Olive oil is made from crushing and pressing of olives to extract the oil. Studies have shown time and again that people who use olive oil in place of animal fats or unhealthy hydrogenated fats have lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and asthma. Infusing olive oil with herbs will add to the health benefits, provide a tasty alternative to plain olive oil and can also be bottled to make delicious, healthy gifts for loved ones.
Choosing the Best Quality Olive Oil
Choose an oil that is as fresh as possible, preferably under a year old. Fresh oil tastes noticeably different than older oil as the quality of old oil can deteriorate and become stale.
Labels can often be misleading and a label reading extra virgin is no guarantee of quality. Unfortunately, as with virtually all modern agricultural farming and production, a lot of factory produced olive oil is stripped of its health enhancing nutrients. To find the best organic olive oil, look for an extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed, unfiltered and looks cloudy. It is possible to find real olive oil that is made in the traditional way, usually on small family run estates.
Caution needs to be exercised when infusing olive oil with fresh ingredients, especially garlic. This is due to the risk of botulism toxins that can develop from fresh ingredients combined with oil that is kept at room temperature. Reduce this risk by adding lemon juice and a little salt prior to warming the oil and keeping the finished product refrigerated. Do not consume infused olive oil that looks or smells bad since this may mean that the oil is contaminated with botulism. Use infused oils within a couple of months since they are perishable.
Drying Herbs and Herb Branches to Make Infused Olive Oil
Wash and dry herb branches of choice. All herbs, including barks, rinds and stalks must be dried properly. Good choices to make infused oils include rosemary, basil and oregano. Lightly bruise dried herbs to release flavor. Place them in a clean decorative glass container, cover with warmed olive oil, and seal tightly. Leave in a cool, dark place to infuse for a couple of weeks. Taste. If the flavor is not strong enough, add more fresh herbs, re-seal and allow to stand for another week.
Either strain or leave the herbs in the oil. If the herbs are left in, the flavor will become stronger as it stands. Infused oils should be refrigerated. They are highly perishable and can turn rancid quickly. It is not necessary to stick to one herb when making infused oil, try combinations such as basil, thyme, rosemary and a few cloves of garlic. It is preferable to remove garlic cloves before storing.