How to Store Olive Oil to Make it Last

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| Sun, 06/23/2024 - 04:00
Olive oil in ceramic jars

Knowing how to properly store olive oil can make it last for months / Photo: Dolceterra

If stored correctly, a few drops of extra virgin olive oil can give a slice of unsalted bread a complex flavor, leaving a tingle on your tongue. But storing olive oil, just like harvesting and processing the green gold liquid, is an art.    

Italy, the world’s third-largest olive oil producer after Spain and Greece has, over the last 30 years, almost tripled its global olive oil export, according to the agricultural association Coldiretti. But with climate change disrupting output and economic shifts spiking prices, high-quality olive oil — what Homer called “liquid gold” — is becoming a more precious commodity. Like wine, there are olive oils that are a kitchen investment and others that are relegated to plastic packages, but the olive oil we are talking about is fresh and needs to be handled with care. We asked the Italian culinary experts at Dolceterra for tips on what you can do to store one of your pantry’s most prized possessions for optimal longevity.

Recognize the traits of quality olive oil 

Knowing how to store olive oil is one step, but first you have to start with quality
A quality olive oil will list the harvest location and date on the bottle / Photo: Georgios Tsichlis via Shutterstock

Before you get to storage, you have to start with high-quality oil. While you don’t have to pick a gold medal award-winning bottle, there are some details to pay attention to. A harvest date on the bottle will tell you the oil’s age, and within the last 18 months of purchase is optimal, though the earlier the better. An ingredients list should include only olives and even state the harvest location. If buying olive oil directly from Italy, you can look for a DOP designation, which certifies the origin and authenticity of the oil. Then there’s the taste, and fresh extra virgin olive oil will have a peppery spiciness on your tongue while one that’s not pure or that has gone past its prime will feel heavy, waxy or greasy. The color can vary from green to golden depending on several factors such as the type of olives and when they were harvested, with green olive oil coming from early-harvest olives. But how the olive oil is packaged is also crucial as the minute it’s bottled it can begin oxidizing if not stored properly. 

Understand how to store olive oil

How to store olive oil is as important as buying a high-quality bottle
Knowing how to store olive oil is as important as buying a quality bottle / Photo: BearFotos via Shutterstock

Opaque ceramic jars have been used to store olive oil for more than 8,000 years, as archaeological digs in the Middle East have revealed. When you see olive oil in a painted ceramic jar, the producer didn’t only choose that design to give you a decorative piece to add to your kitchen — it’s also functional. To thrive, olive oil needs to be hidden from heat, light and oxygen, and ceramic storage with a stopper covers all of those elements. The worst way to store your olive oil is next to your stove, and keeping it in a clear glass bottle topped with a spout with a small opening (if you are at a restaurant and olive oil is served to you that way, chances are the quality is less than stellar). All of these characteristics will decrease the oil’s shelf life, as its chemical and organoleptic characteristics are damaged. Ceramic, on the other hand, regulates the oil’s temperature and a tight seal (such as a cork) prevents oxidation. Even when you bring your oil out of the pantry to use it, it won’t be exposed to light if it’s in a ceramic jar, providing a level of protection that goes beyond the clear glass bottle that many oils are sold in. Another option is to have two storage areas with one larger bottle that is in the cupboard and a smaller one that’s refilled and used for cooking. But both bottles or jars need to protect the oil from elements that harm its quality. 

Invest in ceramic

Ceramic is one of the most effective ways to store olive oil
For thousands of years, ceramic has been used to store olive oil — because it works / Photo: Dolceterra

Potters in Vietri sul Mare in Campania have been creating durable storage for olive oil since Ancient Roman times, benefiting from their coastal location and clay-rich earth. Vietri’s modern industry took hold in the 1920s with international appeal. A revival of the craft by artists led to a boom in the colorfully-decorated pottery that Campania is known for with a distinctive Vietri yellow. Illustrated jars can make your olive oil the true star of your kitchen. 

Ready to add olive oil stored in a ceramic jar to your pantry? Dolceterra has a wide selection of oils that can be shipped nearly anywhere in the world.

Dolceterra transports the authentic Italian culinary experience directly to your doorstep, delivering the Italian dolce vita across the United States and the rest of the world. The founders are Italian, dedicated to carefully selecting the best artisanal gourmet products from every region, including pasta, cheese and extra virgin olive oil, with a focus on quality and attention to detail.