many years, centuries even, Mediterranean cooks have been
putting herbs in bottles of olive oil and using these "infused
oils" for salads, condiments for fish and for basting
meats. More recently chefs have taken infused oils to a new
level. Many chefs experiment with blanching and pureeing vegetables
and a variety of herbs to create full flavored and brightly
colored oils that can either be emulsified with other ingredients
in a vinaigrette or used to drizzle over foods as sauces.
This month in our on-line cooking class wed like to
share some techniques and recipes for making these fun and
Things you will need for
- Cheese cloth
- Funnel (optional, but it will make
filling your bottles much easier)
- Glass bottles for the finished
oil (you can find inexpensive bottles with corks at
stores such as Walmart, Target, kitchen stores and
- Pure olive oil & extra virgin
- Blender or Food processor
Lets Get Started!
First lets talk oil. The basic rule
for which oil to use is pick an oil that goes best with the
ingredient being infused. Extra virgin olive oil is a good
choice when the infusion is made with full flavored herbs
like basil, thyme, lavender, rosemary and oregano typically
the Mediterranean flavors. However, extra virgin olive oil
tends to overpower the more delicate herbs like chervil or
parsley. For these use a less flavorful olive oil like a "pure"
olive oil. You can add a small amount of extra virgin olive
oil towards the end of the infusion process this will
help the flavors come through more clearly. For other ingredients,
it makes more sense to use more neutral oils like canola or
safflower. For Asian ingredients such as ginger and lemon
grass use either a neutral oil or peanut oil.
There are a couple different approaches
to making flavored oils. Which method you use will depend
on how fast you want the infused oil and what vegetable, spice,
or herb you are using.
Method 1: Simple Infusion
The first method is a simple infusion. This
method takes up to a couple weeks for the flavor to infuse
into the oil. Basically all that is to this method is adding
flavorful ingredients to the oil and letting it steep for
several weeks. After the oil is infused, the oil is strained
or poured off as needed.
Basic Infused Herb Oil
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme, sage, lavender,
rosemary or oregano (enough so the herbs loosely fill the
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (if using
a 1 cup container/bottle)
Wash the herbs under cold water. Slide the
herbs through the neck of the bottle and pour the olive oil
over the top. Cork the bottle and store in a cool place (not
the refrigerator) for at least a week or two or up to several
This method starts with blanching the basil
and then requires you to let the herbs infuse overnight. This
oil is bright green in color and is great for decorative garnishes
to finished dishes (just dot around the plate) or can also
be used for grilled fish, vinaigrettes, and drizzled over
a finished dish for an added touch of flavor.
- 3 cups packed basil leaves
- About 3/4 cup pure olive oil
To make herb oil start by boiling a large
pot of salted water. Place herbs in a strainer and dip them
into the water until wilted or see below for a blanching time
guide. Remove strainer from water and immediately plunge into
a bowl of ice water. Drain cold herbs and squeeze as dry as
possible. Use scissors to cut them into small pieces (if you
use a knife it can cause some herbs to oxidize and darken).
Place herbs in a blender or food processor and add enough
oil just to cover. Blend on medium speed and allow herbs to
blend for a minute or so. If herbs arent turning freely,
add more oil. Turn speed to high and continue to blend for
2 minutes. If your blender has a feeder tube or hole at the
top, remove stopper so that some air can get it
want it to get too hot from the motion of the rotating blade.
Remove puree from blender and refrigerate for at least a day
to intensify the color (the puree can be kept for up to 1
week in the refrigerator).
Place a piece of cheesecloth over a container and secure with
a rubber band or kitchen twine. Place puree on cheesecloth
and let the oil filter through for about an hour. Discard
cheesecloth and remaining puree do not wring out cheesecloth
or you will cloud the oil.
Store the infused oil in refrigerator or freeze it for several
Method 2: Using Purees for Infused
Another method involves combining purees
with the oil. The purees are either strained off or left dispersed
in the oil. This method results in a very full-flavored and
often brightly colored oil. These oils can be used alone or
with other ingredients as a decorative sauce or dressing.
