SA olive oil gets the thumbs up

In SA olive oil producers
press their own olives and ­focus primarily on quality.
Issue date 11 May 2007

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“Olive oil production has seen radical changes over the past few years,” said Dr Giorgio Antonetti from Pieralisi, an Italian oil mill producer, at the recent olive field day at Morgenster farm in the Western Cape. Oil makers have traditionally focused on the absence of defects in their oil. Today the focus is on retaining as much of the oil’s natural characteristics as possible. The move from three-phase extraction to two-phase extraction is a direct result of this trend, according to Antonetti.
In a three-phase extraction system, the olives are first crushed and mixed in the malaxation process, where small drops of oil combine to form bigger ones. The oil and water are separated from the husk during the second stage and the oil is separated from the water in the final process. The problem with this system is that it relies on the addition of water during the malaxation phase. Some of the oil’s natural components are absorbed in the water and therefore lost in the process.
No water is added in the two-phase extraction system. The oil is separated directly from the husk, resulting in more flavour retention. “This system is more ecologically friendly since less waste water is generated. The extraction is also more effective, resulting in a 5% higher oil yield. Machines are cheaper, as the water/oil separator falls away,” he said. Antonetti also said the new system where olives are pitted before being crushed, or where nitrogen is added during the malaxation process to prevent oxidation, does not result in better quality oil. These are merely marketing ploys, according to him. Antonetti commended the good quality of SA olive oil. He said that in SA olive oil producers press their own olives and focus primarily on quality, whereas in Europe oil producers focus on optimal extraction, sometimes at the expense of quality. – Wouter Kriel