After my experiment with gourmet sea salt, and past experiences with infusing alcohols, olive oil was the next logical step. At least to me. I love when Italian restaurants line their shelves with huge bottles of olive oil filled with floating peppers, sun dried tomatoes, herbs and spices. Without fail you can walk into some of the most illogical stores–Marshalls, Century 21, Home Goods, and find bottles of gourmet alcohol. I figured if gourmet sea salt was so easy to recreate, why not fancy olive oils?
To my disappointment, I learned exact replication wasn’t so easy. I’m not sure what methods are used to process the fancy store bought olive oils, but infusing fresh ingredients into olive oil at home is NOT safe. The moisture from the fresh goods can create mildew, mold and other bacteria. There are a few ways to safely create flavored oils at home however, according to the Olive Oil Source. You can use fresh ingredients, but should refrigerate the oil and use it within two weeks to prevent bacteria. You could heat the oil with other ingredients to kill bacteria, then strain the mixture so only the oil remains. Or the method I chose to go with, just use dried herbs.
You can choose to dry the ingredients yourself (either air dry or in the oven or a dehydrator) or just use pre-dried herbs. I originally wanted to go with something simple, perhaps plain lemon or chili, but instead I went with a more herb heavy blend. I had some pizza seasoning, which is basically glorified Italian seasoning with a little salt, pepper and garlic. The most basic use for my olive oil is as a dipping sauce for crusty bread, but I’ve found it adds some punch to a salad and is great to brush vegetables with before roasting. I also added a bit of red pepper flakes for heat, rosemary for deeper flavor and some lemon rind for citrus.
Herby Olive Oil (makes about 2 cups)
- Rind of 1 lemon, cut into pieces
- About 2 tbsp herb mix of your choice (I went with 1 1/2 tbsp pizza seasoning and 2 tsp rosemary)
- Generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes
- 2 c olive oil
- 2 oz jars with stopper (check out the Container Store)
Leave lemon rind out to dry overnight. Divide rind pieces between both bottles. Add 1 tablespoon spices and a pinch of red pepper flakes to each bottle.
Using a funnel, add olive oil until jar is full. Seal and shake well. Let flavors deepen for about a week, shaking occasionally, before using.
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