Infused oils for cooking and skin care
With a big spring harvest of lemon balm, rosemary and mint, I’ve made infused olive oil and sweet almond oil infusions. These herbal preparations are very simple and easy to make, no alchemy or witchcraft needed, so I thought I’d share the methods for those of you who have might like to experiment. It’s best to make small batches and use them fast, although I did a big batch of oil making just before Christmas, and quite a few folk got oil for Christmas!
I use sweet almond oil as a base oil for massage and skin care. These infused oils carry the aroma, colour and properties of the plants used. I often make infusions from dried herbs, such as arnica, and calendula, to use as moisturizers and to treat bruises and rashes. I also use lemon balm, rosemary and mint as culinary herbs, infused in olive oil, although keep in mind that these have medicinal properties too.
Not 'the good oil'?
In a study that appeared in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Spanish researchers tested virgin olive oil that had been stored for 12 months under perfect conditions.
What they found was quite surprising: After 12 months, many of the oil's prime healing substances had practically vanished. All the vitamin E was gone, as much as 30 percent of the chlorophyll had deteriorated, and 40 percent of the beta-carotene had disintegrated. Phenol levels had dropped dramatically, too.
Instead of stashing your olive oil in the cabinet for more than 12 months, why not unleash its flavour on your favourite foods? The next page has tons of tips for how to use olive oil.
The shelf life of body massage oil is typically around 6 months, although good storage conditions will extend this further, and the fridge is again a useful place to store them until they have been used up.
Sweet almond oil, stored correctly (dark, cool, well-sealed bottles) has a self-life of 12 months .
Infused oil Methods:
You will need very clean glass jars with good screw caps or tight press seals. Jars and lids washed and dried in a dishwasher are fine. Dark jars are best, but you can wrap clear ones in aluminium foil to keep out the light.
Also wash and dry spoons and a glass or plastic funnel. Use filtered or boiled and cooled water to wash fresh herbs and a newly washed and dried tea towel to dry the herds. When harvesting the oil, bits of herb can be filtered out by lining the funnel with sterile gauze (bandage from the pharmacy).
Infused herb oils for the kitchen
1. Use organic high quality FRESH (check use-by date) olive, avocado, peanut or grapeseed oil. I use olive oil as it doesn’t go cloudy as readily as other oils, and I can buy it in a big can!
2.Wash fresh herbs well, dry between the folds of a clean tea towel, then chop the herbs in a food processor.
3.Fill a 500ml jar with loosely packed chopped herbs and cover with oil. Mix well with clean spoon, seal jar (use tape on coffee jar press fit lids).
4.Leave to stand in cool dark cupboard for up to 3 weeks.
5.Drain off oil into new, clean jar, filtering through clean gauze, without pressing herbs (clouds oil).
6. Label with date, store in a cool dark place.
7. Use oil for cooking, making salad dressing or vinaigrettes. Best if used within one month but it can be kept for up to 6 months if not cloudy.
Sweet almond oil or other massage oil can be infused in a similar fashion, but here I also use dried herbs from a known source of organic material (eg Astral herbs) or my own dried herbs.
Arnica flowers make a good oil for treating bruises. Calendula oil is anti-inflammatory and lavender or lemon balm oil is very soothing. Again, it’s good to use the oil within one month of making it, but again it can be kept for up to 6 months if not cloudy.