Olive oil; the liquid gold of the pantry. We all have it tucked behind the salt and pepper or in a four-litre drum on the bottom shelf or, if you’re fancy, a separate pourer that sits by the stovetop as part of the decor. Admit it, you have one. I do, too.
We all have our olive oil rituals. The urge to show off your olive oil actually dates back to Ancient Romans, and considering the Roman Empire is top of mind of late, I’m sure you’ll excuse a little history lesson.
In the ancient world, olive oil was more than just an ingredient. It was a status symbol. At dinner parties, the Romans served high-quality olive oil in glass bottles (‘aryballoi‘) to show off their luxurious commodity, signifying wealth and sophistication. Imagine going to a dinner party today and judging a person on the clarity and colour of their olive oil, especially now that new olive oil packaging seems to be coming from a plastic squeezy bottle.
While plastic squeezy bottles and attractive branding certainly appeal, I’ve stood in enough olive groves with master millers to know that olive oil is fickle and the housing needs to be just right to keep your olive oil the best it can be. So, the question remains; olive oil in a squeezy bottle — blessing or blasphemy?
To shed light on this matter, I turned to the EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) queen herself, Jacqui Challinor of NOMAD Group. Olive oil courses through her veins, finding its way into the delectable desserts at NOMAD and Reine & La Rue. One of her signature creations, the creamy jersey milk soft-serve olive oil dessert at Reine & La Rue, has earned a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts. Who can forget the legendary olive oil ice cream sandwich from NOMAD Sydney? Jacqui’s upbringing in a Maltese family ensured that EVOO was a household staple, fostering her personal love for this liquid gold.
However, when it comes to storing olive oil in plastic squeezy bottles, Challinor has her reservations.
“I think the squeezy bottles definitely go against all of the rules that we’ve all sort of learned about how to protect and preserve and extend the shelf life of an olive oil,” she said.
According to Challinor, olive oil has three big enemies: light, heat, and oxygen. Plastic squeezy bottles fail on all three fronts.
“When you see really beautiful high-end olive oils, they’re always kind of in those beautiful dark green glass bottles… to preserve the quality of the oil for as long as possible,” she explained. “So plastic squeezy bottles… I think for domestic use, that sort of packaging is just going to deteriorate the quality of the oils so quickly.”
The airtightness of these bottles leaves much to be desired, enabling oxygen to infiltrate and gradually oxidize, spoiling the oil. Moreover, they do little to protect the oil from damaging light exposure.
So why the move to plastic bottles? It’s not a new concept. If you’ve ever sat at a chef’s counter, you might have noticed them wielding a frosted plastic squeezy bottle of olive oil. The question naturally arises: If the professionals are doing it, why can’t we do it at home? Challinor explains that, in restaurants, they decant olive oil from massive tin drums into plastic squeezy bottles for ease of use.
“We top those bottles up two or three times a night because we know it’s going to be used within the next couple of hours,” she explained. “But we would never store it for long periods of time in the bottle.”
The shelf life of olive oil is a crucial factor in maintaining its quality. Olive oil is at its peak right after pressing and gradually deteriorates over time. So, by choosing bottles no more than six months old, you will get the best quality.
“Heat will obviously deteriorate the oil as well, so you want to make sure that it’s stored in a spot that’s not too hot or fluctuating in temperature too frequently.”
So, when using your fancy olive oil pourers, do remember to keep them away from the stove’s heat to safeguard the precious liquid within.
The Rise of the Squeezy Bottle
In the ongoing debate, plastic squeezy olive oil bottles seem to be gaining the upper hand, primarily due to their allure and convenience.
Enter Supper Supply, the reigning brand of choice for its user-friendly squeezy olive oil containers and captivating branding.
According to Broadsheet, co-founders Daniella Cohen and Billy Riddle were dissatisfied with the mundane presentation of traditional olive oil packaging, prompting them to revolutionise the industry. Their success is evident in the vibrant labels and ergonomically designed bottles, which not only look appealing but also offer enhanced control during pouring, a feat unmatched by most EVOO containers.
According to the label, the EVOO is made with olives picked and pressed at a family-owned grove in Victoria. After personally testing this EVOO for a month, I can vouch for its exceptional flavour profile. It boasts a delightful combination of grassy and vegetal notes with a subtle fruity undertone.
Prominently displayed on the bottle is the assertion “First Cold Pressed.” This particular buzzword, “cold pressed,” has gained widespread use in recent years, spanning from “cold pressed” apple juice to “cold pressed” milk. Yes, it’s a thing. Concerning EVOO, “cold pressed” signifies the extraction process, where temperatures are deliberately kept low to safeguard the olives’ inherent aroma and flavour.
When quizzed about the intricacies of the cold pressing method, Chef Challinor candidly admitted her limited knowledge. She pointed out the tendency to employ buzzwords like “cold press” in association with health benefits. She emphasized, “But it comes down to the big key things that are really good quality olive oil.”
According to Challinor, heat changes the nutritional properties of food. She likened it to the distinction between cooked vegetables and their fresh counterparts. She stressed that, ultimately, the healthiest olive oil you can obtain is a top-notch EVOO.
It’s worth noting that cold-pressed olive oil does offer advantages, as emphasised on Supper Supply’s product label. This method involves the crushing of olives without subjecting them to heat or chemical solvents, resulting in pure olive oil replete with nutrients, wholesome fats, and antioxidants.
While the plastic bottle issue, involving a separate debate on micro-plastics, is relevant, it’s worth noting that this particular bottle is designed in black to shield its contents from light and is crafted entirely from recycled post-consumer plastic. The date it was harvested is also scribbled on the label as the best-before date.
As far as squeezy olive oil bottles go, the decision ultimately rests with you.