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!*

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Garlic Confit

garlic heads

Garlic. We all heard of it’s many beneficial health effects. Hippocrates used to prescribe it to treat a variety of medical conditions and he of all people should know, right? Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, garlic is known to boost the function of the immune system, have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure and can also lower cholesterol.

Also, I’m borderline addicted to it. I mean, there must be a “too much garlic” line somewhere, but I wouldn’t know where to draw it. I order garlic bread even on a date and double however much a recipe calls for (Always appalled by those saying to use ONE garlic clove. I’m sorry, but are you even listening to yourself?). Furthermore, I strongly suggest that we adopt National Garlic Day from my soulmates across the pond.

OK, so now you see my level of crazy. But what is garlic confit? In this recipe, garlic is slowly cooked into the most delicate, rich, meltingly tender texture, transforming the cloves to be astoundingly sweet and subtle. Just superb, along with a by-product of fragrant and delicious garlic oil. It’s the second year I’ve made it and had to double on the amounts because it become such a favorite in the family.

Olive oil is my preferred oil to confit garlic in, but you can use others too. Since the temperature of the oil doesn’t get too high the natural flavor of virgin olive oil will be preserved, but again, olive pomace oil (a lower grade olive oil that is extracted from olive pulp after the first press) is totally fine.

The confit cloves are the perfect gourmet condiment. Can be used to flavor soups, sauces and marinades, salads, pastas, mashed vegetables or vinaigrettes. For the most sublime treat though, spread them on a crusty slice of bread and enjoy with soft-boiled eggs, one of my favorite Sunday breakfast.

Important! Garlic is a very low acid vegetable. When stored improperly, a toxin can be produced in it that causes the very serious illness botulism. Learn more about the acidity of foods and food safety from my blog series Preserving 101 here and here. Use a sterile jar with a tight seal to store garlic confit, cool the garlic and oil to room temperature and refrigerate. This way, it keeps several months, but you can also freeze it. Just remember to use a clean spoon to dip into the jar and to keep cloves covered in oil.

As a variation to the basic recipe below, add a sprig of rosemary, thyme, and/or a few bay leaves to the saucepan along with the garlic to cook.

Garlic Confit

Creamy, soft garlic cloves preserved in olive oil. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

1 cup peeled garlic cloves

2 cups olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the garlic cloves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan
  2. Add the oil to cover garlic completely
  3. Warm over medium heat until small bubbles form and rise to the surface, making sure the oil never comes to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to maintain a temperature below 99°C (210°F) and slow-simmer for about 1 hour until the cloves are completely tender and look pale-golden.
  5. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Are you crazy for garlic too? Share your favorite recipe with us!

Fruzsi

Photo by Regan Baroni via Etsy

Preserving 101: Filling the Jar

preserving101-filling-the-jar-title

Ok, so we have safe, sterile jars and the fresh, beautiful produce to fill them with. No matter what recipe you decide on, there are a few principles that always apply when filling your jars. These include:

Controlling headspace. Headspace is the unfilled space above the food and below the lid. It is needed for the expansion of foods to be processed and for forming vacuums in cooled jars. Directions specify leaving 0,5 to 2,5 cm headspace. After wiping the jar rim clean, place the lid on and tighten.

Process times. To destroy microorganisms in your food, you must process jars for the correct number of minutes in boiling water or a pressure canner.  Take into consideration that if you live more than 300 m above sea level, you will have to adjust processing times due to water boiling at lower temperatures as altitude increases. For determining proper process times, consult the set of tables provided by USDA here.

Cooling jars. After removing hot jars from a canner (preferably with a jar lifter – safety first!), cool them at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Don’t try to rush the procedure by putting jars in cold water! My mother even puts jars under thick blankets to further slow the cooling process.

Testing jar seals. When jars have cooled, press the middle of the lids with a finger. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed. You can also check by holding the jar at eye level and looking across the lid, it should be curved down slightly in the centre as vacuum pulls it inward. If a lid fails to seal on a jar, change the lid and reprocess the jar, or store the food in the fridge and consume within a few days.

Storing canned foods. Clean completely cooled, tightly sealed jars if necessary. Label and date them, and store in a clean, cool, dark and dry place. Avoid direct sunlight, dampness (may corrode metal lids) and accidental freezing and thawing (may soften food).

Identifying spoilage. Very important: do not taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage! Swelled lids are a sign of gas produced be bacteria or yeasts. Also look for unnatural color or mold growth, smell for unnatural odors.

Hope you find this useful! Play by the simple rules I posted in this blog series and you can enjoy the fruit of your hard work, both literally and figuratively speaking. 🙂

Fruzsi