Infused Oils

A few weeks ago when I reread CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY by Karen Cushman, I decided to try making some infused oils. The main character in the book was making violet oil, but, lacking violets and having an abundance of cilantro and basil in my herb garden, I decided to give the herbs a whirl.

I imagined using beautiful oil cruets and displaying them on my windowsill, but a quick Amazon search told me that cruets are rather expensive. I had a few mason jars lying around and decided to use those instead.

Really, the process was pretty simple. All I needed was some oil, a few herbs, and maybe an hour or so of time.

Here are some instructions if you want to give it a whirl:

  1. Sanitize the jars and lids in a pot of boiling water for at least five minutes.
  2. Remove the jars and let them air dry. Lower the heat on the water to where the water is hot, but not simmering. While you’re waiting for the jars to dry, carefully scoop some of the hot water out of your pot so you can put the jars back in without water getting in the jars.
  3. Fill the jars with oil, leaving an inch or so of room at the top. (I used an okay olive oil I bought from the grocery store.)
  4. Add herbs to the oil filled jars and place in the hot water.¬†VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure the herbs are completely submerged in the oil or they won’t get disinfected from the heat of the oil. One of mine had mold on the top because a part of the herb was sticking out. (I used basil and cilantro, with crushed red pepper in both. I read that rosemary is pretty good in oils too, but mine isn’t large enough to harvest yet. I put seven large basil leaves in one pint-sized jar and eight or so sprigs of cilantro in another. I like love spicy things, so I put a tablespoon of red pepper flakes in all the jars.)
  5. Heat the herb-infused oil until it reaches 175 and let it sit (still heated) for about five to ten minutes (the longer it sits, the more flavor you will immediately have in your oil). You have to let the oil sit at 175 for at least a minute or two so that the herbs are sanitized.
  6. Remove the oil filled jars from the water and cover with a sterile lid.

A quick Google search told me that I should let them sit for at least a week before using. I used them for the first time two weeks after infusing and I could really taste the herbs.

The next time I get the random urge to do this, I might try using clear beer bottles. My husband has a capping system for his home beer brewing, so I could choose to cap or cork them. I’ll also be keeping my eyes peeled for a few discounted cruets!

Are there any recipes that you’ve wanted to try from books? Was it the description of the dish or the idea of the dish that lured you in?