As our days get busier, we are far more likely to reach for pre-packaged mixes and other convenience foods to lighten our load and make dinner prep a bit easier. These are some of my favorite homemade kitchen helpers you can make in advance and keep handy for those extra-hectic evenings… or even the non-hectic ones. Work smarter, not harder!
Fresh herb-infused oils are truly one of the finer things in life.
Fresh garlic-infused olive oil may be one of the finest.
Unfortunately, unless it’s made fresh in small batches that are used up immediately, there’s a very real risk of botulism growing in the low-acid, anaerobic environment. Botulism is a serious form of food poisoning, and it not something to mess around with.
A few months back, I stumbled across a peer-reviewed study by the University of Idaho describing a novel method of acidifying certain low-acid herbs prior to oil infusion to a pH value that does not support the growth of Clostridium botulinum (aka the bacterium that causes botulism).
That’s right! Delicious garlic-infused olive oil made in advance and safely stored until needed IS POSSIBLE! And oh my is it good. It’s my newest favorite Kitchen Helper.
Think about the possibilities: garlic olive oil vinaigrette salad dressing; garlic olive oil tossed potatoes, pasta, rice, quinoa, etc.; drizzled on grilled zucchini or eggplant (or pretty much ANY veggie); garlic olive oil for making garlicky hummus, muhammara, dipping bread, homemade garlic mayonnaise, drizzled on pizza… *ahem* I could go on.
So many delicious ways to infuse super-healthy garlic into your life.
Since conducting the 2014 study, the Idaho Extension Office has published a guide to making acidified garlic that is safe to infuse in oil. Turns out, it’s a stupid-simple process.
To acidify garlic, simply make a 3% citric acid solution using 1 tablespoon (TABLEspoon, not teaspoon) of citric acid to 2 cups of warm water. This is enough to acidify about 2/3 cup of chopped/sliced garlic (~8 ounces). You can easily scale the recipe as needed.
Once the citric acid is completely dissolved in solution, pour it over your chopped/sliced (1/4″ or smaller) garlic. If needed, add a weight on top of the garlic to keep it submerged in the citric acid solution, beneath the water line. Set aside and allow garlic to acidify for about 24 hours.
Once 24 hours is up, strain out the garlic and (briefly) rinse it with a cup of fresh water. The U of I suggests using 1 part acidified garlic to 10 parts oil and adjusting up or down to suit your garlic-loving taste preferences. Allow the oil to infuse for up to 10 days at room temperature. You may gently heat the oil slightly to speed the infusion process, but do not exceed 140F to avoid damaging the flavor of the oil.
I placed my jar inside the cabinet of my Excalibur dehydrator and held it at 115F for about a week.
At the end of the infusion period, strain out the garlic. The publication states that you may choose to leave the garlic in the oil but, obviously, it will continue to infuse and will result in a more intense garlic flavor. (If you have vampires to ward off, by all means, leave the garlic in the oil!)
Ta da! that’s all there is to it!
The finished infused oil should be stored in a UV-protected glass jar out of direct sunlight. It can be stored at room temperature, but will last longer in the refrigerator or freezer.
This process can also be used to acidify basil, rosemary and oregano. Olive oil is a classic pairing with garlic and Italian herbs, but you can also use this process with other healthy oils such as ghee or coconut (I know it’s mentioned in the publication, but PLEASE don’t use canola). Obviously, different oils will add their own flavor profiles to the mix. Let the experimenting begin!
You could also choose a combo of these herbs — say garlic and basil (YUM!) — and create an infused oil blend. Play around with the ratios until you have a flavor profile you like.
Once you get the hang of it, bottle a couple of your custom oils in pretty bottles with ribbon to make a very thoughtful and unique host(ess)/housewarming gift!
P.S. If you’d really like to geek out on all the amazing things the humble garlic can do for your health, I highly recommend Paul Bergner’s book The Healing Power of Garlic: The Enlightened Person’s Guide to Nature’s Most Versatile Medicinal Plant. It’s easily the most comprehensive reference on garlic I’ve found, while managing to be an entertaining read at the same time!