How to Infuse Olive Oil: Cold Infusion
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Infused olive oils are a great way to add more flavor to a dish without having to chop up extra ingredients. They are amazing in marinades, pasta dishes, and salad dressings. They also make great gifts to give for the holidays or as a hostess gift. The cold method is a really simple way to make infused oil, but does require more time for the oil to infuse.
What you need
First, decide what flavor oil you want to make. I decided to make four different flavors, since they will be gifts for the holidays. I chose: lemon, rosemary, jalapeno, and roasted garlic. The amount of olive oil needed depends on how much you want to make. You will also need jars to hold all of the ingredients and oil in. You can infuse your oil in a simple mason jar and then divide into smaller quantity jars as gifts, or you can infuse your oil in the finished jar and leave your dried aromatics in there for a nice visual presentation.
Step One: Prepare your Infusing Ingredients
If you are not using herbs or ingredients already dried, you need to dry them. The moisture in fresh herbs and other ingredients can cause botulism to occur (not something I want to give as a gift!). I had fresh jalapenos and rosemary from my garden and fresh lemons from the store that I needed to dry out prior to making the oil. If you have a food deyhdrator, you can use that to dry your fresh ingredients. If not, you can use the following directions to dry them in your oven at low temperature. While there is no set amount of ingredients to use for each infusion, I have included the amount I chose. I would suggest smelling or tasting your oil during the infusion process to see if it is as flavorful as you desire. If not, add more ingredients!
Drying Lemon & Rosemary
Preheat the oven to 200* F. I used two lemons for my oil. Peel the lemon making sure to get as little of the white pith as possible–this can make your oil bitter. I picked four pretty long stalks of rosemary to use for my oil. Wash and pat dry the rosemary. Place both on a baking sheet and put into the preheated oven. Drying times vary, but both ingredients will be brittle when they’re ready (mine took 20 minutes.)
Preheat the oven to 350* Wash and dry the jalapenos and cut in half (I used 5 smaller jalapenos for my recipe.) Place the peppers seed side up on a baking sheet and bake until dry (mine took 40 minutes)
Preheat the oven to 425* Cut the top part of a whole head of garlic off, leaving the cloves exposed. Place garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over the whole head. Wrap the garlic up in foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Let the garlic cool a little bit and then squish the roasted cloves out. Place the cloves in your jar of choice for infusing and discard the skins.
Step Two: Pour the Oil over the Dried Aromatics
Place your ingredients in the bottom of each jar. Pour olive oil over the ingredients and screw the lid on.
For all of the oils except garlic, store in a cool, dark place for the oil to infuse. Every couple of days, swirl the oil around.
Unless you dehydrate your garlic or use dried garlic, you will need to store your garlic oil in the fridge. Because all of the moisture is not out of roasted garlic, it still can harbor the bacteria that turns into botulism. Although those chances are slight, it is still a chance.
Step Three: Wait for the Oil to Infuse
Let your oils infuse for 4-6 weeks. Taste test along the way to see if they’re reaching the flavor you desire.
Step Four: Bottle the Oil
Infused oil makes a great gift! I intend on giving them as holiday gifts this year. I found this really cute bottle set on Amazon.
Another Method: Heat
If you’re in a pinch for time, or just don’t feel like waiting weeks for infused oil, Natural Herbal Living has a great article on how to infuse oils using heat. The basic concept is that you heat up the oil slowly on the stove and add the ingredients. The heat releases the flavor, much like heating up the alcohol for homemade vanilla extract!