04/27/2010

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Herbed Olive Oil Right now, when fresh herbs are readily available in stores, or in your own Kitchen herb garden or windowsill planter, is a perfect time to bottle some olive oils infused with herbs. You can use dried herbs, of course, but the appearance of a few sprigs of a freshly picked herb in the olive oil is quite attractive. I should also note that you can use other things besides herbs—garlic, dried peppers, or dried citrus peels, for instance work well. I'm going to assume that you're using fresh herbs in the following post; the instructions are close enough that you can certainly figure out what to do with dried herbs. I'll be using olive oil; you could conceivably use hazelnut or walnut oil for a similar lovely result. I tend to be a bit of purist, sticking to one kind of herb per bottle, usually, though I do like to use rosemary and thyme together. You can buy bottles meant for this sort of infusion. Many people simply reuse wine bottles (green glass please) with fresh corks, particularly the kind that's intended to be used with olive oil bottles, or with rubber stoppers available at specialty store, or small one pint canning jars with rubber seals. You'll want quality olive oil. I prefer extra virgin simply because it's lighter in flavor so that the herbs are more prominent. You want the freshest herbs possible. You'll want two or three sprigs per bottle, that are approximately four to six inches in length, depending on the size of the bottles you are using. Remove any discolored or dead leaves. Rinse the herbs and gently pat them dry. It's important that they be completely dry, with no visible water clinging to them. Heat the oil in a small pan. You want it to be warm, but not hot, certainly not more than 160 F. While the oil is heating, gently press the herbs with the back of a clean spoon or the flat of a knife so that they release their fragrance. Insert the herbs into the bottles, leaving plenty of space around them, and keeping it to no more than two or three sprigs per bottle. Pour the warm oil into the bottles, leaving 1. 5 inches of air at the top. Cap the bottles tightly, and store in a cool dark place for three days to a week, then refrigerate the oil. If you intend to keep the oil for some time, you may want to strain the oil to remove the herbs. Crushed garlic is lovely in olive oil, but fresh garlic can go bad in the oil (it's cooked and chemically preserved in commercial garlic oils) so you do need to be careful about consuming it very soon after making it, and refrigerating it if you are not going to use it very soon. [Originally written for http://hungrybloggers.com/]