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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Olive oil, the very heart of the Greek Orthodoxy - Make your own aromatic oil

The sacred trait the olive tree enjoyed from antiquity was in the early Christian era, transferred to its product olive oil. Olive oil is mentioned both in the Old and New Testament. It became a mystical element. 

The most important of the sacraments, that of baptism, which seals the baptised as a servant of God, cannot be performed in the Greek Orthodox Church without olive oil. The infant is rubbed with olive oil from head to toe, immersed in water three times and then anointed with Holy Myrrh, which is a mixture of olive oil mixed and various other aromatic oils. Its preparation, most sacred, is the sole privilege of the Head of the Greek Orthodox Church. Colloquially, the unbaptised are often referred to as alathoti—unoiled, or unanointed.

Monasteries in Greece almost always include an olive grove. The olive crop secured the sustenance of the monks and the oil is necessary for the burning of lamps before the icons or for performing the sacraments. Today many monasteries bottle part of their olive oil and at times visitors can purchase some.
Greeks also make offerings of olive oil to churches and monasteries. To this day one still sees bottles of oil left in church by the faithful, used mainly to light the votives.

Virgin olive oil is also produced using mechanical means only, and has an acidity of up to 2 percent. 

Olive oil not marked “extra-virgin” or “virgin” is a blend of virgin and refined oil, the latter being produced at very high temperatures, causing it to lose many of its properties. Cold-pressed oil has been extracted in presses where the temperature is no higher than 27 Celsius, beyond which the oil loses some of its nutritional benefits.

Over 95 percent of olive oil consists of fatty acids, particularly monounsaturated fats that help prevent arteriosclerosis and heart disease. A diet rich in olive oil improves the health of those suffering from hypertension, gallstones, stomach ulcers and rheumatic diseases.Contrary to popular belief, the nutritional benefits of olive oil are fairly heat-resistant, but it is better to add it at the end of the cooking time and in moderation, as it is high in calorie content.

Make your own aromatic oil
Add your favorite herb, peppers, garlic cloves mushrooms, orange or lemon peel (unwaxed, organic), sun-dried tomatoes, capers, chilies, cumin or allspice pods to add spice to your salad oil, or use a combination of these.Choose good-quality oil with a smooth taste, such as that from Mytilene.The spices should be fresh and the herbs very clean and dried with their aroma intact.Use sterilized and well-dried bottles.Once filled and the spice or herb added, close tightly and store in a cool dark place, never in the sun. The full flavor will be acquired after at least two weeks.For a milder flavor, remove the solids after two weeks and transfer the oil to a clean bottle after filtering it through a piece of gauze or a coffee filter.If you leave the herb in the bottle, remove it once it protrudes above the surface of the oil or the flavor could spoil.

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