What do you suppose will be the shelf life of the oil?Couple notes: this is going to be very long and highly detailed. It's not really about canning or preserving so don't know if it should go into that sub-forum. The bottles I'm using are too small to put a pig or cow in so I'm gonna stay away from my two most trusted forums. This seems like a safe bet where to put the thread.
A couple months ago I decided to delve into making garlic infused olive oil. My "technique" was just to load a bunch of whole cloves of garlic into a bottle of olive oil and let it steep for a couple weeks to develop flavors. I posted this and immediately got responses from two of the most knowledgeable people in the forum telling me the error of my ways. The good folks that saved my a$$ were @daveomak and chef jimmyj Both said the same thing: garlic is a root vegetable and susceptible to developing botulism. Holy crap!! This could have been catastrophic!! Thank God I'd only given a bottle to 2 different friends the day before who I immediately contacted and told them to dump it. I shelved this project for a bit while I did some research. Most of the processes I read were insanely involved and more than I wanted to get into. Then I found a couple articles that seemed credible, both stating the same thing. I then asked Dave and Jimmy if the process was safe. Both said it was but added a couple of caveats to go a step or two further to ensure safety. I'm back in business!! Got more stuff and tried again following their advice then sent a PM to both spelling out the exact process. Both agreed that what I've done is safe...whew!! Dave did mention the possibility of one additional step, which I'll note later, but both said it's probably overkill based on what I did. Here we go:
This is the herb mix I get from Costco that I use in the olive oil
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Cut a piece of cheesecloth and dump a couple ounces of the herb mix onto it
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Loosely tie the ball with butcher's twine. The knot needs to be tight but don't make the ball itself tight so the oil can flow through it
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This is 3 quarts of olive oil in the Dutch oven
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A half cup of minced garlic. You don't have to use minced but the garlic needs to be in small enough pieces to ensure it gets fully hot all the way through
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Garlic and herb ball into the oil. Notice that the garlic is on the bottom
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Heating up. i'm going to post several pics. Note the color change in the garlic in conjunction with the thermometer readings and the garlic rising to the top
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We are in the safe zone. You MUST maintain a minimum of 250* for at least 3 minutes to ensure safety.
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This is the lowest temp I can maintain on this burner. I let it sit for 4 minutes, which actually gives 6 to 7 minutes above the 250* minimum threshold.
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Note how dark the garlic is
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Let sit for a couple hours to cool. This will give even more time above the minimum temp. Needless to say, I'm not playing games with this project. Botulism is some REALLY nasty stuff.
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Ok, we are cooked, cooled and safe. Time to bottle. Sterilize all bottles, dribble corks, and caps before starting this step. I did these the night before with a sanitizer that I use for cleaning my equipment when making beer, then put them in the dishwasher. Took out when done and put corks in to ensure nothing got into the bottles overnight. Place a bottle in the sink with a small funnel in it and put a piece of cheesecloth into the funnel
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Remove the herb ball from the oil
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Ladle the oil through a fine mesh tea strainer into the funnel with the cheesecloth in it
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Continue until you run out of oil or run out of bottles. I got 6) 375 ml bottles of oil from this batch. Here they are with the dribble corks and the caps
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Put the dribble corks into the bottles
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Put the caps on
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Slide the decorative shrink wrap sleeves onto the bottles
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A few seconds with the heat gun and we have a finished product. You can also do this with a blow dryer, it just takes a bit longer.
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All 6 done
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Alrighty then....now to dial in a few details I've learned over 4 batches of this stuff. I've only used 3 different techniques though so here ya go:
1) Get oil to proper temp for proper amount of time, let cool, and then ladle into bottles using just the tea strainer and funnel
Pros: Great caramelized flavor and a nice herbal undertone
Cons: Small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottles. Not an issue from a standpoint of quality, it just detracted from the visual aspect
2) Get oil to temp for proper amount of time, immediately bottle using cheesecloth in the funnel and tea strainer
Pros: Very clean and visually appealing
Cons: Lacking the deep caramelized flavor from the garlic and not as noticeable an herbal note
3) Get oil to proper temp for proper amount of time, let cool, and bottle using tea strainer and cheesecloth in the funnel
Pros: Very clean, visually appealing, deep caramelized flavor and nice tones from the herbs
Cons: None!! Need I say more?
