DIY: How to Make Amazing Infused Oils at Home

June 6, 2013

Infused oils add delicious flavor and dimension to dishes. Used in sauces and vinaigrettes, tossed in salads, drizzled over grilled meats and vegetables, applied as a finishing oil - the uses are endless. Infused oils can often be pricey, but they're simple to make at home and definitely more rewarding when made with your own hands. They also make great gifts! Todd Knoll, Executive Chef at Jordan Winery, shows us how to make two full of flavor Asian-style infused oils: a ginger and black bean infusion and citrus infusion. Watch the video and get the recipes below.

Video transcription provided below.

Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil Infusion: Hawaiian Ginger and Black Bean Oil

1 cup Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combined ingredients below should weigh a total of approximately 90 grams
1 cup green scallions, sliced
3 Tbsp Chinese black beans, minced
2 pods star anise, toasted

Click here for instructions.

Grape Seed Citrus Oil Infusion 

1 cup grape seed oil
Combined ingredients below should weigh a total of approximately 90 grams
Meyer lemon leaves, chopped
Lemon thyme leaves, chopped
Bergamot peel, sliced
Seville orange peel, sliced
Lemon grass, sliced
Meyer lemon zest
Coriander seeds

Click here for instructions.

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Today I will show you the techniques of producing flavorful and seasonal oils in your home.  Today I will be producing two oils, one of which is a ginger and black bean oil produced with our Jordan Extra Virgin olive oil, the other of which is a seasonal citrus oil and that will be produced with a neutral grape seed oil.

The equipment necessary to produce your own oils at home is very simple.  The tools required are a microplane zester, a Swiss peeler, a digital thermometer, a chef’s knife, a strainer and a place to keep your oil, in this case a Mason jar.

In the case of these two recipes we will be using two different oils to achieve two very different effects.  In the first case this is Jordan Extra Virgin olive oil and we will be using that for the ginger and black bean oil.  The technique of infusing oils is a simple one, using a stovetop method we will bring our water to the desired temperature and then babysit it.  The first oil is a play on classic Chinese dish, I love steamed fish, say a snapper, to finish it at the last moment, get that perfume coming off the heat of the fish.

The first ingredient is Hawaiian ginger, young Hawaiian ginger is what I prefer, even dried can be used in a pinch.  The Chinese black beans are a fermented product available at any Chinese retailer.  It’s salty, umami, that sixth sense it’s just amazing.  And then your green scallions, we’re going to bring freshness again, you’re going to lose some of the color, you’re not going to get that beautiful scallion oil but you’re going to get the flavor of China and really brightness on the plate.  In this dish, to add another layer of flavor and aroma we toast some star anise.  Very little goes a long way, in this recipe for one cup of oil I would say two pods and we’re going to toast them.  Be careful not to burn, we don’t want bitterness, we want to enliven and release those volatile oils into our Chinese black bean oil.  With any ingredient I recommend using knife cuts, cut as thinly as possible on the bias whenever possible, we’re trying to get as much surface area in contact with the oil we’re attempting to infuse.  So, black beans should be minced as finely as possible, gingers thinly as possible and on the bias, and also the scallions, green and white parts sliced as thinly as possible.

There are specific recipes for each of these oils.  I encourage experimentation.  As a rule of thumb, before you begin to play I would look at the weight of the oil and your flavoring ingredients would be about 50% the weight of your final oil so in this case I’m dealing with one cup of oil and the ingredients should weigh a total of half that weight, in this case we’re looking at about 90 grams of ingredients going into our ginger and black bean oil.

So here are the ingredients for our Hawaiian ginger and black bean oil.  This is Jordan Extra Virgin olive oil.  To infuse our oil we’re going to force as much air as we can out of a Ziploc bag.  Fairly sealed, very little air.  And then here we have, 2º over our target temperature, we have the water at 160º on our stovetop.  One of the key points to this technique is maintaining a very low temperature.  We do not want to cook the ingredients; we’re simply coaxing the oils out of them as gently as possible.  Now we’re going to try and maintain 158º as close as possible, within 2º.  We’re going to miss it a few times but three hours, 158º average would be perfect.

Our three hours are complete and there are three different ways to strain it.  In this case I would use a Chinese fine mesh strainer, also known as a chinois.  A coffee maker for a very fine strain can be used at home.  Cheesecloth for a strainer is probably your best bet for your home cook, and when using cheesecloth I recommend that you always wash it out.  The method of straining I use here is one in which I press the solids extracting that last bit of flavor.  What I’m giving up in that technique is shelf life but I’m not concerned as I will be using it within a week.  So, you simply open your bag, pour it into your chinois, then I press through with the back of a ladle extracting every last bit of flavor and you can see the color coming out of the black beans and a lot of the salts will also be pressed out of the scallion.

To store my oil I like to use a Mason jar.  Keep it in a dark place, refrigerated preferably.  The reason I use a Mason jar, not only does it make for a great gift but it’s very spoon friendly.  Again you’re going to be using a drizzle on each plate so this makes it very easy to take care of, reseal and return it to your refrigerator.  For a gift, I like to re-identify the oil adding just a touch of garniture, in this case, one slice of the ginger.  A ginger blossom would also be beautiful as a gift, a couple of the black beans, and this will continue to infuse the oil.  And then top it off in a small Mason jar.  These make for a great takeaway to reinforce the meal, to bring back a memory and perhaps getting your guests on their own journey into creating their own oil.  So as a takeaway use the oil that you’ve finished your dish with and you can give them a little rundown, hold it for one week, throw their own dinner party and it’s a perfect size for home use.  The problem you’ll find is that in creating one recipe is that you will not be able to utilize all the oil at its best so it’s great to produce a larger amount and then to give it away.

Another method of infusing oil is to use a neutral oil and this is using subtle ingredients in different cuts and surface areas to produce a very subtle but bright oil in the late winter, early spring.  So the ingredients for our citrus oil are Meyer lemon leaves cut in chiffonade very, very finely to increase the surface area, lemon thyme, you can either pick the leaves or if it’s new thyme you can use the stems as well, bergamot, the citrus that imparts the flavor you know well in Earl Grey tea, Seville orange, we want to make sure that only the colored portion of the rind is used and not the pith, the pith only imparts bitterness so you want to slice it very carefully, as little light as possible and if you do miss any pith, run your knife back over the backside of it and pull as much pith out as possible.  The lemon grass, found in East Asian cuisine, and this I’m going to cut very thinly and on a bias to get again as much surface area as possible.  Then the Meyer lemon which we’re going to zest with the microplaner.  Check your bag all the volatile oils and all of the zest are here and there’s very little white remaining.

Always a good starting point when you’re experimenting is 50% the weight of the oil to your ingredients.  From this point I’ve gathered all of my ingredients and my grape seed oil, it goes into the bag, just as we did for the Hawaiian ginger and black bean oil.  But in this case we will be cooking the oil for two hours at a lower temperature, a temperature of 140º and then we will further let it steep under refrigeration for 12 hours, gently getting that last bit of olive oil out of the product.  Now we’ve completed our 12 hours of refrigeration, we have everything we want.  Now we want to see what are we going to use it, what recipes are we going to use it in?  If I’m going to be using it in a vinaigrette where the clarification of the oil is of little importance if any, then I would press the solids down, pull all of those flavors out and then emulsify into my vinaigrette, if I’m going to finish as a jewel on a plate and I want that clarification and that bright color then I’m going to let it free run and not press it at all.

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