Best Practices for Producing Flavored Olive Oil

The polyphenol content of flavored olive oil produced by addition of herbs to crushed olives before the malaxation step was almost three times higher than that of untreated olive oil.

Apr. 27, 2016
By Sukhsatej Batra

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While olive oils fla­vored with dif­fer­ent herbs and spices are becom­ing pop­u­lar, use of fla­vored olive oil is not a new trend. In fact, olive oil infused with fen­nel, sesame, juniper, mint, cel­ery, sage, water­cress, flow­ers and other spices was used by ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians as med­i­cine and in cos­met­ics. Nowadays, fla­vored olive oil is used in spe­cialty salad dress­ings, pasta dishes and as an appe­tizer for dip­ping bread.

The most com­mon process of prepar­ing fla­vored olive oil is the infu­sion method. This is a time-con­sum­ing process where finely ground herbs are soaked in olive oil for spec­i­fied lengths of time accom­pa­nied by peri­odic shak­ing. In the final step, the olive oil is fil­tered to remove traces of the fla­vor­ing agents.

However, as pop­u­lar­ity and demand for fla­vored olive oil increases, there is the need to find a faster method to pro­duce fla­vored olive oil with­out sac­ri­fic­ing qual­ity or nutri­tional value of the EVOO.

To this end, researchers from the University of Bari in Italy tried to stream­line the process of pro­duc­ing fla­vored olive oil on a large scale.

Their aim was to study dif­fer­ent meth­ods for the pro­duc­tion of fla­vored olive oil that would not only enhance the qual­ity of the fla­vored olive oil but also extend the shelf life with­out com­pro­mis­ing the chem­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, polyphe­nol con­tent and rad­i­cal scav­eng­ing activ­ity of the olive oils.

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For the study, the researchers extracted olive oil from olives har­vested from olive groves in Andria, Italy in the 2013 – 2014 crop sea­sons and fla­vored it with two pop­u­lar herbs, oregano and thyme.

The three meth­ods used to fla­vor olive oil were sim­ple infu­sion of olive oil with ground herbs; adding herbs to crushed olives before the malax­a­tion step dur­ing extrac­tion of olive oil; and adding herbs to crushed olives before the malax­a­tion step dur­ing extrac­tion of olive oil and treat­ing the with energy pro­duced by sound waves using ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy. The use of ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy boosts cav­i­ta­tion, which could be used to opti­mize arom­a­ti­za­tion of the olive oils with herbs.

The researchers deter­mined the acid­ity, per­ox­ide val­ues , rad­i­cal scav­eng­ing activ­ity and polyphe­nol con­tent of the fla­vored olive oil to assess the qual­ity of the treated oils.

Results showed that the fla­vor­ing method did not affect the acid­ity of the olive oil and all fla­vored olive oils had low val­ues for acid­ity, per­ox­ide value, K232 and K270.

However, irre­spec­tive of the method used to fla­vor olive oil, the addi­tion of herbs was found to sig­nif­i­cantly increase the total polyphe­nol con­tent of the fla­vored olive oil. The great­est increase in polyphe­nol con­tent was observed in fla­vored olive oils pro­duced by the addi­tion of herbs to crushed olives before the malax­a­tion step, which was almost three times higher than that of the con­trol or untreated olive oil.

The authors hypoth­e­size that the water in olive paste may act as a sol­vent and improve extrac­tion of organic acids into the oil while the con­tin­u­ous mix­ing of olive paste could pos­si­bly play a part in increas­ing release of polyphe­nols from oregano and thyme into the olive oil.

The ultra­sound treat­ment of olive paste was effec­tive in main­tain­ing the qual­ity of fla­vored olive oil and found to increased the total polyphe­nol con­tent of olive oil by about 13 per­cent. This could be pos­si­bly due to dis­rup­tion bio­log­i­cal cell walls of the crushed olives and herbs by energy pro­duced by the ultra­sound tech­nol­ogy. This method was found to increase the con­cen­tra­tion of the polyphe­nols — tyrosol, hydrox­y­ty­rosol and oleu­ropein in the fla­vored olive oils.

Furthermore, the addi­tion of herbs to the olive paste before the malax­a­tion step also improved the rad­i­cal scav­eng­ing activ­ity of the fla­vored olive oils.

According to the authors of this study, effi­cient and effec­tive large-scale pro­duc­tion of fla­vored olive oil can be achieved by adding herbs to olive paste before the malax­a­tion step to pro­duce olive oils with higher con­cen­tra­tions of total polyphe­nols and increased rad­i­cal scav­eng­ing abil­ity. They rec­om­mend test­ing the suit­abil­ity of this method in pro­duc­ing olive oil fla­vored with veg­eta­bles, fruits, spices and other herbs as well.


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