Infusing herbs into bottles for olive oil is an age old tradition, used as a simple salad dressing, to jazz up plain pasta or simply to be dipped into with chunky bread. It is easy and rewarding to make at home for even the novice cook and makes a great gift.
There are a few basic rules to follow for the best results. Start with a good quality olive oil and always use fresh herbs rather than dried – organic or ideally from your own garden are best, both to obtain the best flavour and avoid chemical taints. Wash and dry your herbs carefully before using.
Choose your olive oil bottles carefully. You’ll need a good seal for safety and preservation, while more decorative shapes can be appropriate if the olive oil bottles will be on display or given as gifts. Wares of Knutsford’s range includes round, square and elegantly shaped bottles in a variety of sizes, with a selection of cork, aluminium or bakelite tops. Always sterilise your bottles before use!
Maximising flavour in olive oil bottles
Put your herbs on a wooden board and crush gently to bruise the leaves before putting them in the olive oil bottles. This allows the oils in the herbs to release their flavours into the oil. You can also add fresh spices, which should be lightly toasted then crushed with a pestle and mortar before using. Thin slices of fruits such as lemons or bold chilli peppers both look decorative and add a marvellous depth of flavour.
After adding your chosen flavouring elements, fill the bottles to the top with olive oil, seal well and store in a cool, dark place to allow the flavours to infuse for about two weeks. You can taste the oil occasionally to see how it’s doing. If you prefer a subtler taste you’ll probably prefer to strain out the solid elements and re-bottle the oil once you’ve reached the required depth of flavour, however many people like to see the ingredients in the oil for the decorative effect they lend.
Rosemary olive oil bottles
One of the simplest but most effective flavour combinations. Add half a cup of virgin olive oil and 3 fresh sprigs of rosemary to a small pan and cook gently for about five minutes, until a thermometer reads 80ºC – do not allow to boil. Allow to cool to room temperature then decant into a bottle and seal. The oil will keep for up to one month.