To Heat or Not to Heat
Some infused oils are best if the oil is
kept cool during the infusion process. For instance the delicacy
of herbs like basil or chervil will be compromised by the
heat. Other infused oils with certain ingredients actually
require the oil to be warm so that it extracts the flavor
Most of the oils we will be preparing in
this months class use the puree method along with a
heating process. We will begin by preparing an Ancho Chile
& Garlic Oil.
Ancho Chile & Garlic Oil
Use this oil for basting meats, marinades,
dressings or to simply drizzle over grilled poultry, meat
- 10-12 Ancho Chiles
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1-1/2 cups pure olive oil
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
|Step 1: Rinse and
dry the chiles. Cut off and discard the chile stems.
|Step 2: Place the chiles in
a food processor and process until finely chopped, about
30 seconds. You should end up with about 3/4 cup of flakes.
If necessary chop a few more to make 3/4 cup.
|Step 3: Combine the chile flakes
and garlic cloves with the pure olive oil in a saucepan
and place over medium heat. When the chiles are sizzling
and begin to float, turn the heat down to low and let
the chiles and garlic simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
Keep sniffing the oil and as soon as the chiles smell
toasty, take them off the heat. Let cool in the pan for
about 30 minutes.
4: Stir the extra virgin olive oil into the pan and
strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or through
a triple layer of cheese cloth. If there are still specks
floating around then strain again. Using a funnel pour
the Ancho Chile Oil into a bottle.
Dried mushrooms can also be used for infused
oils. The oil will be surprisingly full-flavored yet will
carry a rather delicate aroma. Use this oil in salad dressings
or with emulsified butter or cream sauces. Mushroom oils can
be kept in a cool place for up to 2 weeks.
- 1-1/2 oz. dried mushrooms (porcini &
morels work the best)
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed (optional)
- 3/4 cup pure olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
|Step 1: Combine the dried mushrooms
and pure olive oil in a food processor. Puree to a coarse
paste, about 1-2 minutes.
|Step 2: Transfer
the mushroom-oil mixture to a 2 quart saucepan along with
the garlic. Place over low heat while stirring gently.
Once the mushroom mixture has started bubbling, let it
cook for 1 minute longer then remove from the heat and
let cool completely.
|Step 3: Stir in the extra virgin
olive oil then strain the mixture through a fine strainer
and again through a triple layer of cheese cloth.
|Step 4: Using a funnel, pour
the oil into a container or bottle.
Red Bell Pepper Oil
This is a really fun oil because not only
does it have great flavor but the resulting oil is almost
bright orange in color. The infused oil captures the flavor
of sweet bell peppers and is very mild and sweet in flavor.
Use this oil for grilled fish or vinaigrettes.
- 2 red bell peppers or about 3/4 lb.
- 1-3/4 cups pure olive oil
|Step 1: Dice the
peppers (discarding the stems and seeds).
|Step 2: Place the peppers and
oil in a 2 quart saucepan/ Cook the peppers over low heat
for about 1 hour or until they are very soft.
|Step 3: Let the peppers and
oil cool and then pour the oil and peppers into a blender.
Process for 30 seconds.
|Step 4: Return the mixture to
the saucepan and cook gently for 15-20 minutes, or until
the grains of pepper separate from the oil.
5: Strain the oil through a fine sieve or a couple
layers of cheese cloth. The oil will keep for several
months in the refrigerator.
Pure oils are stored at room temperature
without concern for spoilage. This is because, in their unaltered
state, oils dont have enough moisture content to support
the growth of bacteria and/or microorganisms. However, when
you add other ingredients to the oil there is an opportunity
from the moisture or the microorganisms the ingredients may
contain to cause spoilage. Keep the oils in a cool place or
refrigerate and keep them sealed.