I’m always glad to see spring and summer (despite hating hot and humid weather) because of the fresh herbs. Maintaining the herbs on my deck involves keeping them cut back so that they do not bloom–I want peak flavor all summer. That involves taking the scissors to them and cutting off about one-third of the plant, so that they will stay nice and bushy.
Even though it’s good maintenance, I just hate to throw away all those fresh herbs, so I often make flavored oils or vinegars with the trimmings. I love having a supply on hand for salad dressings, dipping, or whatever.
When I make infused oils I want strong flavor that I can use in many ways. I use plain vegetable oil and extract my herbs in heated oil at about 180° to 200° Fahrenheit, checked with an instant-read thermometer. I either use my tiny “baby” slow cooker and let the oil infuse in that for several hours or use the microwave oven on low or defrost, then strain. This gives me very strongly flavored oils that I dilute with other oil depending on how I plant to use them. Once strained, I store in the refrigerator or freezer.
I’ve made infused oil from a lot of different herbs–oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, even epazote–or mixed herbs. I haven’t tried cilantro, but after reading the post on Chef Mimi Blog I want to give that a try as well.
This hot weather reminds me that it’s time to make lemon oil again. I do this in the summer, removing the zest for the oil, then using the lemons to make a big pitcher of lemonade and sip that on the deck while the oil infuses in the slow cooker.
With oils made from fresh herbs, we need to be aware of the potential for botulism since Clostridium botulinum can thrive in oils like this. Any fresh herb or vegetable has the potential of carrying C. botulinum, and it requires high temperatures to kill the spores or to destroy the toxin so we need to be particularly careful about keeping them refrigerated. Tips for prevention are given here and here.