Infusing involves mixing items, such as herbs or fresh fruit zest, with the olive oil to make salad dressing or a dip for bread.
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"I have a love affair with olive oil," Annette Joseph says, "so I get creative with it." The infusing involves mixing herbs, peppercorn, fresh fruit zest and olives with olive oil. "I love all the different combinations one can put together. I like to cook with infused olive oil. It's a really quick, easy salad dressing. It's also wonderful as a dip for bread, and a great gift. It's olive oil — so it's healthy."
To begin infusing olive oil — like Annette — you will need a bottle with a cork, a skewer or some long, slender implement, a potato peeler, a funnel, fresh lemon, oregano, rosemary and peppercorns. Start with a zest of lemon.
"The zest gives the oil a beautiful but subtle flavor," Annette says. "A lot of people think olive oil has a very distinctive taste but you can definitely enhance that flavor by infusing."
Annette uses a wooden skewer to poke the zest down through the neck of the bottle. Pushing the peel down into the bottle will coat the inside and add additional lemon flavor as you pour the oil.
Into a mortar, place a generous handful of peppercorn, some fresh oregano and a sprig of rosemary. Using the pestle gently pound the mixture, giving it a nice bruising. The oregano and rosemary add flavor and scent as well as create visual texture within the bottle. Place the bruised rosemary into the bottle, followed by the oregano. Using a funnel, pour in the peppercorns followed by the olive oil.
"The olive oil is not cooked," Annette reminds, "so it must sit with the mixture for it to properly infuse. It's fine to use it immediately if you want to, but it will taste so much better if you give it two weeks to properly infuse."
As for the shelf life of the infused oil, Annette says that depends on what type of ingredients you place in the bottle.
"It's good for about six months, although I've had some infused oils for over a year. If you use fresh fruit in the bottle, like kumquats or olives, after a while the mixture may get a little cloudy. It's still okay to use because the olive oil preserves the items that you've put into the bottle. It just won't look as pretty."
Annette is always on the prowl for unusual bottles for her olive oil. As an added touch, she will seal the cork on her newly infused oil by dripping wax from a scented candle to seal the bottle.
Infusing olive oil is a simple process that anyone can do — and it's fun.