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How To Make Flavored Oils
As cuisine progresses through the post nouvelle era, a trend in alternative sauces has been established. Juices, salsas, relishes, syrups and broths have, in many instances, taken the place of traditional sauces. One of the most effective sauce alternatives is infused oils. The smooth richness of an infused oil contributes a luscious mouth feel to foods with which it is combined. More importantly, because the flavor essences of many of our favorite ingredients are fat soluble, oils are an ideal flavor carrier. Fat is the best vehicle for the flavor notes of many herbs and spices.
Along with being an excellent carrier of certain flavors, the popularity of infused oils is also due to the dramatic impact they can add to plate presentations. Sparkling droplets of simmering oil swirled into a sauce against a background of white china is an effect often used in contemporary cuisine.
The traditional method for infusing oils is beautifully simple. Oil is placed in a container, preferably a clear bottle, with the flavor ingredients. It is then sealed and allowed to sit out at room temperature anywhere from several hours to several weeks. Some prefer to leave bottles of infusing oil on a sunny windowsill to accelerate the infusion process the same as brewing "sun tea".
Pure oils are stored at room temperature without concern for spoilage or food borne pathogens. This is because, in their unaltered state, oils don't have enough moisture content to support the growth of microorganisms. However, when other ingredients are added to the oil, both the moisture and microorganisms the ingredients may contain are enough to make infused oils dangerous. This danger is compounded when oils are kept at room temperature. Once infused, oils are best kept refrigerated. Great care should be used when making infused oils and the traditional method of infusion is not recommended for commercial foodservice!
To further prolong the shelf life of infused oils, containers and utensils used in making infused oils should be clean. Sterilizing them in boiling water the same way as one would with canning equipment is recommended.
Oils should always be kept sealed. The process of an oil or fat going rancid is an oxidation process. Sealed containers keep oxygen contact to a minimum and extend the life of the oil.
Cold Infusion (Blender Method)
This technique for cold infusion is best used with herbs, roots, citrus zest and fresh Chile peppers. Because these products may add moisture to the oil making it ripe for spoilage, the velocity of the blender will release their essential oils and they can be refrigerated immediately after preparation. Combine the oil and the flavoring ingredients in the blender cup and blend at high speed until the product is liquefied. Leafy herbs can be quickly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in cold water to help preserve their color and give the finished oil a pleasing green appearance. Roots such as horseradish, and ginger should be grated or chopped to fully extract flavor in the blender. Fibers from roots should be strained before bottling. Straining other ingredients is optional.
The use of heat to release flavors is the best way to make infused oils with dry spices. It is also good with roots and woody herbs. The heating of the oil and flavor ingredients makes the finished product more sanitary and less prone to spoilage. It has the further advantage of making the flavor of some spices like cumin and curry more rich and complex the same way that toasting them does. To create a hot infusion, combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. In most cases a temperature between 180 and 200°F is sufficient to release the essential oils of flavoring ingredients. Higher temperatures tend to give the oil a "cooked" taste and may caramelize or scorch the flavorings. Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot. Seal and allow to cool. Refrigerate oil after it has reached room temperature.
"Combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame." "Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot."
Some Common Infused Oils
for 1 pt. oil
2-3 TBS., minced
3-4 TBS., grated
3-4 TBS. , grated
4-6 TBS., minced
4 TBS., chopped
1-2 TBS, crushed
3 TBS., crushed
4-6 TBS., grated
- Complement Your Dish With The Right Olive Oil
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