Mother Earth Living

Herbal Butters and Oils: Tips

By Patsy Bell Hobson
December/January 2010
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Photography by Howard Lee Puckett


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Herbal Oils as Gifts

Because recipients often will want to save your gift, remind them that infused oil should be refrigerated and used within one week. Another option is to give a bottle of good-quality oil accompanied by your “secret recipe” of mixed, dried ingredients and the recipe instructions. The separate herb and oil combinations can be transported in a gift bag or basket without the need for refrigeration. The recipient can then mix the herbs and oils for use and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Add a tag detailing mixing instructions and safe handling. Between using dried ingredients and directions for safe handling practices, you virtually ensure the oils will be safe. It is unlikely that well-dried ingredients would pose a threat anyway, but delaying the introduction to the oil and refrigerating creates an added level of safety.

I like to use lemony herbs and lemon zest to make an oil. Then I add a decorative slice of dried lemon to the bottle.

Uses for Infused Oils

• Drizzle over fresh tomatoes
• Toss with pasta
• Brush on meats and vegetables when grilling
• Use to make salad dressings
• Use as a dip for French bread

Tips for Infusing Oil

• Start with clean, dry herbs. Rinse fresh herbs and pat dry with paper towels.
• Sterilize jars or bottles; dry completely.
• Dried herbs, whole dried red chile  peppers, dried crushed red pepper flakes and/or peppercorns may remain in the flavored oil.
• Fresh herbs, lemon strips or zest, and sun-dried tomatoes must be removed by pouring the oil through a wire-mesh strainer and discarding the solids.
• Fresh basil, bay, chives, cilantro, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, savory, tarragon and thyme may be used to flavor oils.
• For gift giving, pour infused olive oil into small, sterilized decorative glass bottles. Include a recipe, storage instructions and a note to discard oil in one week.
• Do not use flavored oils for frying.

When Fat is Good for You

Even if you’re watching your weight, you might not need to skip that bread and little bowl of flavored olive oil before a meal—in fact, it might actually help you eat less. Consuming a small amount of healthy unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, before a meal will allow you to digest food more slowly, so you can eat less but still feel full. Like all other oils, olive oil is 100 percent fat. Oils and butters have more than twice as many calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrate. Nutritionists suggest that we replace saturated fat and trans fat with monounsaturated fat, like olive or canola oil. Or, choose polyunsaturated fat, like corn, soybean or safflower oil.

Light olive oil refers to flavor, not to calories. Light olive oils are filtered, so much of the olive flavor and color are removed. Light versions of olive oil are suitable for baking or cooking without the olive oil taste. Extra virgin olive oil is made from olives that have been pressed only once, resulting in oil with an acidity level of less than 1 percent. It is the darkest and most flavorful of the olive oils.


Patsy Bell Hobson is a freelance writer and avid gardener from Liberty, Missouri.

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