To maintain the healthy goodness and taste of olive oil correct storage must be considered. The most important rule to follow is buy fresh olive oil ideally within a month of the olives being harvested. The more recently olive oil has been made the better its flavor and it will remain at its best for two to three months after pressing. Don’t confuse olive oil with wine – it does not improve with age! Buy only quantities that you are likely to use within a year at the most. Get into the habit of using it daily, make it a frequent item on your shopping list, and don’t keep it for special occasions hidden at the back of a cupboard, or worse in full sunlight, a sure way to ruin any olive oil.
As olive oil ages its acidity levels rise. This is what causes the bad flavor of olive oil that has been kept for too long. Extra virgin olive oil will keep longer than inferior quality oil because of its low acidity, but even this excellent quality oil needs careful storage.
Olive oil hates heat, light, and air. For this reason, the best containers are dark green or brown glass bottles with a good tight fitting cap. Corks are the best choice as there is the danger of metal rusting giving the olive oil a nasty metallic taste. While metal containers, such as copper or iron, may cause a chemical reaction, stainless steel is fine. Avoid plastic bottles as PVC from the plastic may be absorbed by the oil.
Keep olive oil in a cool dark cupboard. As tempting as it is to keep olive oil conveniently near your cooker, don’t.
Today’s trend for old-style farmhouse kitchens create the perfect place to show off olive oil, the very foundation of Mediterranean cuisine. Either display oil in an attractive bottle for decorative purposes only or in unusual attractive dark glass bottles, not too large though. You only want to expose small amounts of olive oil at a time to sunlight, decant from oil kept in a cool dark place when empty. As you discover more uses for this magical oil and realize how much tastier dishes are, not to mention the health benefits, you will be using larger amounts every day.
Low quality olive oils can be kept in the fridge. They will turn cloudy and solidify but it will return to normal when left at room temperature. The flavor of extra virgin olive oil may be affected if stored in the fridge so this is not recommended.
Because of its high monounsaturated fat content, olive oil keeps longer than other oils. Nevertheless, it still needs to be stored carefully. If unopened a good quality olive oil will keep well for about two years; if opened, about a year.
A study by Spanish researchers in 2004, tested extra virgin olive oil stored for one year under perfect conditions. They found that most of the healing properties had almost disappeared. Vitamin E had vanished completely, 30% of the chlorophyll had been destroyed, and 40% of the beta-carotene had disintegrated. Phenol levels were also way lower than they are in fresh olive oil.
Don’t hoard this wonderful golden elixir, use it! Pour olive oil onto salads, mix into stews and casseroles, incorporate into dips and sauces, and bake with it. Much healthier and lower in calories than butter. Use it; don’t lose it!