Infused Oils - 4 Techniques for Making
Here are some guidelines for making your own infused oil. Always
sterilize the bottles into which you will put the oil. Wine bottles
are a good choice, but you may want to use smaller containers, such
as cruets, because the flavor of infused oil, like all oils,
deteriorates with age.
Don't use more expensive extra-virgin oil to make infused oils.
Because you are introducing flavors into the oil, you do not need or
want the often peppery or perfumey flavor that is intrinsic in fine
first pressings of olives. Don't exclude grape seed and canola oils,
especially for flavors such as ginger, mint, and mustard.
In his book "Marinades" (Crossing Press), Jim Tarantino says that he
uses grape seed oil for steeping fresh herbs. When he is heating the
oil to make infusions with dried chilies, mushrooms, curry, dried
lemon grass or other Asian spices, he prefers light peanut or canola
oil. Pure good-quality olive oil is a good match for spices and
herbs; rosemary, oregano and the like, with Mediterranean character.
After the flavoring ingredients are placed in the oil, keep the
bottle in a cool, dark place while it is infusing. Crumple and
bruise herbs such as basil before adding them to the oil to help the
flavor and aroma to escape.
These are four main techniques for infusing oil:
Simply clean herbs (or use dried ones) drop them in a bottle of oil
and allow to sit in a cool dark place for at least two weeks. This
technique does not produce an oil with added color.
Blanch an herb such as basil in boiling water for a second or two,
pat dry with paper towels, puree the herb with a bit of oil and then
add it to more oil. After a few days, strain the oil. This method
has produced lightly tinted, highly flavorful but sometimes
muddy-looking oil. When omitting the pureeing step, and simply
adding the blanched herb to the oil, the result is a highly
flavored, fragrant oil, but not one that changed color.
Warm the oil in a microwave for a few minutes, in a saucepan over
medium heat, or in a double boiler. You can add the infusion
ingredients while warming the oil, or drop them in after the oil is
warm. This method is speedier. It produces flavorful oil in a day or
Make a paste. This method comes into play when using dried spices.
As described by James Peterson in his book, "Sauces", ground spices
(as well dehydrated foods such as dried mushrooms) must be moistened
before being combined with oil. Then, if using ground spices, make a
paste with an equal amount of water before whisking the paste into a
quart of oil. Allow to stand for a week before straining. The author
made an interesting cardamom oil and an orange curry oil this way.