How is cooking oil made from seeds

German Society for Fat Science

(from: M. Bockisch, food fats and oils, Ulmer Verlag, ISBN 3-8001-5817-5)

Since time immemorial man has unconsciously ingested fat with his food through plants, fish and meat. However, the use of oils and fats requires simple techniques. It was only with the discovery of the ability to make fire that it was possible to melt the fat of hunted animals and store it in this way. Such storage also includes the ability to store vessels such. B. to manufacture from clay. The fats and oils known from the early days were (HANSSEN, WENDT 1965) mutton tallow, lard and later butter, cream and fish oil for animal fats; in the case of vegetable fats, it was olives and sesame seeds and possibly linseed.

The use of fats and oils as food went hand in hand with their use as fuel up until the last century, and they were mainly used for lighting purposes. This is what the name "lampante" still suggests for certain qualities of olive oil. As in the olden days, they are still used today as a base for ointments and cosmetics. We know from pictures that there were food establishments early on. In WOOLEY (1929), for example, an Egyptian dairy farm is depicted, including the buttermaking process. ERMAN and RANKE (1923) form the workflow of a large Egyptian bakery of Ramses III. in Thebes around 1200 BC Chr. From; there a snail-like pastry is baked in oil.

In the Mediterranean and Asia, people used oil long before those in Central Europe. This was easily accessible because in the Mediterranean area with the olive and in the area of ​​the Euphrates and Tigris with the sesame oil plants were available that do not thrive in the temperate latitudes. The Bible also mentions oil in many places. Moses asked for it as a voluntary gift for the lamps of the tabernacles, and cakes and flatbreads were baked with unleavened oil (Exodus 29). It was customary to anoint oneself with oil, and Jacob anointed such a stone to make it holy. Stories in Luke show that oil was a commodity on a larger scale, for it is described that someone owed 100 barrels of oil to another (Luke 16, verse 5.6).

The importance of the olive tree for the peoples of the Mediterranean is also expressed by the fact that it was consecrated to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, in ancient Athens and later stood as the symbol of peace and promise. After the flood, the dove comes to Noah with an oil leaf in its beak (Genesis 8.11), a symbol for the continuation of the world.

PLINIUS describes the method of extracting olive oil from ripe fruits, which was common at the time, by pressing between screw presses. Butter ("thick, firm milk foam") is also mentioned, but only as a substitute for olive oil in times of need or for baking. Another known practice of fat technology was the remelting of lard for cleaning purposes.

Roman fat technology was widespread throughout the Mediterranean. Excavations in Tunis show the spread in North Africa, in Pompeii and Herculaneum entire processing plants consisting of oil mills, oil presses, oil shops and oil storage rooms were uncovered (UNION 1959). Because the fatty acids attacked copper, oil was transported in lead vessels, but also in tankers. These were carts that carried iron-strapped cowhides in which the oil was stored. Although poppy seeds were discovered in stilt houses in Switzerland dating from the 25th century BC, so it is likely that the residents were already familiar with poppy seed oil, the people north of the Alps were only able to get to know oil to a greater extent through the occupation of the Roman troops to have.

It is said that oil was also obtained from beechnuts. To do this, they were crushed, then wrapped in cloth and pressed between metal or stone slabs. Each larger farm harvested its own oil. Later agriculture made further progress, and rapeseed and linseed were added as additional oil crops. In the 16th century the profession of oil miller developed, who processed the farmers' seeds on a wage basis. The oil was obtained by grinding, pounding or pressing. Later they switched to screw presses. The power of the wind was used as a drive in windmills. In the course of further development, hydraulic presses emerged and from the middle of the 19th century there was the possibility of extracting oils and fats from the seeds using solvents.

With the conquest of the world by the seafaring European nations, the resources were expanded and previously unknown oil fruits with much higher than the usual oil / fat contents were brought to Europe. Until the cultivation of soybeans was extremely expanded, these supplied the major part of the vegetable fats and oils consumed in Europe. The explosion of the population in the industrialized countries of the world during the industrial revolution, combined with urbanization, led to a new situation. The population concentrated in the cities had to be fed. This required a completely new distribution system for food, which adapted to the change from self-sufficiency in small units (courtyards, villages or small towns) to industrial production. This resulted in new requirements for food, especially for its shelf life.

New products such as margarine and new techniques such as hardening contributed significantly to overcoming these challenges. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was mainly a question of satisfying basic needs, but in today's industrial society it is no longer a question of quantity. After the downturns caused by the world wars and the global economic crisis, during which "nourishing yourself" was in the foreground for a limited time again, the essential aspect of the 60s and 70s was that of enjoyment. Food was no longer primarily used as a supply of calories, but as a taste experience.

As a result, the main focus has shifted away from the production of quantities that were already available and towards quality. In particular, the emergence of the "health wave" has promoted the desire for quality. The fat industry made particular contributions here. The connection between myocardial infarction and diet was recognized early on. This knowledge was taken into account with a special range of products that help with prevention (e.g. becel). The excessive fat consumption of the general population and the consequences of being overweight led to the development of half-fat variants of various foods (e.g. you are allowed to). In the case of margarine, for example, a change in the law was necessary.

On the basis of margarines, food groups have emerged that enable a low-calorie diet or, as in the case of becel, provide cholesterol-free or low-cholesterol variants of various foods.

In the last few years a new trend can be observed that is affecting parts of the population. Sensitized by increasing environmental awareness, emphasis is placed on "naturalness". Even if the resulting demands are in part excessive and no longer have a clear basis, this will, at least in the more affluent countries, lead to changes in technology in some areas. In the poorer countries, which must make every effort to produce food purely for nutrition, that is, for survival, these trends are largely met with incomprehension. The priority here is clearly on basic provision for the population. The strong population growth of the earth leads to problems that can hardly be overestimated, but the fat production increased more and more than the population.