With a season usually focused around cookies, cocktails and other various indulgences, my heart just hasn’t been in it this year. I haven’t been much in the mood for sweets, I guess I can have my personal trainer to thank for that! So, I’ve instead been spending time coming up with fun, handmade gifts for the food-lovers in all of our lives!
There are lots of great options for simple homemade gifts here on TY: Homemade Chocolate Bark, DIY homemade Vanilla Extract, Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter, Coconut Butter, Nut Butters, Candy Cane Hot Cocoa Mix, Chai Concentrate, just to name a few of my favorites.
A handmade gift, made with love, packaged up sweetly with beautiful custom labels and a thoughtful note, to me, is what the season is all about. Sharing something you created with your own two hands, especially for the recipient.
Infused Olive Oils make really great and beautiful gifts for the food lover in your life! The flavor possibilities are endless and it is truly a fun and unique present.
There are so many various ways you can infuse olive oil and there are just as many posts floating around the web telling us about them. Some heat the oil, while others just throw it all together in the bottle and call it a day, some leave in the ingredients in, others strain them out before bottling. I have done a lot of reading and no matter what method you choose, there are a few concerns we have to take into account when making infused olive oils.
When using fresh ingredients that haven’t been dried, there is always a concern of Botulism, but most especially with garlic-infused olive oil. Clostridium Botulinum is a bacterium found in most soil and since garlic, being a root vegetable, is ripped from the ground, traces of this deadly bacteria are still left clinging to it. Since Botulism is an anaerobic bacteria (meaning that it thrives in an environment lacking oxygen), it dies in the presence of oxygen. Olive oil essentially seals out oxygen and when you mix food in with the oil, you have an ideal breeding ground for these potentially deadly bacteria.
Commercial grade garlic infused olive oils are (usually) prepared with an acid or preservative of some kind to preserve the garlic and protect if from growing harmful bacteria. At home, we could add some type of acid to the garlic oil mixture if we figure out the pH levels and all that, or to just be extra safe, we can simply strain out the garlic from the oil and store the infused oil in the refrigerator, consuming it in less than 1 month’s time. When leaving the garlic in the oil, the main concern is that toxin production has been known to occur even when a small number of C. botulinum spores were present in the garlic. When the spore-containing garlic is bottled and covered with oil, an oxygen-free environment is created that promotes the germination of spores and the growth of microorganisms at temperatures as low as 50 F. Scary stuff. So strain that garlic out, kids or if you are leaving it in, eat your garlic oil within a day or two!
Besides the garlic, I tend to prefer to use dried herbs and spices for my infusions. Dried herbs in oil are less of a safety concern because of their low water activity which makes conditions less favorable to growth of C. botulinum. When using fresh, whole herbs, since they look so beautiful in the bottles, I simply dehydrate them myself, so they can stay whole but it is safe to bottle with the oil.
So now that I have effectively
scared educated you, let’s move on to this how-to!
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