Why we don’t sell flavoured oils.
Not a week goes by without someone asking me about flavoured olive oils. Do we sell them? When will we sell them? Why don’t we sell them? The short answers to those questions are: No. Never. We care about your health. And now for the long answer….
It sounds like business suicide to continually deny your customers what they are asking for. But the truth is that I couldn’t sleep at night knowingly selling a product that I felt was at best, inferior and at worst, fraudulent.
The first problem with infused or flavoured oils is that the flavouring that is added to the oil masks the freshness or staleness of the oil. This allows for unscrupulous producers to take oil that is rancid or near rancid, infuse it with flavours (citrus, garlic, herbs, truffle etc) and effectively give new life to their dead oil. I am not saying that all producers do this but there are many that do and weeding your way through the sea of misinformation is difficult enough without adding this to the mix.
The second problem is that often what is added is synthetic, chemical flavourings, not natural ones. This is true primarily with truffle infused oils. This is not a problem of producers being dishonest but actually the nature of truffles themselves. If oils were infused with 100% real truffle, the second the bottle was opened and exposed to air the flavour and infusion would dissipate. So, in order to keep the truffle flavour in the oil – it has to be synthetic. Yuck.
So what is the answer? Make it yourself. By infusing and flavouring the oil yourself, you know exactly what kind of oil you are using and hopefully you know how old it is. By doing it yourself, you can control the quality and quantity of ingredients that are used.
If you love citrus flavoured oils, it can be as simple as squeezing a small amount of lemon juice into a bowl with your EVOO and emulsifying before dressing your favourite steamed white fish.
However, there are safe and unsafe ways to make infused olive oil. The unsafe way is to put anything in the oil that contains any trace of water or moisture. That includes garlic, lemon peel, fresh peppers, fresh herbs and spices. The oil will not support bacterial growth but the water containing herbs will. Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment. Here is what you can do to avoid that:
1. Mix all the ingredients, refrigerate them and use them within a week. This is the best way if you are using fresh ingredients such as fresh basil, fresh rosemary or garlic. You can also use lemon peel, fresh or dried peppers, rosemary etc.
2. Dry the herbs to remove all water, leaving the essential oils. You can purchase them dried or dry them yourself with a food dehydrator or just by leaving them in the sun. After the spices and herbs are dry, add them to the olive oil. Whole sprigs of thyme, rosemary, dried peppers, etc. can decorate the inside of the bottle this way.
What are your favourite flavours for infused oils? We would love to hear some of your pairings.