Difficultly level: *Super easy
Specialty stores might have you thinking that infused oils are all mystical and complicated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Making infused oils yourself is super easy and a great DIY gift that you can share with your friends and family.
And when it comes to infused oils the possibilities are endless. Herb-infused oils are fantastic for drizzling over pasta, making a special salad dressing, or with chunks of delicious artisan bread. Infused oils have been used traditionally as medicines for all kinds of ailments.
Not only is there a huge variety of plants that you can infuse, but there is a big selection of the types of oils you can use. Olive oil is a great overall inexpensive oil to use whether used externally or for food. It is the one I most commonly use and is least likely to go rancid. Some good culinary oils also include macadamia, walnut, safflower, and sesame. Jojoba, almond, grapeseed, coconut oil are lovely for an oil that you will be using externally.
There are several ways to infuse oils, but my favorite is the old folk method which relies on the sun to naturally infuse the oil. Another way to do it is to gently heat the herbs and oil on a stove top. Let’s get started.
- A clean glass jar
- Dried or wilted plant material cut into small pieces. It is important that you wilt the herbs for at least 12 hours because the moisture in the plant will cause the oil to spoil. Get enough to fill about ¾ of the jar.
- Oil (I suggest olive for your first infusion)
- Fancy jars. That is optional if you want a fancy jar to put the finished oils in. I just use a mason jar most of the time!
- Wide mouth funnel (optional, but it will make getting the herbs into the jar much easier. A wide-mouth funnel is one of my most used kitchen items. You can pick it up at Canadian Tire).
1. Place plant material in a clean, dry jar.
2. Add enough oil to fully cover plant material leaving about 1 inch at the top, leaving at least ½ an inch of space at the top of the jar so the herbs have room to expand.
3. Let the materials infuse for a few hours. Check the jar to make sure that the plant material hasn’t absorbed all the oil. If it has, add some more oil so plant material is well covered.
4. Cover the jar with a clean piece of cotton cloth or unbleached coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Don’t put the lid on as sometimes the herbs release gases (you might see some tiny bubbles).
5. Let the oil infuse on a sunny windowsill for 4-6 weeks (I know it is a long time to wait, but it is worth it, trust me!). You can leave the oil infusing until you are ready to use it (I’ve forgotten about some oils for a year or more). But if you are going to do this, after your 6-8 weeks have passed, move the jar to a dry place out of direct light.
6. Strain the herbs out and toss ‘em into the compost. Pour the oil into glass bottles and store in a cool, dry, dark place. The oil should keep for at least a year.
I’ve mentioned each herb separately, but feel free to combine and experiment!
Cayenne peppers – For cooking, but you can also use it for pain, muscle aches, and arthritis.
Basil – Why, pesto of course! But can be used in a number of recipes.
Oregano –Spaghetti sauce anyone?
Rosemary – Toss some of this oil with potatoes and roast. Yum! Also works nice as a hair treatment.
Lemon Balm – Very soothing for the skin and smells lovely.
Peppermint – Makes wonderful massage oil for sore muscles. It is a great way to use some of that mint taking over your garden.
Calendula – Great for dry, damaged skin and sunburn.
Lavender – Another great one for sunburn and smells fantastic.
Plantain – This plant was covered in the blog post Wild Weeds 1. It is certainly abundant. It soothes damaged skin, blisters, insect bites, and rashes.
Sweet fern – An aromatic plant of the boreal that I can’t get enough of.
St. John’s Wort – Great for burns and for healing cuts.
Lilac oil – It is divine. I made some this spring using wilted lilacs and several infusions (meaning I strained the olive oil out, and then added a new batch of wilted lilacs). I am going to make this one every year.
Calendula, St. John’s Wort, and Plantain – I couldn’t help but put my favourite combination in this list. This is one I always have on stock to treat burns of various kinds.
Check out more combinations.
Give this a shot and if you have questions don’t be shy and post them in the comments section below. We would also love to hear about your favorite herb combinations and recipe variations.