Kitchen experiments: chamomile, vanilla and lemon infused oil

 

These days of cold, yesterday was 8 degrees celsius, the lowest for Baguio in recent years, I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. It’s deliciously warm in there. The warmest room in the house. Ha ha!

Burning food on the stove as a result of first trials of recipes is not exactly cheap nor satisfying, well, except for the heat these activities generate which I welcomed, so for a change I tried my hand on infused oils. I love vanilla, lemon, and chamomile so why not start with those?

First off, we need to distingush the methods in oil infusion: cold, warm, and sun infusion.

This reminds me of virgin coconut oil preparation I got to know first hand several years ago when I was at field office. We supported farmers training among other capacity building activities in sustainable agriculture. In one of the farmers training, I sat in and learned about the process in cold pressed VCO preparation. Though, actually, I saw it done first at my grandparents’ place during the summers my cousins and I vacationed there. I watched my grandmother prepare the oil, quite a lengthy process, which she used for her hair and skin. I loved the smell from the warm oil. I wasn’t a fan, though, of coconut oil. I didn’t want oil anywhere on my body. But I should have nonetheless taken note then. The preparation is a traditional knowledge that should be coded, I realized much later.


Infusion Methods

Cold Infusion

A glass jar

1/3 herb and/or spice of choice, fresh or dry

2/3 oil or mix of oils of choice

This method is the most effective but requires a little patience. Make sure the jars and herbs you use are clean, add the ingredients to the jar, close it well and leave it in a cool, dark place for at least 40 days and up to 2 months. Shake the jar every week or so. After this time, the oil must be filtered. Prepare a sieve with a paper napkin, or a very fine cheesecloth, and let the oil drip into a clean container. Let it take its time – it might take hours. When it has finished, squeeze out the oil left in the herbs.

Let the jar stand for a whole 24 hours, so that every residue falls to the bottom. At this point you can filter it again, or transfer it to a clean, dark bottle. If you do not have one or want to keep it in the same jar, you can wrap it in aluminum paper.

Warm Infusion

If you are in a bit of a rush and want your oil ready within a day, you can infuse the oil in hot water. Mix the herbs with oil just as in the cold method, but close the jar if using dried herbs, and leave it open if using fresh herbs, so the water can evaporate. Add the jar(s) to a pot and add enough hot water to cover the jars by half, put the pot on the lowest flame setting possible and let it infuse for 4 hours. Take the jars out of the water and let them cool completely before filtering the oils like in the cold infusion, and storing them in a dark bottle and in a dark place.

For this infusion it is best to use extra virgin olive oil or a good organic sunflower oil, which stand high temperatures better.

Sun Infusion

Not all herbs will release their benefits into the oils just by leaving them in the shade or in hot water. Some herbs can release some very powerful healing properties when exposed to the sun – as is the case of St. John’s wort. This particular herb, which is great to cure sunburns, small wounds, redness and has anti-aging properties, turns the oil red when all its properties are fully extracted. You just add the herbs and oil to a jar, then cover it with a paper towel secured with an elastic band, and leave it out in the sun for 20 days, taking it back indoors for the night. This herb only blooms during summer.

Just like for hot infusions, it is best to use sunflower or olive oil for this infusion.

Chamomile, vanilla and lemon infused oil

Ingredients
2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers

Half a vanilla bean

The peel of a small organic lemon

½ cup of Linseed oil

2 tbsp Almond oil

Instructions

  1. Prepare a clean jar and add the flowers. Take the peel from the lemon, making sure there is no white part attached to it, and split the vanilla bean in half. Add both to the jar, and pour in the oil. Proceed as described in the cold infusion, or use the warm infusion if you are in a rush, but make sure the oil never goes beyond 60 C˚.

  2. Once ready, this oil is great for treating skin redness, for dry lips in place of lip balm, for improving fragile nails, and for nourishing dry skin. You can also add this oil to nourishing hair and skin treatments.

  3. Consider making it with organic sunflower oil and use it for baking sweets in recipes that call for oil, or in a lemon coffee cake.

Source: Hortus Natural Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

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