Infused olive oil is delicious, looks beautiful in a glass bottle, and makes a nice gift. It’s great for dipping bread into, drizzling over vegetables, adding to salad dressings, or pouring over your vegan pizza to add some spice. The best kind of oil for both health, and for infusion, is cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, which is what we recommend. EVOO, as it is known, contains vitamins, heathy fatty-acids, antioxidants and is great in fighting many different health issues. However, others can work too, such as sunflower or walnut, which is great for salad dressings.
Safety is important in making your own infused oils. As the skins will be sitting in the oil you’re going to consume, buying organic (or growing your own herbs!) is ideal. Cleanliness of the containers used, moisture in the containers and storage are important as well, so look anything up that you are wary about before getting started on your own oils. Otherwise, this is a fun and simple culinary experiment!
There are many different flavors to use in your olive oil infusing. Some examples include chilies, hot peppers, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, peppercorns, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes. Herbs may be used fresh or dried; if they are fresh, the oil will need to be used more quickly and stored in the fridge. Drying your herbs and then rubbing them in order to bring out the maximum amount of flavor is another option, and this way you can keep the oil a bit longer once it has been jarred. Spices can be roasted in order to bring out more flavor before infusion and dry them out.
Infuse Oil by Cooking It
Oils can be infused quite simply by heating them on the stove. Just grind up your spices or herbs into the oil and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Carefully strain the oil through a sieve or cheesecloth into a clean container, or use immediately, such as pouring directly onto pasta dishes as a sauce.
Another way to make infused oil is to add ground herbs or spices to a jar, pour oil over the flavoring, and then place a lid on top of the jar, without tightening it. Put the jar on a hot plate to let simmer for a few hours. Once the oil is strong enough for your liking (be careful tasting it), strain and pour into a clean glass jar to let cool before storing.
The advantages of heating oil in order to infuse it include saving time. Heating spices and herbs will bring out their falvors quickly, allowing for convenient use of your yummy oils and not much planning in advance. If you’re using dried herbs, the heat helps bring out their flavor, as well.
Infuse Oil by Letting the Flavors Absorb
Letting the herbs and spices sit in the olive oil is the more traditional way of proceeding. Place herbs, spices, or anything else you’d like in there, in a jar. Pour your EVOO on top and then seal the jar up. Place it on a sunny windowsill for a week, swirling the jar about once a day. Check it after a week, and leave it if it needs more time, otherwise strain and funnel your creation into a lovely glass jar. If you’d like to improve the presentation, add a sprig of dried herbs or some roasted, dried chilies to spruce it up. Put a little bow on top and this makes a great gift!
Storing Your Oil
Store your oils in sterilized glass jars or containers. This can be done by simply running them through the dishwasher on a high heat setting or by steaming them. Be sure that they are totally dry before pouring your oil in, as you don’t want any moisture in the jars. Water in your oil containers can be unsafe, as the moisture in any type of food in oil can go rancid or grow bacteria. There are ways to avoid this, such as using preserved ingredients or only dried herbs and spices. If you use anything fresh, such as garlic, be very careful to store your oil somewhere cold and then use it all up rather quickly.
Just remember that making infused oils at home is a creative project, and it may take a few tries for you to figure out what you like best. So long as you are aware of the safety precautions, there’s really no possibility of a bad result! Add your oil to marinades, dressings, sauces or simply dip bread in and enjoy!
Image source: USDA/Flickr