Infused Oils and Hopes for Holiday Gifts

pantry diaries curry

This is a photo of curry in my garden. I bought it just because I thought it was pretty. I had no idea what I would do with it. I never knew that curry looked like this. Now that I see it and smell how wonderful it is I want to do something creative with it. I am sure that there are Curry Cupcakes in my future! But for now I will be experimenting with the infused oil idea.
Since I started my garden I‘ve had illusions of grandeur. Or rather, should I say dillusions.
I have had big ideas about giving gifts at Christmas; gifts of infused oils and alcohol decoctions. In an effort to be thorough, of course, I went on line. I’ve learned about mold and rancidity. What I thought would be easy and practical, given the abundance of herbs in my garden, has turned into an exercise in futility. Fresh herbs go bad very quickly when packed in oil.
It is important to eliminate air, moisture, and light and to maintain sanitary conditions on all utensils and containers used to keep and prepare the oils. After much research and inquiry I have come upon recipes which will insure the safety of your recipients and the enjoyment of all who partake in your generosity!
There are hot and cold methods and the general consensus is that refrigeration is necessary to maintain freshness. Creating an air-tight seal is extremely important to slow the oxidation process.
So, will I will be experimenting and will keep you updated on my progress, successes and failures. Hopefully, by the time the holidays roll around, I will have some beautiful oils to share with family and friends!
Cold Infusion (Blender Method)
This technique for cold infusion is best used with herbs, roots, citrus zest and fresh Chile peppers. Because these products may add moisture to the oil making it ripe for spoilage, the velocity of the blender will release their essential oils and they can be refrigerated immediately after preparation. Combine the oil and the flavoring ingredients in the blender cup and blend at high speed until the product is liquefied. Leafy herbs can be quickly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in cold water to help preserve their color and give the finished oil a pleasing green appearance. Roots such as horseradish, and ginger should be grated or chopped to fully extract flavor in the blender. Fibers from roots should be strained before bottling. Straining other ingredients is optional.
Hot infusion
The use of heat to release flavors is the best way to make infused oils with dry spices. It is also good with roots and woody herbs. The heating of the oil and flavor ingredients makes the finished product more sanitary and less prone to spoilage. It has the further advantage of making the flavor of some spices like cumin and curry more rich and complex the same way that toasting them does. To create a hot infusion, combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. In most cases a temperature between 180 and 200°F is sufficient to release the essential oils of flavoring ingredients. Higher temperatures tend to give the oil a “cooked” taste and may caramelize or scorch the flavorings. Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot. Seal and allow to cool. Refrigerate oil after it has reached room temperature.

  

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