KITCHEN TIP: Infusing Olive Oil


This is the first of hopefully many kitchen tips I’m going to start offering on this site.  Many of these are a result my “MacGyver” attempts of making-do in a less-than-desirable kitchen and trying to figure out how to be a brilliant gourmet cook on a pauper’s budget. But sometimes, they’re just going to be little tricks of the trade that if you’re not obsessively watching the Food Network,  pouring over Gourmet or Food & Wine Magazines, or questioning every chef you come across as I am… you may just have missed out on some information.

My first Kitchen Tip is about infusing your Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can buy many “flavored” olive oils these days… but there are two down-sides to that. They’re usually not made from Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil – which is what you should use instead of plain Olive Oil or Light Olive Oil  (there are no health benefits otherwise because the harsh processing has destroyed them). And often, the “flavoring” is chemically added and not naturally infused into the oil.

Being the bargain hunter that I am, I love buying the big net-sock of garlic heads at places like Costco or Sam’s. You get about 20 heads of garlic for $3-4.00. Which means you’ll have to chop, press or roast it all yourself. Which I’m okay with. But what do you do with all that garlic before it goes bad? Time to think outside the box…

As we speak I am infusing a quart of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use quite a bit of EVOO so I buy it by the gallon at the International Market for close to half the price I would in a chain grocery) with whole garlic and fresh rosemary from my garden. I peeled about 5 heads of garlic (heads are the whole bulb, cloves are the individual pieces you break off). I dropped them into a quart-size canning jar, cut 4 twigs of rosemary from my garden and put them in the jar as well, then poured in the extra virgin olive oil over leaving about an inch from the top. After all, it’s gonna need to breath.

I’m going to leave it all in there for about 48 hours, then I’ll scoop out the garlic and toss it out. But I’ll leave the rosemary in the for another couple of weeks. Be sure to remove the garlic cloves after a couple of days so as to not overpower the flavor of the herbs. If you choose to leave the garlic cloves in the oil, be sure to refrigerate the oil to avoid the threat of botulism

The olive oil should have rich flavors that will naturally season whatever you use your olive oil in… salads, sauteing meat, drizzled on baguettes.  I personally love garlic and rosemary – two of my favorite flavors. But if you prefer thyme and sage; or spicy red peppers; or red onion and oregano… then go for it! Keep in mind you need to use fresh products. Fresh herbs, onion, garlic, etc. Powdered spices or herbs will not infuse and will just make a mess of the oil.

What are your favorite spice and herb combos? Let me know if you have tried this and if you have any further tips!

PS…
the question has been asked… do you actually throw away the garlic when you’re done?
My Answer: you are “allowed” to throw it out of you like… I mean, it’s served a great purpose already, had a good life, and so on. But, if you want to hold onto it there are a few options. Run it through your food processor and make a garlic paste or chop it finely and make minced garlic – you should get another few weeks of life out of it. Or, if you’re not a Twilight fan and would like to keep both Edward AND Jacob away…. make a necklace and wear it to bed. :o)

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9 thoughts on “KITCHEN TIP: Infusing Olive Oil

  1. Now, what do you do with the garlic after it has been in the oil for the 48 hours? Surely you don’t throw it out…do you??

    • you are “allowed” to throw it out of you like… I mean, it’s served a great purpose already. had a good life, and so on. But, if you want to hold onto it there are a few options. Run it through your food processor and make a garlic paste or chop it finely and make minced garlic – you should get another few weeks of life out of it. Or, if you’re not a Twilight fan and would like to keep both Edward AND Jacob away…. make a necklace and wear it to bed. :o)

  2. Sorry, but one word here: BOTULISM. Never put fresh garlic or herbs (or anything that may contain even a trace amount of water) in oil and leave it outside the refrigerator. Even refrigerated it should be used within a week. It certainly doesn’t always happen but it’s not worth the risk.

    • Thanks for your comment Susan – but I did address that in the post. And this is a pretty common practice with many cooks. And everything I’ve read and researched says you can keep the herbs in the oil for up to 4 weeks. It’s even suggested for that length of time so you get the full flavor. It is suggested to only keep the garlic in the oil for 2 days and of course, refrigerated. Which is what I said in the post.

      And of course, when you buy minced or whole peeled garlic by the jar in grocery stores – it’s almost always packed in olive oil (and almost never refrigerated).

      Thanks for your concern though!

  3. I’d love to make this! It sounds delicious. But two questions – after infusing the oil, does it have a shorter shelf life than uninfused oil? And once I remove the garlic and herbs, does it still need to be refrigerated? Thank you!

    • It only needs to be refrigerated while being infused. Once you remove herbs and garlic, you can keep it in a decanter on the counter. Just be sure it’s good and air tight – for any oil you want that. Also, don’t store oils above the oven or stove… the heat will eventually make them rancid. To be honest, I haven’t really gauged the shelf life – it doesn’t last long around my house anyway… I use it on everything! But make a smaller batch if you’re worried. Have fun! And experiment with different herbs – lots of possibilities.

  4. Quick question… I’ve always heard that you should buy EVOO in dark bottles…. when infusing and DIYing infused EVOO, does it not matter if the containers are clear glass or dark glass?

    • I’ve not heard that before. But like wine or balsamic or any other aged liquid, a dark bottle helps protect it from sunlight which can mess with the flavors. Once I infuse my oil I transfer it to a ceramic oil carafe that I keep on my counter – I would do the same if you’re worried about it.

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