Why should you infuse olive oil with herbs? Because for one, it is definitely more flavorful, rich, and delicious when it is infused with the herbs rather than having them freshly sprinkled on any meal. The infusion of herbs and olive oil adds a delightful punch to any meal, and can be used as a marinade, drizzled on a salad, or on bread and in a yummy pasta dish. Further, you can even give these bottles of infused olive oils as gifts; easy to make and relatively inexpensive too. Now, while not difficult, you need to be quite careful when infusing olive oil at home.
When carrying out this process, you first need to decide whether you will be using fresh herbs or dried herbs. The shelf life of olive oil infused with dried herbs is longer than that of fresh herbs. Since fresh herbs contain moisture, there is a risk of developing botulism, an illness that is caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria that can grow due to the moisture in the oil. As such, olive oil infused with fresh herbs should be refrigerated and consumed within exactly ten days of preparation. Here, we provide you with the correct method of infusing olive oil with herbs.
How to Infuse Olive Oil with Dried Herbs
Collect the herbs you wish to infuse the olive oil with. These include dried rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, tarragon, bay leaves, parsley, and mint.
- If the herbs are fresh you can wash them thoroughly and dry them in natural sunlight or using a food dehydrator.
- Sterilize an elegant bottle with a cork or screw on lid if using as a gift, or any other container you would like to pour the oil in. Do this by placing the container in a pan of hot water for ten minutes. Ensure it is completely dry before you use it.
- Put a few herbs in the bottle depending on the kind of flavor you wish to elicit. For mild flavors use only a few stems in the jar. For stronger flavors crush the leaves and put them in the jar. Use extra virgin olive oil for richer flavors and pour it into the container using a funnel.
- Allow the olive oil to infuse in a cool, dark area for at least over a week. If you wish to gift it, you may allow a sprig of a herb such as rosemary or thyme remain in the bottle. Else, you may strain the oil and use it whenever you wish to, so that, the herbs do not overpower the flavor of the oil. There should be a delicate balance between the flavors of the herbs and that of the oil.
How to Infuse Olive Oil with Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs that can be infused with olive oil include garlic, bell peppers, lemon peels, the aforementioned fresh varieties of herbs, and other spicy peppers.
- Wash the chosen herbs thoroughly and place them aside to dry.
- Take about 5 ounces of the herbs and blend them in a food processor to a smooth puree. If they cannot be pureed at least ensure that they are finely chopped.
- In a small saucepan, pour about 10 ounces of olive oil along with one teaspoon of lemon juice. This oil is to be heated until it is warm on a low flame, or for 15 minutes. Add the blended herbs and let them heat with the oil. Do not make the oil too hot as it will lose all its beneficial properties. If you see the risk of the oil getting too hot, use a double boiler to warm the olive oil.
- Pour the oil into a clean, sterilized jar through a funnel and let it cool.
- Keep the oil in the refrigerator for a week before you use it. Also, you may strain the oil and then use it. As mentioned earlier, ensure that you use it up as early as possible to prevent the occurrence of any kind of health problem.
When infusing olive oil with dried herbs, ensure that it is used within two months of preparation, and is always stored in a cool, dark place. With fresh herbs, these should always be stored in the refrigerator, and should be prepared in amounts that can be consumed quickly.
As you can see, infusing olive oil with herbs is fairly simple, and can be done in a matter of minutes. To gift this deliciously flavored oil, decorate the bottle by placing sprigs of dried herbs in the bottle. You may also place full garlic cloves and lemon peels for a rich look. Use elegant bottles and add a message tag to the bottle on which you have written your personal message along with instructions on using it before a specific date. It is a gift that will definitely be appreciated by your friends or family.