Infusing Olive Oil

infusing olive oil

Herb season is in full swing and I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to preserve as much of the aroma of summer as I can. After herb butter, here’s another great way to do just that: making infused oils.

Create amazing flavors by mixing & matching your favorite spices, herbs and aromatics for a truly unique oil blend perfect for amping up salad dressings, drizzling over pasta and seafood, dipping bread into and so much more!

Before you start, it’s important that we talk about food safety. Although the oil itself will not, remaining traces of water in the aromatics might support bacterial growth, inducing a risk of botulism, a rare but very serious form of food poisoning. Clostridium botulinum bacteria are germs found in the soil and can survive, grow, and produce toxins in a sealed jar of food. Always sterilize your containers thoroughly and dry the herbs before using.

What kind of oil should be used? Any neutrally flavored oil will work fine, but olive oil is a natural choice since it complements a wide variety of flavors. There’s no need to splurge on the most expensive bottles, but using decent, good quality is always the way to go.

What should you infuse oil with? Garlic, chili peppers, basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme and tarragon are my top suggestions. You will need about 2 tablespoons of flavoring per cup of oil.

There are two ways of making infused oils:

The cold process. Immerse the ingredients in the oil, seal the bottle and let sit in a cool, dark place. The oil will slowly infuse over time, picking up the flavor fairly quickly in the first few weeks, and then slowly intensifying. It is fine to leave the herbs in for a long time, eventually all the flavor leaves them and the oil flavor stabilizes.

The stovetop process. Heat the oil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat with the spices (whole or ground) for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. This way the oil infuses quicker and the risk of bacterial growth is further reduced. Note that boiling affects the flavor and quality of the oil! Use a food thermometer (like this one) and keep temperature below boiling.

How to store? Keep flavored oils refrigerated and use up within a few months. Discard immediately if characteristics (smell, color, consistency) have changed in any way. When gifting flavored oils, include storage instructions as well as serving suggestions on a pretty label.

Love,

Fruzsi

Title image: ‘Healthy ingredients on a kitchen table’ by Valeria Aksakova via freepik

*Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link; I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

Travel Diary: Dalmatian Olive Oil

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Handlettering “Olive Oil” by Ekaterina Koroleva

Before you ask, I’m not turning My Chest of Wonders into a travel blog. On the other hand, there were some aspects to the late summer vacay we took to the Croatian Adriatic that you guys can surely relate to: food, of course.

We were pondering the number of visits to our southern neighbour’s amazing seaside with the Fiance on the 8-hour drive, but couldn’t come up with a figure. Many, many times. Only thing that’s sure is that my first trip to the country was in 1997, shortly after the Yugoslav War.

Croatia can roughly be divided into 3 regions: Mainland including the capital city, the peninsula of Istria close to Italy, and coastal Dalmatia, people and culture being different in each territorial unit. That includes architecture, dialects, and you guessed, cuisine too. From a culinary point of view the seaside is more interesting to me, thanks to the Mediterranean and Italian-influenced eating habits.

We got some cloudy days, and admittedly there’s not much to do in the tiny seaside settlements when you can’t go to the beach. That is why we were thrilled to have found a brochure on the reception desk advertising olive oil tasting in Marušići, the next village just a kilometer down the winding coastal road. Off we went, and what an experience it was!

Naturally, olive oil is widely available at home too, but it’s quite a new addition to the average Hungarian kitchen. Even my parents’ generation was raised on meals prepared with lard. Yes, that is pig fat, horrific as it may sound for some (note to self: write an entry in its defence). Ok Fruzsi, focus. Since Hungary’s climate is not suitable for growing olives general knowledge, or at least mine for sure, is quite limited when it comes to olive oil.