This stuff is incredible!! I can't believe that we used to spend $25 for a 375 ml bottle of this stuff from a little specialty shop we found in Ruidoso NM a few years ago. Now to note the one aspect Dave pointed out that may add one more step to ensure safety. That is what I did in #2 above: bottle it immediately. Both jimmy and Dave said however that it's overkill based on the fact that I exceeded every requirement for safety in my process. Now y'all wanna make some spicy pepper vinegar? I think I heard one person WAAAAYYY in the back say "yes" so here we go. The first couple batches of this stuff were done using fresh cayenne peppers from our friend's garden. I was putting 12-15 peppers in each 375 ml bottle and was getting a nice spice tingle. Then I ran out of the cayenne peppers and had to drop back 10 and punt. Decided 2 weeks ago to use some different peppers. In each 375 ml bottle I put 1 fresh Serrano, 1 fresh Arbol, and 3 large dried Arbols. This seemed like it'd create a nice tingle without being overly hot but I was concerned that it may not be enough pepper. Opened a bottle this morning just to taste it before starting the next batch to see if I needed to make any adjustments. Nope...it was perfect!! Just a really nice spicy tingle, complexity from the different pepper flavors, and a perfect balance. Decided to proceed with the batch today exactly as I did the last two. The way I do this is to use a 50/50 mix of white distilled vinegar and ACV. Start out by cutting the peppers at the stem end, removing the stem, and opening up the end of the pepper. This will allow the vinegar to get inside of the pepper so you'll get the full flavor versus just getting it from the outside. With the dried Arbols, turn them upside down over a paper plate or towel and gently massage the pepper to get the seeds out. You can even give it a flick or two with your fingernail to prompt the hard-headed seeds to come out. Put all peppers into the bottles then put your vinegar on the stove. I used 10 cups (80 oz) this time, which was 5 cups of each vinegar.
Here are the bottles with the peppers in them (Note: you must sanitize the bottles and wash the fresh peppers prior to starting)
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Vinegar on the stove
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Bring to a nice boil and immediately ladle into the bottles. This will slightly cook the peppers bringing out the flavors and also re-hydrate the dried Arbols. No need for the tea strainer or the cheese cloth this time, just the funnel. Fill all 6 bottles
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Install dribble corks, tops, and shrink wrap caps same as the olive oil. Here ya have it. Six beautiful, matched gift sets of garlic & herb infused olive oil and pepper vinegar.
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Kinda cool stuff The beauty of this is that you can create unique gifts that will blow people's minds when you tell them you did it all yourself. It adds to the unique factor that it's homemade and something you can take pride in sharing with friends and family. Remember earlier when I said we were paying $25 for a 375 ml bottle of just the oil? Well this whole set, all 12 bottles only cost a couple dollars more than that to make....total cost. Being less than a $30 investment to make these comes out to less than $5 per set and total hands-on working time was just over an hour. Not a bad gig. Oh well, I told y'all this was gonna be long and I wasn't kidding. I'll cut it short and bring this to a closure...after another comment or two. The peppers I used are just what I wanted to use. They are by no means set in stone. You can create however much heat and/or flavor you want with any combination of peppers you want. I know that there have been several people that we've all been in contact with who are doing the vinegar: Joe @xray Steve @Steve H and possibly John @SmokinVOLfan These folks have made some insane stuff that I'm sure they will chime in with to give you some other ideas. A couple other people that I've communicated with regarding this stuff are Anne @annewaldron and Mariko @Omnivore They too will probably chime in as both are VERY creative and love doing stuff homemade....like some REALLY good cookies that Anne makes. Not that I've had any...just sayin' The general consensus between Jimmy, Dave, and myself was that this concept is getting extremely popular in the forum and it would be nice for folks to have an accurate, verified, and safe procedure to follow so I did it. Now I'm gonna go crawl back under my rock. Thanks for spending your afternoon with me here
Really tired of typing,
Thanks for the write up. I think I'm going to steal that olive oil recipe from you! Great job.
Been waiting on this post Robert! Its nice to have the visual affect. The bottles you sent me are outstanding and I can attest to how good they are!
Nothing uneducated about it...hard to keep up with all the abbreviations for things! Apple Cider Vinegar
My gosh! What an awesome post! I’m blown away every time I check into the SMF by the amazing and diversified processes and techniques used and so willingly shared.
I’m retired and will never have time to try all the things I’ve seen here!
Thanks for sharing.
What a great write up Robert!! I will be trying this too!! I am saving the bottles you sent for our Christmas gathering. Still planning what I will use them with. Thanks a ton!!
Robert, I'm tired of trying to find those bottles and dribble things... Can you share a part no. or something to help me out ????
What an excellent read and tutorial, Robert!!! I’m looking forward to trying the oil and making my own someday. There’s just so much I want to do.
Can we share links?
I dont even know what to say, great post? WOW. Great write up. Very easy to follow even I can to it I think. Amazing job. Very well done.
Awesome post! I bookmarked it for future use.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the write-up. Very nice job
Great write up!
The better learn from their failures.
I aspire for better