprofen (the anti-inflammatory) and in extra virgin olive oil by that nice peppery taste. Oleocanthal occurs only in extra virgin olive oil when the oil is at its freshest. When you try a real extra virgin olive oil you will notice many are extremely pungent and throat catching, meaning that they pack an extraordinary amount of oleocanthal polyphenols.
This oleocanthal polyphenol is an anti-oxidant, which helps protect the olive oil in the aging process as well as contributes to its durability under all applications such as heat & storage. So although the oleocanthal produces a nice peppery, pungent burn at the back of the throat, this sensation can only be pronounced at the olive oils freshest and highest of quality products. As the oil ages the oleocanthal, as well as many other polyphenols will dissipate, which typically causes most grocery store olive oils, that are old and oxidized, to be deprived of any oleocanthal and most other polyphenols.
Polyphenols act as antioxidants. They protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals, reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body. For example, when low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is oxidized, it can become glued to arteries and cause coronary heart disease.
Polyphenols can also block the action of enzymes that cancers need for growth and they can deactivate substances that promote the growth of cancers.
Pomace is the ground flesh and pits left after pressing. Olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents or other physical treatments. It is considered an inferior grade and is used for soap making or industrial purposes.
We need to start by recognizing one essential fact about olive oil: it is a perishable product. Olive oil tastes best when it is fresh. Think of olive oil on a freshness continuum that goes from just-made, harvest-fresh at one end, to completely rancid at the other. How long it takes an olive oil to go from one end of this freshness continuum to the other depends on many factors: storage temperature, exposure to air and light, and the amount of natural antioxidants in the olive oil in the first place. All olive oils, even the finest ones, will get rancid eventually. This is why you must never hoard olive oil: use it and enjoy it.
Rancid oil will smell and taste like the smell of crayons or rancid nuts. The flavour of rancidity in olive oil is usually accompanied by a greasy mouthfeel; in fact, the greasiness often is noticeable first.
This oil is obtained by refining virgin olive oils (not olive-pomace oils) that have a high acidity level and/or organoleptic defects which are eliminated after refining. Over 50% of the oil produced in the Mediterranean area is of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product. Note that no solvents have been used to extract the oil, but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. An obsolete equivalent is “pure olive oil”. Refined oil is generally tasteless, odourless, and colourless. Many countries deem it unfit for human consumption due to poor flavour, not due to safety concerns.
The smoke point generally refers to the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down to glycerol and free fatty acids, and produce bluish smoke.
The smoke point marks the beginning of both flavour and nutritional degradation.
Virgin Oil – approximately 350 degrees Celsius
Extra Virgin oil – approximately 250 degrees Celsius
A tasting technique used by certified olive oil tasters to detect the qualities in an olive oil. To do this place a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in your mouth and from the front of the tongue begin to suck in air as the oil coats your mouth all the way to the back of your tongue, then swallow.
Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid(s). Because the term refers to the configuration of a double carbon-carbon bond, trans fats are sometimes monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but never saturated. Trans fats are rare in living nature, but can occur in food production processes.
Filtering involves putting the oil through a thick layer of cotton to trap any tiny particles of olive fruit that may be in the oil.
Some producers remove those fruit particles naturally with gravity.
As a general rule, the fruit particles – similar to pulp in orange juice – can really enhance the taste and flavor of the EVOO. However, over time those same fruit particles will eventually ferment. That’s why there is a best before date on the bottle.
Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams (2.0%). The olives are allowed to mature a little longer before being harvested to achieve virgin olive oil.
Balsamic Vinegar Terms
Must is freshly pressed fruit juice (usually grape juice) that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit.
Biodynamic agriculture was the first codified form of organic farming. It is an internationally recognized closed system that combines naturally occurring life processes with organic growing techniques that are a self-regenerating and a self-healing way of producing food utilizing multi-stacked farm enterprises, balancing crop and livestock production while enriching the local natural habitat. The food harvested from these farms is truly nourishment for a humanity seeking to support a socially just and conscientious way of farming.
An enzyme that changes the rate of the breakdown of starch into sugars. Amylase is present in human saliva, where it begins the chemical process of digestion. Food that contains much starch but little sugar, such as rice and potato, taste slightly sweet as they are chewed because amylase turns some of their starch into sugar in the mouth.
