When the holidays roll around, we’re always trying to come up with original, inexpensive, but personal gifts to give to special friends, family and others who make our lives so wonderful throughout the year (like our hairdresser!). A few years back we started making herb infused oils as gifts. People seemed to love them (either that, or they were trying not to hurt our feelings). But since we tried them ourselves, and liked them, we’re pretty sure they weren’t lying to us.
Many of the things you would infuse oil with, you might already have, or can acquire for free from neighbors and friends. That leaves you with purchasing the oil (Whole Foods 365 Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as a good bargain at $4 for 17.9 ounces; they have a safflower oil as well) and some bottles (set of two oil and vinegar bottles for $3.99 at World Market). The entire gift will cost you less than $4 per gift. And you’ll earn bonus “OOHS and AAHS” for your creative acumen.
How to infuse oil with herbs:
- Select herbs and spices. If selecting herbs from the garden, wash and dry them first. You can either dry them between paper towels or put them in the oven at the lowest temperature for a few minutes.
- Herbs should be bruised slightly (run them between your fingers) to better release their aromas.
- Add the oil to a non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it bubbles a bit. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let oil cool.
- Add the herbs and spices to a clean olive oil jar.
- Using a funnel, pour the olive oil into the jar. Seal the jar tightly and store it in the refrigerator.
Begin with a light, tasteless oil, like safflower, sunflower or canola. These less strongly-flavored oils are less perishable and allow for a more prominent herb flavor. Olive oil makes a good infusion base for some herbs, but tends to go rancid more quickly.
Keep your infused oils refrigerated.
Olive oil will last about a month; other oils will stay fresh for about two months.
Garlic carries an additional risk of botulism, so unless you are experienced at infusing oils, stay away from garlic.