Sunday, October 11, 2009

Infused oils and vinegars

Necessity was the mother of invention for this project. Not that I invented this but it was somewhat new to me.

I grew quite a bit of purple basil for the first time this year and needed to find a use for it. The thought of purple pesto was somewhat strange so I started surfing the internet for ideas. I saw a picture of some beautiful purple-basil-infused vinegar and I had to try it.

I mixed cider vinegar and white vinegar at a 50/50 rate, which has a beautiful color even before infusing. In a half gallon of the mixed vinegar I added about 2 cups of purple basil leaves.

I let this set on the counter for a week, then filtered out the basil leaves and anything else that might have come off of the leaves.

Muslin was a good choice for a filtering material. I also use it in cheese making instead of traditional 'cheesecloth', which is almost worthless when actually trying to use it for cheese making. I could have left the leaves in the vinegar but I know from experience that the leaves start to fade and wilt quite a bit and do not look very good.

I also infused another batch with garlic. I smashed about 6 cloves with the flat side of a knife and let those sit in the vinegar with the basil for a week. It smells wonderful after a week, with the basil and garlic smell. It will probably be very good in many Italian dishes.

Nasturtiums are an edible flower that I grow, I haven't used them in any dishes yet but need to do it. I have read some nice ideas for cooking with them. A simple salad topped with a few nasturtium flowers would be a very nice presentation. I tried to keep some of the fresh flowers in a bottle of vinegar but the acidity of the vinegar wilts and fades them too much. However, in that failed attempt I found that the flowers color the vinegar with a beautiful color:

The bottle on the right is 50/50 cider/white vinegar right after adding the nasturtiums. The one on the left is a few days after adding the nasturtiums. Also in both of the bottles are stalks of garlic chives.

I also have started a couple batches of basil and garlic infused extra-virgin olive oil.

These leaves are green basil and not the purple basil (the purple might make an interesting looking oil though!) From what I have read I will have to let this sit for a month or longer to properly infuse the oil. Before adding the basil leaves it helps to smash the leaves quite a bit to help release the flavor of the basil. I also added about 4-5 smashed garlic cloves to this. I plan on filtering all of this out when it is completed. If I am going to use this to actually cook with, I am going to research whether this will require heating after the infusion is complete. I think that even if I don't find any information about it, I might heat it to a little over 212 degrees (boiling point of water, and a low heat for oil) for about 10 minutes, just to kill any of the 'nasties' that might be in there. I can't see that it will hurt it, and can only help.

Another herb that I grew again this year was tarragon. Simply cut the tarragon to the right length and slip into the jars of vinegar. It's very simple and look great.

The hardest part of this project is finding nice looking bottles to use. The ones pictured here with the spouts I found at Walmart for about $4 each. I have seen some very nice ones on sites online, but they can be pricey. If I decide to get any of those, I would probably make them into Christmas presents.

There are a lot of other ideas that you can find online, search with the term 'infused vinegar recipes' or 'infused garlic recipes' or something similar. Or simply use your imagination and think of what would look good or taste good with vinegar and/or oil.

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