Nero rice is dark purple in colour, almost black, with a very special taste and aroma of freshly baked bread. Its colour is natural because the pericarp, the outer firm of the rice, is actually an ebony colour. This rice is native to China from the nineteenth century where it was cultivated exclusively for the Emperor and his court. Its name is dedicated to the Goddess of Love because in ancient China it was considered an extreme aphrodisiac.
Carnaroli is a medium-grained rice with a high starch content and a firm texture. It is rich in amylase, which helps it to keep its shape better than other forms of rice when absorbing liquid during cooking. Often described as the “king of rices”, Carnaroli is excellent, and particularly appreciated by the greatest chefs for making risotto.
A super fine rice rich in amylase, with characteristics similar to Carnaroli rice. The grain is big and has a long and narrow shape. It cooks in 17 minutes, consistently ‘al dente’, and maintains its firmness for a long time.
This means that the chocolate producer does the entire process at their facility – from the raw cacao beans to the molded bar.
Label Terms & Symbols
The Made In Canada claim may be used when the food product is manufactured or processed in Canada regardless of whether the ingredients are imported of domestic or a mix of both. However, this claim must always be qualified with either Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients or Made in Canada from imported ingredients. To use these qualified claims, the last substantial transformation of the product must have occurred in Canada. This recognizes the importance of value added by Canadian ingredients and processing.
Under the guidelines when the label claim Product of Canada is applied, all or virtually all of the significant ingredients, components, processing and labour used in the food product must be Canadian. Food products claiming Product of Canada must contain very little or no foreign content, with the exception of minor food additives, spices, vitamins, minerals and flavouring preparations.
The country of origin for the product is Italy. For example – If your bottle of extra virgin olive oil says Made In Italy then the olives and the making of the oil are done in Italy.
An organic product is an agricultural product that has been certified as organic. A product can be certified if it is produced using the methods outlined by the Canadian Organic Standards.
Products that make an organic claim must be certified by a Certification Body that has been accredited, based upon the recommendation of a CFIA designated Conformity Verification Body. The Certification Body must certify the product to the Canadian Organic Standards. The CFIA is working with Conformity Verification Bodies to accredit Certification Bodies under the Canada Organic Regime.
The production and placement of organic products with labels and logos on the EU market follows a strict certification process that must be complied with.
Conventional farmers must first undergo a conversion period of a minimum of two years before they can begin producing agricultural goods that can be marketed as organic. If they wish to produce both conventional and organic produce, they must clearly separate these two operations throughout every stage of production.
Both farmers and processors must at all times respect the relevant rules contained in the EU Regulation. They are subject to inspections by EU inspection bodies or authorities to ensure their compliance with organic legislation.
After the two year period successful operators are granted organic certification and their goods can be labelled as organic.
A geographical indication is a distinctive sign used to identify a product as originating in the territory of a particular country, region or locality where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin. The protection of geographical indications matters economically and culturally. They can create value for local communities through products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography. They support rural development and promote new job opportunities in production, processing and other related services.
Italian agricultural products labeled D.O.P. (an acronym for Denominazione di Origine Protetta) are products whose ingredients and preparation are specific to a geographic region. In other words, products that are certified as locally grown and produced (and not products that are only distributed or manufactured locally).
There is no single world-wide definition for the term “gluten-free.” Some countries have specific gluten-free labelling regulations that identify which foods and ingredients are allowed and not allowed on a gluten-free diet.
Canada is in a transition period between the old labelling regulations and new regulations that take effect on August 4, 2012. By that date, labels for all food products sold in Canada will have to carry clear identification of the priority allergens, gluten, and added suphites at a level greater than 10 ppm.
In Canada, gluten means “any gluten protein or modified protein, including any protein fraction derived from the grains of the following cereals: barley, oats, rye, triticale, wheat, kamut or spelt”. The definition also applies to the grains of hybridized strains of the cereals listed above.
A collective campaign to lobby for the integration of good, clean and fair aspects and the promotion of sustainable small-scale practices in European Union policies. By bringing together Slow Food in Europe with other organizations and the EU, we hope to achieve positive results for all, upholding the rights of millions of small-scale sustainable producers and concerned consumers and protecting regional quality food production through the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).