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Make Your Own Herb Infused Olive Oil
[Updated 1 June 2020]One of the easiest ways to add extra pizzazz to just about anything from salads to roasted vegetables or meats is to make herb-infused olive oil using your own selection of flavorings. You can use them to jazz up salad dressings, add character and backbone to a pan of onions, or make mayo with a kick – anytime you use oil to cook with, you’ve got some great tasty options to turn to.
Most herb infused oil recipes use robust herb and spice combinations and you basically leave them long enough to impart good flavor, then strain out the herbs before re-bottling – about 14 days is ideal. Once you’ve strained and re-bottles the oils, store in a cool dark place and use within six months.
A common mistake is leaving fresh herbs in oil for too long. If you do they will go off. Unless you only infuse a small quantity and use it within two weeks, you’ll have to toss it shortly thereafter – and that gets expensive with top quality oil.
The Best Oil For Herb Infusions
This is a discussion up for grabs and you may have gotten here searching for ways to make flavored olive oil. The truth is it’s entirely up to you whether you use olive oil or something lighter like corn oil – but it does depend on what you want to use it for because of the smoking point of the oil. There’s a post here on the best oils for cooking with which goes into this in depth.
Go click the link above for a full explanation but in short, olive oil isn’t suited to high-temperature frying, it has a lower smoking point and is best confined to medium frying. If you aren’t already clued up on this, do go have a read because it will help you make the right infused cooking oils for different cooking styles while keeping you and your kitchen smoke-free!
Most commonly I use rapeseed or grapeseed because they have a high smoke point and don’t have the strong flavor of olive oil – but for salad dressings or lightly browning meat for winter casseroles, olive oil adds a depth the others lack. The obvious and simple solution is to use a selection of different oils and the trick is not to make too much at a time – you’ll keep it 6 months maximum, so just make one pint or so at a time of two or three different types of oil and you’ll have everything covered.
If like me you use herbs from the garden, then the best time to pick them and do this is in on a hot sunny day when the oils in your herbs are drawn up by the sun – it really does make a difference to the depth and strength of the infusion. Storing the infused oils is important and if you can resist having your creations out on display in the light, they’ll keep better, retaining strength and depth of aroma. Left in the light to degrade you’ll lose a lot of both.
If you use an oil spritzer bottle, when you strain and re-bottle your infused oil don’t forget to half fill one of these as well – then get spritzing over salads, veggies or prior to frying meat. The oil won’t keep for long in a spritzer, a couple of months at most – use it or lose it!
Herb Infused Olive Oil Recipe
Lightly pack a sterilized jar or bottle with any combination of freshly gathered herbs. Rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano or sage all work well – use them in combination or on their own. You can add peppercorns and/or garlic cloves – if you like your oils with a kick add chili or two.
Pour oil over the herbs leaving a small gap at the top and seal up – you don’t need to heat the oil at all for this. Leave for two weeks and strain the oil before re-bottling into clean sterilized containers – use within six months.
Very Nicely Spicy Oil
Take 1 tablespoon each of cumin, fennel and coriander seeds plus a couple of dried chili pods and put in a dry frying pan – you can add peppercorns too if you like.
Toast them gently, shaking the pan frequently until they begin to release their fragrance – usually when they just start to brown.
Now crush lightly – I use a pestle and mortar, before transferring to a dry sterilized bottle – pour the oil over the spices and fill almost to the top. Leave for two weeks in a cool dark place before straining and rebottling.
For this recipe, you’ll heat the oil to 40C so put it on first and do use a cooking thermometer for this, don’t guess.
Split open 6 – 8 fresh or dry chili pods and pack into a sterile jar or bottle, add a teaspoon of peppercorns then when the oil reaches temperature, pour over almost to the top and seal up. Leave for 10-14 day or a little longer for a hotter kick – another week is more than enough, then strain and re-bottle.
Now Combine Your Own Spices And Herbs
When you’ve looked over what’s involved and seen how dead easy it is to make herb-infused olive oil or to infuse any cooking oil, I’m sure you’ll have some great herb or spice combinations of your own – so have fun and get flavoring – you’ve still got plenty of time to make your own infused oils for summer salad dressings and to be ready for the seasonal rush.