Making herbed flavored oils and vinegars

Following food safety practices when making herbed oils and vinegars is an important issue.

The United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate recommends that half your plate should be a combination of fruits and vegetables. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can taste great with a splash of flavored oil or herbed vinegar. Michigan State University Extension recommends that as the availability of herbs from the garden and farmer’s markets becomes more prevalent, it is important to focus on safety when preparing herbed vinegars and oils.

When making oils with added herbs, garlic or vegetables it is wise to remember that herbs in oil mixtures may support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria. Botulism is a serious illness that causes paralysis of muscles. It is caused by a neurotoxin, generically called botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Flavored oils are best if made fresh and kept refrigerated, any leftovers should be used within three days. Additionally, garlic-in-oil mixtures are potentially hazardous food items and must also be refrigerated and used within three days.

When making flavored vinegars with herbs start with fresh or dried herbs. Select and prepare containers first. Use only glass jars or bottles that are free of cracks or nicks and can be sealed with a screw-band lid, cap or cork. Wash hands well before starting any food preparation work. Wash containers thoroughly, then sterilize by immersing the jars in a pan of hot water and simmer for 10 minutes. Once the jars are sterile, remove from the simmering water and invert on a paper towel. Wash the herb then pat dry.

Several types of vinegar may be used, but not all give the same results. Distilled white vinegar is clear in color and has a sharp acidic taste by itself. It is the best choice for delicately flavored herbs. Apple cider vinegar has a milder taste than distilled white vinegar, but the amber color may not be desirable. Apple cider vinegar blends best with fruits.

Once you have the flavor you want, it’s time to pour into a pretty bottle or a clean jar. Use a funnel and either a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter to filter out any little bits of herbs or stems. Strain into your new bottle or jar, cover tightly and use within one year. You can store in the refrigerator or on the counter, either one is fine. Once your vinegar is finished, try using it in salad dressings, sauces or marinades, or to deglaze your pan and create a reduction sauce after frying meat. Also to flavor your favorite soups, stews or steamed vegetables.

Give your family and friends a new, tasty treat to add to their vegetables and fruits and savor the flavors of summer by making your own oil and vinegar!

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