Well, Orgula and our lovely hostess Bojana changed that for us. We had the pleasure of trying 3 different extra virgin olive oils accompanied with local delicacies, and got a tour of the olive mill too. You have to go see it for yourself, but here’s a teaser trailer:

The beginnings of olive growing in Dalmatia date back to the late Bronze Age. It is estimated that around 4.5 million olive trees are thriving in the barren soil today with Oblica, an indigenous variety taking up the majority of olive groves.

olive tree with the sea

On the steep south-facing karst slopes unsuitable for irrigation and machine farming, the finest quality olive oil with moderate bitterness and pungency and a strong smell of fresh olive fruit is still produced mostly within family farms. This is what you call heritage.

It takes 10 to 15 kg of olives, harvested manually in the late autumn months, to make 1 liter of oil, the intensity of taste depending on the maturity of the fruit (the riper the olives, the milder the oil).

olive oil tasting

Orgula extracts oil with cold-press method in the modern mill for a commission and also sells its own branded products on the spot. The guided oil tasting, somewhat similar to a wine tasting, takes place on the terrace with a spectacular view of the sea and island Brač under clear skies, or in the tasting room if weather’s bad.

orgula olive oil tasting cups

This tapas-like culinary experience is perfect as a light lunch or dinner. All the food we had along the oils (fresh and aged cheese, various breads, sea salt, wine and non-alcoholic drinks) were locally made and organic, served on the most amazing olive wood trays.

dalmatian tapas

Our sincerest compliments to the company for this initiative creating a new attraction for the tourism palette and surprising a couple who thought they’d seen all Dalmatia has to offer. A great spot you’d be sorry to miss on your next trip to the Adriatic. Can’t wait to open the bottle of Premium, Orgula’s most intense and characteristic oil favored by locals, to offer our family and friends to enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Images © Orgula Group

Herb Marinated Feta

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According to mythology, the gods sent Aristaios, son of Apollo, to teach Greeks the art of cheese making. This way or that, dating back to the 8th century BC, feta, a brined curd white cheese was born. It is a protected designation of origin product in the European Union, only cheeses produced in a traditional way in particular areas of Greece made from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk can be called feta. However, similar white cheeses are produced in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans (made partly or wholly of cow’s milk). And I happen to be living around here! #luckygirl

herb-marinated-feta-cubes

Seriously, is there anyone on the planet who doesn’t like feta? I think not. And if you have about 5 minutes, I’ll show you how to take your cheese-eating to the next level by marinating it in herb-infused, fruity olive oil. Again, this is a delectable treat you may have encountered in your supermarket before that looks incredibly fancy and comes with a slightly outrageous price tag. Once you try your hands at it though, there’s no turning back: it will leave the commercial kind for dead.

herb-marinated-feta-ingredients

A Mediterranean-inspired smooth and spreadable delight, this crowd pleaser is sure to bring rave reviews from family and friends. Marinated feta is an impressive dinner party appetizer, an elegant hostess gift or a great addition to your wine o’clock menu, making you look like a culinary star. Spread it on crusty artisan bread, crumble onto salads, scatter over pizza or stick a toothpick in the cubes to serve as it is. Oh, and please, please do not discard of the remainig oil! It is great to toss with pasta, as a marinade for olives, roasting potatoes or vegetables, and as base for a vinaigrette too.

So without further ado, here’s how you do it. Start with a clean, sterilized jar and add chunks of feta (or any other kind of white cheese, use what’s available), the size you prefer. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and pour olive oil into the jar until the cheese is submerged. This is somewhere you don’t need to use the best, most expensive olive oil. Add dried herbs and/or spices (don’t be shy), seal jar and store in the fridge. Allow flavors to develop at least 24 hours, but patience is virtue – the longer the cheese is infusing the better. Refrigerated, marinated feta will keep for up to a month if completely covered with oil. The olive oil may thicken in the fridge, but will turn to liquid again at room temperature.

herb-marinated-feta-jar

To kick-start your imagination, here’s a not-at-all inclusive list of the wonderful things you can flavor the marinating oil with: rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, chives, dill, bay leaves, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, chili peppers, peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds, green olives. Mix and match as you like!

This works with mozzarella just as well. Just sayin’… 😉

Fruzsi

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