The oil I chose was extra virgin olive oil because it retains a stronger olive taste which I think would blend well with seasonings. If you want less olive flavor you could use pure olive oil, which is a blend of extra virgin and regular olive oil. Any good quality oil can be used, if cost is a consideration you can mix extra virgin with soybean, grapeseed or safflower oil which will reduce the cost without ruining the flavor.
I am going to use fresh herbs, but you can use dried, just reduce the amount by half. Wash your fresh herbs and pat them dry and let them air dry the rest of the way. It is important they be completely dry, as any water on them can introduce bacteria into the oil/herb mixture, spoiling it.
'The type of bottle that you use is also important. It should have a seal and not be open to the air. You can use canning jars, or even food jars. (think mayo jar) It is better not to use plastic, because you cannot keep an eye on the oil to check for problems.
I bought the jar you see on the right. I chose it for two reasons. The first being I loved the look, it's tall and can support long stems of herbs that look beautiful. I also liked the fact that it has a spout on top, which makes it easy and less messy to use. Just pop off the lid and drizzle!
Place the jar in the refrigerator for ten days to two weeks, shaking every few days. When shaking, the jar should be checked for cloudiness or problems with the herbs. The oil should stay perfectly clear and the herbs should keep their color with only a slight darkening. If you see anything suspicious, or the color of the oil changes, the oil should be discarded.
The oil should be tasted at 10 days to see how well the herb flavors are infusing. If you like the way it tastes, then strain the oil and discard the herbs to keep the flavor static. The longer the herbs stay in the oil, the stronger will be the taste. I would not recommend the herbs be left in the oil indefinitely, as the flavor may become too strong or bitter. After straining your seasoned oil, place it in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least one to two months. If you are afraid of spoilage, you can heat the oil and herbs on the stove, just prior to boiling, before straining. However, doing this could change the taste or consistency of the oil.
Making seasoned vinegar is done much the same way as making seasoned oil. The most important thing to remember when making anything using vinegar is to not use anything metal. Your utensils and especially your jar lids or stoppers cannot be metal, as vinegar is corrosive to metal. You can use a mason jar, as the lid insert has a plastic covering and rubber ring in the only place that the vinegar will touch.
Any other jars should have a rubber stopper.
I have never used anything but fresh herbs to make seasoned vinegar. I have heard that if you use ground or dried herbs that it makes the vinegar cloudy, and creates chewy bits when poured over food. If you plan to use dried herbs, you may want to strain it through cheese cloth after letting it steep for a week the let the herb flavors infuse into the vinegar.
When using fresh herbs, wash them thoroughly and pat dry. Wash your jar, add the herbs and spices and pour in the vinegar. Cap tightly and set in the refrigerator for a couple days. It should be able to to be used after a couple of days. As you use it, replace the vinegar so that the herbs are always covered. It is important they are always covered with the vinegar so they do not spoil. The longer the herbs sit in the vinegar, the stronger the flavor will be. Remember, this vinegar is not "canned" so it must always be kept in the refrigerator.
If the vinegar is made with herbs and spices only, it will last about 6 months before you need to discard the herbs and start fresh. If you use fresh vegetables, like peppers, onions, or garlic, then the vinegar will not last as long. Keep an eye on the vegetables, if they start to get dark or disintegrate, then discard the vinegar and make fresh. I usually make fresh after 3 or 4 weeks as long as the vegetables look good.
I remember growing up my Mom making seasoned vinegar to pour on her greens. Mustard greens, poke, collard greens, if it was greens, my Mom poured seasoned vinegar on it. I remember the adorable little glass pitcher with a stopper that she used to make that vinegar.
She would pick little immature peppers, both hot and sweet and chop up onions and slip them into this little pitcher (I later learned it was called a cruet) and pour in white vinegar. She kept in in the door of the refrigerator. I never liked the taste of the contents as a kid, but that little glass cruet will always evoke fond memories.
When flavoring with fresh vegetables, I tend to only put them in vinegar, I feel they do better there. My favorite recipe for what I call "Veggie Vinegar" is:
- Green bell pepper strips (1/4 x 3 inches)
- Onion strips
- Basil Leaves
- Pinch of salt
- 2 pinches of sugar
- a small amount of lemon zest
Seasoned vinegar or oil is great as a marinade on both pork and beef, I brush it over beef roasts and pork tenderloins. It's also delicious drizzled over vegetables to give them extra flavor and awesome on french fries too! Make some for yourself and I bet you will find even more uses for it.
Have a great day!