Infusing your own olive oil is a simple process that will take advantage of the bountiful supply of fresh herbs during spring and summer.
Infusing your own olive oil is easy, fun and rewarding. As your garden starts to thrive, and you have more fresh herbs than you know what to do with, infusing can be a good option for utilising your garden's offerings and saving them for later.
The herbs will fully release their flavours within a few weeks time, and then continue to saturate the oil, albeit more slowly. Most professionals use one type of herb at a time, but that's a personal preference.
Fill a 1-litre bottle with extra virgin olive oil and add whole or chopped garlic, lemon peel, peppers, ginger or rosemary. You can also char-grill peppers and add them to the oil to get a rich, smoky flavour.
Infused olive oils can then be used for salad dressings, marinades on meat or vegetables, and enjoyed in their simplest form by pouring a healthy splash into a ramekin and tearing up some good, artisan bread for dipping. Crack some fresh pepper into the oil if you do this, and pair it with a salad at the dinner table, or use it as part of an appetiser platter at parties.
Here are a few tips for infusing your own olive oil.
Mix and refrigerate
If you are using fresh herbs, refrigeration will be necessary as the herbs may contain water or moisture that can grow bacteria if the oil is left out at room temperature. If you are using rosemary or basil from your garden, either dry it or put the dressing in the fridge and use it within a week or so. Lemon, garlic and fresh peppers will also require this treatment.
A strong brine or vinegar can be used to preserve the water-containing ingredients, and then added to the oil. Afterward, it can safely be stored at room temperature.
Let the herbs dry out in the hot summer sun and then add them to the oil. Then you can add whole sprigs of rosemary or dried peppers without worrying about bacteria growing.
Want an added bonus? Flavoured olive oils make great, thoughtful gifts. Just make sure you include instructions, in case a particular homemade dressing needs refrigeration.