What Oils can be used
Any cooking oil can be used, but bear in mind, the stronger flavor of the oil will also come through with the herbal flavor, so I prefer to use a light oil that has no strong flavor of its own, such as grape seed oil, but any cooking oil of your preference can be used. For Mediterranean foods, you may want to use Olive Oil. For Asian foods you may wish to use Peanut Oil or other nut oils. But I find the Grape Seed oil is a good all around oil to use and it will not alter the flavor of the herbs and spices used in the infusion.
What Herbs and Spices to use
A single herb or combination can be used. You can use fresh or dried herbs and spices, combinations can be as varied as the cooking methods and cuisine. The more herb and spice combinations, the more complex the flavors will be.
If you enjoy spicy foods, use peppercorns, red pepper flakes, cumin and garlic combinations, if you do a lot of Italian food preparations, use those herbs common in Italian foods, such as Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary and Basil. If you enjoy a Mediterranean cuisine, try Fennel and Garlic combinations. As you see the combinations can be as varied as the foods you enjoy or if gift giving, those foods that you know your recipient prepares.
If giving as gifts, you will want to allow at least one month prior to the event, to allow time for the flavors to infuse in the oil. An array of flavored oils make great additions to gift baskets, along with kitchen and food items that coordinate with those oils. If the oils are intended for making salad oils, you might add a salad bowl and serving set, a bottle of wine vinegar and bread sticks as an example. Add labels to the oils and instructions for use. There are fancy bottles and jars available in some specialty stores and online, suitable for gift giving.
Once the oils have been infused, they should be refrigerated, since there are no preservatives used, and like all oils they can go rancid. To use, remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to use to allow the oil to be pourable.
What you Need
Glass bottles or jars with air tight lids
Funnels (various sizes, for bottles and jars)
Slow Cooker (optional) or Sauce Pan
Fine mesh sieve
Cheese Cloth or Coffee Filters
Kitchen Knife (thin blade, to remove air bubbles
Sharp knife (for chopping herbs)
Scissors (for cutting herbs)
Mortar and Pestle for crushing herbs and spices
Salad Spinner (optional, but useful to help dry herbs)
If using fresh herbs, wash and dry thoroughly before placing in the oils. If there is water on the herbs, they can spoil during the infusion process.
You can use a variety of methods to prepare your infused oils.
Mason Jar Method:
My preferred method is to pack herbs and spices into a mason jar then cover with a light cooking oil, set aside for up to a month in a cool, dark environment such as a cupboard or pantry. Strain into clean jars or bottles. This method takes up to a month to infuse the oil, but only takes a matter of minutes to prepare. The hard part is waiting for the infusion to take place.
Slow Cooker Method:
A quicker method is to use a slow cooker. Place the herbs and spices in the slow cooker, or in a mason jar, cover with oil, then set the dial to low or warm. (if using a mason jar, pour water into the slow cooker, up to 1/2 or 3/4 of the way up the outside of the jar. Allow the oil to slowly heat for an hour or two, then turn off the appliance and allow to cool before straining into clean jars or bottles. (see note below) This method is quicker than the prior method, however it is important that your slow cooker have a dial adjustment because they can get very hot and you will need to watch to prevent boiling if your slow cooker does not have a heat adjustment. Note: I do not strain right away, I cap the jar, then allow the herbs to continue to infuse in the oils up to a week, rotating the jar top to bottom at least once a day to extract as much of the volatile herb oils and fragrance as possible, then strain into clean bottles or jars.
You can do the infusion on the stovetop. Place the herbs and spices in a mason jar, then in a sauce pan with water up to 1/2 or 3/4 of the way up the outside of the jar, cover the herbs with oil, then slowly heat on the stove for one to two hours. but do not allow to boil. Stir periodically to allow all the herbs and spices to blend. This method is quicker than other methods, however you will need to keep an eye on it and stir as needed.
If using Fresh herbs, the last two methods are the best methods. Fresh herbs can spoil and ruin the infusion, not to mention making the oils unsafe for culinary use. This is especially true if using fresh garlic. Oils using garlic must be used in a short time to prevent the risk of botulism. I prefer to use dried garlic if using the garlic at all.
Once the oils are infused, strained and poured into your chosen container, you can add fresh clean, dry herbs to the oil for presentation and identification if desired. It is best to use small jars or bottles for the oils, so they can be used within a month or so to prevent spoilage. If you are making as gifts, you can make larger quantity, then divide the oils into several small bottles or jars.
Suggested Use: You can use these infusions to make homemade beauty and body products as an excellent carrier oil. You'll benefit from the natural anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, plus the vitamins and minerals, to help promote healthy skin and many herbs are beneficial in treating skin issues such as dry, cracked hands and feet, acne, eczema and rosacea.
To make your own Oregano oils, follow the link:
To make your own Basil oil, follow the link:
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