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With the extra virgin olive oils it occurs as with the wines: depending on the variety of grape or olives (depending on the case) from which they come they will bring very different aromas and flavors. When it comes to using it at the kitchen, many wonder which is the strongest or, on the contrary, which one has a smoother flavor. But the truth is that the oils must be chosen depending on the type of dish they accompany, so that their organoleptic qualities enhance the characteristics of the food to be prepared.

Of the 262 varieties of olives that exist in Spain, we will focus on the most important ones:

Picual

The most widespread variety, its oil is the most intense of all, something spicy and with notes of wood. When raw it enhances the flavor of ham, cecina, sausages and cheeses. Not being too flavored it is the ideal for stir-fries.

Arbequina

Its oil is the softest of the varieties we show here. It is sweet with almond flavor and apple and banana aromas. It combines well with tomato, anchovies, marinated salmon and seafood carpaccio. It is perfect to prepare a soft mayonnaise or to enhance the flavor of grilled white fish. It is very appropriate to take crude and pastry dough. This is the variety of Spanish oil that is sold the most abroad.

Hojiblanca

Of golden tones and soft flavor, it could be said that its oil is between the Picual and the Arbequina. It has an almond aftertaste, with a slight itching in the mouth and fruity notes. Hojiblanca oil is ideal for crustaceans and blue fish such as salmon; it enhances the flavor of dishes such as gazpacho or salmorejo and is appropriate as a seasoning for meat carpaccio.

Cornicabra

Very aromatic variety and with a lot of personality. This oil is ideal for the preparation of bakery and pizza doughs. Its apple aroma and its slight itch enhance the flavor of the meat roasts. It is a good companion for smoked or pate.

We do not want to conclude without first making a warning about oils that carry the qualification of soft and intense on their label. There are currently only three ways to classify this product according to European regulations and the International Olive Oil Council: “extra virgin olive oil”, “virgin olive oil” and “olive oil”. The category “extra virgin” and “virgin” is attributed to oils that do not carry any type of mixture with the lower categories and has always been obtained by mechanical or physical processes. The classification like just ”olive oil” , corresponds to the worst quality, the result of refining oils such as lampante olive oil, not suitable for consumption, which is then added 10/20% of virgin olive oil of any of the two first categories, which would give it some flavor and smell. In other cases the olive oil can be the result of having used degraded olives, or having suffered problems in the manufacturing process.

For several years, different commercial brands have included the names “mild” and “intense” in the category “olive oil” (refined with some virgin). This new denomination, as highlighted by the Spanish Association of Municipalities of Olivo is not included in any legislation and tends to create confusion in the consumer, since in some way it covers the refined olive oil.

So, next time, when you go looking for a good oil, remember, no soft olive oil on the label, only extra virgin olive oil.