If you're looking to add a little something extra to your cooking then why not change up the oil you're using? Or more specifically, why not infuse your oil with a bit of extra flavour?
Possibly the simplest way to take your cooking to the next level, infusing oils are super easy to make and don't require that much effort or energy.
While you can buy a variety of already infused oils at every good supermarket and specialty food stores, we think it's so much more fun to try it out yourself! Besides most pre-bought oils are often very expensive and don't always have a truly robust, herbal flavour.
If you agree with us (which should be everyone), we've put together everything you need to know to make the best infused oils goin' 'round.
CHOOSE YOUR EQUIPMENT
The type of bottle you use for your oils is up to you but we recommend something that looks nice. Not only does a perfectly packaged glass bottle filled with yummy flavoured oil make a great gift for the avid food lover, it also looks amazing on display and can really liven up your kitchen.
The Kilner Clip Top Bottle is perfect for this! Ideal for storing oil, vinegar and home-made sauces in your home, this bottle is made from glass and is suitable to wash in the dishwasher.
STERILISE YOUR BOTTLES
Sterilisation is the process of killing any harmful bacteria that may be clinging to the surface and insides of your bottle. This is done so that when you're preserving, your food will remain fresher within the vacuum seal and retain its flavour.
There are a few ways to go about sterilising your bottles but before you start, make sure you're beginning the sterilisation process a short time before you begin preserving so that the bottles are still warm when you go to fill them.
We recommend using the water bath method.
- Place a heat resistant plate upside down in the bottom of your large pan then place the bottles inside.
- Fill the pan with cold water until the bottles are completely covered. Bring it to the boil and keep it at the maximum temperature for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and cover the pan to keep the bottles warm until you're ready to fill them. Alternatively, you can take them out of the water and pop them in a warm oven to dry and remain warm until you're ready to use them.
PICK YOUR HERBS
Make sure you're using herbs that don't have any mould on them, and it's best to choose sprigs of herbs that don't require any washing. Simply shake off any dirt (if you've picked the herbs yourself) and make sure there's no little creepy crawlies hanging around.
If you have to clean your herbs, wash them thoroughly and let them dry them out for a couple of hours before use as any water left on the herbs will affect the oil.
To get the best flavour out of your herbs, slightly bruise them with a wooden roller to release their oils, then stuff them into the bottle.
*Pro Tip*, You don't a large quantity of herbs. Less is definitely more when it comes to infusing oils. Depending on the freshness of the herbs and the natural volume of flavour, a sprig or two will do the trick.
HEAT THE OIL
Heat the cooking oil on low heat, just until it's nice and warm, then carefully pour the oil into the bottles over the herbs. Allow the contents to cool.
If you used fresh herbs, you'll need to strain them out of the oil by pouring the oil from the bottle through a strainer and into a new bottle. If you used dry herbs, they can remain in the oil but the oil will stay fresher for longer if they're also strained out.
SEAL THE BOTTLE & LABEL IT
Seal the bottle (by putting the lid on) and allow the bottle to sit in a cool spot out of direct sunlight for 1 week before you start to use it.
To add a nice touch to your bottles, try labelling them and adding decorating ribbons. If you're planning on giving a bottle as a gift, you can also attach a fresh sprig of whatever herb you used so they can anticipate the flavour of the oil before using it (it also looks really pretty).
HANDY TIPS & TRICKS
- homemade oils won't last as long as processed oils. They generally last for up to 2 months from first opening the bottle.
- The lighter the oil flavour, the more pronounced the herb flavour will be so while extra virgin olive oil is a kitchen favourite, it has a very pronounced flavour of its own. Lighter olive oil or something like canola oil might be a better choice if you wish to avoid this.
- Some excellent herbal oil infusion options include basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme, among others! You could also add a little extra to spice things up like citrus peel and dried berries for even more flavour.