Herbal Vinegars & Oils

Vinegar & Oil Infusion

 

Infusing your favourite herbs, spices and aromatics into vinegars and oils are a great way to boost your kitchen pantry.

They make perfect homemade gifts, and it's easy and fun to experiment with different flavour combinations.

Vinegars are less finicky compared to oils in terms of food safety, and below are some tips on how to do both.

 

Herbal Vinegars

Ingredients:

Vinegar: basic white, white wine, red wine, rice wine, apple cider, balsamic, etc

Fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, chives, chive blossom, mint, lemon balm, tarragon etc

Whole spices (don't use ground spices), peeled garlic

Clean glass jar

Optional: rubber band + square of wax paper (if using a metal lid)

Try these combinations, and make up your own!

                  Rosemary & thyme             Tarragon & garlic in white wine                          Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme

                  Chive blossom                     Ginger & yuzu in rice wine vinegar                   Lemon peel & balsamic vinegar

Method:

Preparation

  1.  If your fresh herbs have any bugs or dirt, give them a rinse and pat completely dry. 

  2. Pick off herb leaves and shred/crush with your fingers to release oils.

  3. Place in bottom of jar (heavier herbs on top). Fill to about 1/4 to 1/2 full (depending on how big and/or flavourful herbs are).

  4. Pour vinegar to about twice the amount of herbs.

  5. If you're using a metal lid, cut a square piece of wax paper to fit over the jar opening and secure with a rubber band. Screw the lid on top. This prevents the metal from touching the vinegar, as otherwise it'll corrode.

  6. Label jar with date and type of vinegar.

Storage

  1. Store jar away from direct light at room temperature (ex. kitchen cupboard) for 2-4 weeks.

  2. After 2-4 weeks, strain out the herbs into another clean jar, and reuse the label from before.

  3. For nice presentation, add a sprig of the dried herb you used.

  4. Keeps in kitchen cupboard for up to 6 months. 

  5. If you're giving this as a gift, make sure to provide instructions on storage and shelf life.

How to Eat:

  • Salad dressing

  • Bruschetta, in sandwiches

  • Mix with oil on a plate and dip bread into it

  • Potato salad

  • Salsas, dips, roasted meat

Sources:

Ethel's Guidlines on Making Herbal Vinegar

About Food - Herbal Vinegars

Food In Jars - Chive Blossom Vinegar

Herbal Oils

Ingredients:

Good quality olive oil 

Herbs: rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, chives, chive blossom, mint, lemon balm, tarragon etc

Whole spices (don't use ground spices), peeled garlic, lemon peel, nuts

Clean glass jar or bottle

Try these combinations, and make up your own!

                  Rosemary & basil                                    Sage & chive                       Dill & basil 

                  Oregano, chive, rosemary                      Lemon & thyme                   Garlic, basil, red pepper flakes

Method:

Infusing oil takes a little more care and awareness of food safety, as it's easier for bacteria (ie botulism) to grow if there is moisture present. Here are some different methods for infusing oils:

Fresh & Fast

  1. Crunch up fresh herbs/flavours, cover with oil and label.

  2. Store in fridge and use within 1 week.

  3. With this method, you can play around and put in lemon peel, garlic cloves etc, but the oil's shelf life is only 1 week.

  4. Before serving, take some of the oil out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature.

Dried Herbs

  1. Use only dried herbs. To dry herbs, hang them upside down in kitchen or in the sun, or use a food deyhdrator.

  2. You can leave whole sprigs of herbs in the bottle without needing to strain the oil later.

  3. Store in cool, dark place for up to 1-2 months. It will last longer in the fridge -- let it go to room temp before serving.

Stovetop

  1. Warm up your oil in a small pot on low heat.

  2. If you're using woody herbs (rosemary, thyme), put them directly in the pot. 

  3. For soft herbs like basil or cilantro, you can blend and/or blanch them before adding to the pot (this brings out the colour and flavour).

  4. Leave herbs in pot for 5 minutes on low. There should be light to zero bubbles. Make sure the oil isn't too hot.

  5. Tips: Heat will change the taste of the oil, so this may not be your go-to salad dressing oil. We tried heating chives and thyme and the heat was a little too high. It's delicious but will probably go better with roasted potatoes.

Other interesting ideas:

  1. Preserve your herbs first in a brine or vinegar solution, then add to oil. Note this will also change the flavour.

  2. Use a slowcooker to heat your herbs in oil

How to Eat:

  • Salad dressing

  • Bruschetta

  • Mix with vinegar and dip bread into it

  • Drizzled on top of everything! (roasted vegetables, soups, meat, pizza)

Sources:

The Olive Oil Source

Epicurious

Instructables

Where to Buy:

  • Commercial Drive: Santa Barbara Market, Mediterranean Specialty Foods, Grotta del Formaggio

  • Most Italian, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean stores have great selection

  • Yek o Yek for bulk spices, oil

  • Soap Dispensary sells refillable organic white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil

  • Herbs: from your garden, a neighbour, foraged (the fresher the better)