Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garlic Infused Oil

After hearing Nigella wax lyrical (again) about the pleasures of garlic oil, I've decided to give it a go.  There are so many recipes out there that it almost seems redundant to give my version, but I'm going to note it down anyway (even if only for my reference).
This version is inspired by this wonderful post at 64 sq foot kitchen!  I've tweaked it ever so slightly though as I discovered that there is a potential problem with botulism if one uses fresh garlic. 
Allotment Vegetable Gardening suggests that if one heats the oil to 180 degrees (350F), it should reduce the potential problem (I hope!).  It's also possible to use a cold infusion method or heat the oil on a stove.  I've chosen not to use these methods - cold infusion won't overcome the potential botulism issue; and stoves, heat, oil and small children don't really mix.  We do have a fire blanket and extinguisher in the kitchen, but I'm not too keen to use them :)
I'm going to make a very small batch, with my purple home-grown garlic and see how it goes. (Afterword: make sure you read the final verdict - I need to change the process a bit).

1 small head of garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
1- Heat oven to 200 (or even 220 - botulism doesn't sound like something I wish to experience) degrees centigrade.
2- Slice garlic head in half horizontally.  There's no need to peel the garlic, just make sure the dirt is rubbed off.  As you can see from my photo, rubbing off the dirt actually caused the head to break into cloves, so I worked with what I had.
3- (In theory) Place the garlic head, cut side down, into an oven-proof container, and place the peppercorns and sprigs of thyme around the garlic.
4- Pour over olive oil and cover the dish (with a lid or foil) - except I forgot to cover it; but, as it was in a cup-type dish I didn't have to worry about anything splashing out.
5- Cook in oven for approximately one hour (until garlic is soft and squishy).
6- Strain oil and decant into sterilised container*. 
7- Label the bottle with the type of oil** and the date made (you can obviously, do a "use-by" date, but I find it easier to just use the date created instead);
7- Store the oil in a cool, dark place for up to one month.
9- Enjoy in salad dressings (and pasta and with bread and croutons and aioli and... anything else you can!).
(original Copyright Warda from 64 sq ft Kitchen)

Final Verdict: So how did it go?
Well... I cheated a little: I strained it through paper-towel (couldn't bring myself to swipe some of Ziggy's play muslins).  
As you can see from the "after" picture, the garlic burnt itself to almost nothing - oil tasted great, but there was none of the yummy roasted garlic for which I'd hoped (see ** below).  I'm not sure if it's because I forgot to cover the container with oil or the temperature (I suspect the latter more than the former).  Next time, I'll roast at a lower temperature (I'll try 150 degrees), strain out the garlic, pepper and thyme, and THEN heat the oil to 200 degrees.  
And finally, about a day or two later... The Man knocked the bottle, it broke and the oil spilled all over the floor... is there any point in crying over spilt (extra-virgin, garlic infused) oil?

* Sterilisation:
Warning - I'm  no expert, this is just what I do!  Feel free to search for a better source of information.   
a- wash the screw top lids and glass jars/bottles with warm, soapy water; 
b- rinse with fresh water;
c- place into pot of boiling water and boil for at least 5 minutes (you might need to move the bottles a bit to ensure that there are no air bubbles);
d- remove jars/bottles and lids with tongs (be careful that the boiling water doesn't run down the tongs and onto your arms - yes, I speak from experience...); and
e- place upright on bench, ready for immediate use.
I've also read that it's possible to take things straight from the dishwasher - but the timing is never right for me - or to use an oven to sterilise. The one time I did this though, some plastic on the lid just burned and it didn't sterilise... alas I had to throw out a jar of Red Onion Jam.
** Instead of garlic, you could use chillies; rosemary; sage; thyme;  etc.
Another bonus of using Warda's method to make garlic oil is the garlic mash that's left over! I love garlic mash... mmm... Just remember to store the mash in the refrigerator for up to one month (and yes, on this too, I speak from experience).