(Health Secrets) Herbed oil makes a terrific holiday gift. Almost everyone likes gifts from the heart, and it’s even better if those gifts are homemade. It is fun and a challenge to make gifts that represent the person to whom you are giving the gift. Putting together herbal oil gifts for your friends can be very enjoyable and a learning experience for yourself too.
Herbed oil gifts can be themed for the kitchen and what is edible there, or from the spa and bath. They can be practical or decorative. The types of gifts you can make include bath salts for soaking, lotions, soaps, oils for the body, or oils for cooking. Craft items such as candles, sachets, scented pillows, potpourri, and wreathes are other options. Possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
The gift of an herbal creation says not only that you love the person you are creating it for, but also that you care about their health and well-being. In these times we should be focusing on expressions of love. During occasions of personal celebration, birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, consider giving herbed oil or some other gift from the heart. And if you’re an herb gardener consider sharing the bounty of your herb harvests with others.
Making herbed oil
Let’s focus on easy herbal oil for the kitchen. Most carrier oils are good for the body inside and out. You can buy a variety of base oils in any grocery store. The oil you choose defines how the herbal oil can be used. Be sure to include a simple list of ingredients with the gift of infused oil so that it can be used properly and not damaged in the cooking process. We want our loved ones to get the full health benefits of the herbs and the oils.
This is a list of favorite oils and their smoking points when used in cooking:
High smoke point (best suited for searing, browning, and deep frying): coconut, palm, almond, avocado, sunflower and safflower.
Medium-high smoke point (best suited for baking, oven cooking or stir frying): grape seed, macadamia nut, extra virgin olive oil, and peanut.
Medium smoke point (best suited for light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking): hemp, pumpkin seed, and sesame.
No-heat oils (best used for dressings, dips or marinades): flax seed, wheat germ. Toasted sesame, extra virgin olive oil and walnut oils also work well in no-heat preparations.
Be sure you do not use an oil at too high of a temperature as this damages the oil and creates free radicals. You will know when an oil has become overheated because it begins to smoke.
Great herbal combinations to add to your choice of carrier oil:
- Sage, rosemary tarragon and marjoram — use to pan-fry chicken or to make herbal salad dressing.
- Dill and lemon — great for baking, grilling or pan-frying fish.
- Thyme — excellent for brushing over chicken before roasting.
- Mediterranean combination, rosemary, thyme and marjoram — can add to tomato sauces, chicken, or lamb stews.
- Basil and chili — best over Italian style bread or added to tomato and mozzarella salad.
To create an herbed oil gather the herbs you wish to infuse. If harvesting them straight from your garden, the herbs must be clean and dry to the touch. You can also use dried herbs. Keep in mind that herbal oils are unprocessed, so their typical shelf life is a couple of months.
Herbed oil needs one week to steep before it is ready to use. Choose jars and bottles that have eye appeal and air tight lids. Fresh herbs yield a more robust flavor with greater potency and health benefits.
- Always use sterilized jars and bottles. For fresh herbs, be sure your herbs are dry and free of chemicals and dirt. If you buy dried herbs they are most likely fine but check for extraneous plant matter and stems, and remove these.
- Fill a jar or bottle with the plant material you’ve collected. (There are mini lessons on YouTube) The plant materials (leaves, flowers or roots) can be chopped before hand. Don’t forget to label the jar with both the contents (herbs and oil) and the date of preparation.
- Add the carrier oil depending on the intended use. Be sure to fill the jar completely with oil, covering the top of the herbs or flowers, then seal tightly.
- Set your jar on a shelf that is not in direct sunlight. Once a day, gently turn the jar upside down for a few seconds, and then return it to a right side up position. Repeat this process for a minimum of one week. Up to six weeks is appropriate for infusion.
- Strain the oil using a cheesecloth or by adding a paper coffee filter to a mesh type strainer. Be sure to transfer only to clean, sterile, and moisture free containers. You may add clean, dry herbs to the bottle for visual effect.
Even though infused herbed oil was originally intended for cooking, don’t be limited by this. There is nothing more soothing than massaging olive oil or almond oil into the skin.
If infused oils do not appeal, there are other wonderful herbal gift ideas found in books such as Herbcrafts: Practical Inspirations for Natural Gifts, Country Crafts and Decorative Displays, Tessa Evelegh.
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