What’s the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin oil?
I promised myself that I wouldn’t make any jokes about virgins being hard and extra virgins being impossible to find, so I won’t. The countries of this world may have trouble negotiating arms reduction, but on one issue the nations agree; thus, the International Olive and Olive oil agreement of 1986. This agreement defines the terms Virgin olive oil and Extra Virgin olive oil.
Any olive oil that wants to call itself virgin must be obtained from the fruit of the olive trees solely by mechanical or other physical methods rather than by a heating process. The oil cannot be refined or diluted, but maybe washed, decanted or filtered.
The lowest grade of virgin olive oil is semi fine oil, which is sold in the stores as ‘virgin’. The oil must be judged to have a good flavor and no more than 3g of free oleic acid per 100g of oil. The next highest grade, fine virgin oil cannot exceed 1.5g of oleic acid per 100g and must have excellent taste. Extra virgin olive oil must have ‘absolutely perfect flavor’ and maximum acidity of of 1g per 100g.
Extra virgin olives are often used with different kinds of natural flavors and are quite expensive, which any trip to the local gourmet deli will affirm.
As with many other food items, the price commodity (extra virgin olive oil) is the one that achieves quality by omission. By being free of extraneous flavors or high acidity, the special oil is the one that manages what wouldn’t seem like too difficult a task, to taste like olives.