Olive oil is the “juice” of the olive and is a factor that brings a balance to our diet. It is a main staple in the Portuguese cuisine and culture and it is one of the key reasons for the healthy character of Mediterranean cooking. Rich in antioxidants, it helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and maintain higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
A common ingredient in most recipes, it can also be eaten uncooked, such as in salads and fish sauce, or simply with bread.
In Portugal there are six regions with the title Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which certifies the quality of the olive produced in each region according to its variety. The most common is the “Galega” (Galician Olive), with predominance in the Central Region and to the south. It produces a smooth, sweet olive oil which is slightly bitter and quite spicy.
The olive oils from the region of Oporto and North (Trás-os-Montes) are intense and have unique characteristics compared to those grown in other regions due to the fact that they introduce different varieties of olives. Oils from Alentejo (Norte Alentejano, Alentejo Interior and Moura) are another rarity in terms of flavour. The mixture of varieties, including the “Galega”, produces olives that are less bitter and spicy, but more intense than those from Trás-os-Montes.
Olives from the Lisbon Region (Ribatejo) have a yellow-golden tone, sometimes slightly greenish. With a thick and fruity character, the olive oil from Ribatejo owes its excellence to the limestone soil and the Mediterranean climate of the region, ideal for the cultivation of olive trees.
The choice of olive oil in each case is held by the titles Virgin and Extra-virgin. The Virgin olive oil can be heated, making it suitable for cooking soups, roasts or marinades. Considered of superior quality and with smoother flavour, the Extra-Virgin olive oil is ideal to eat raw because it doesn’t tolerate being heated.
Another pecuarity about olive oil derives from its use in regional sweets and desserts.
The colour of the olive is a good indicator of the flavour. Generally, greener olives have fruitier aromas and flavours.