As a side note...could you just make your own infusions in Ball jars and dry herbs in paper bags minus one super fun infusing station? Of course you can. But Architec made the whole process enjoyable. The four jars sit in the bottom of the rack and you dry your herbs on the three hooks on the top. Since they are double-sided, you can do six bunches of herbs at once. And a little spark motivates me to tackle another creative project. How about you?
How-to infuse in oil, vinegar, honey and water
The best oils to use in infusions are pure plant oils such as olive, sunflower, almond, and peanut oil. Olive oil is ideal because it has a longer shelf life at room temperature. Infuse for roughly 2-3 weeks tasting all along the way (someone has to do it!) Give the jars a good shaky shake daily or just stir to make sure those herb don't just float to the top. If using fresh herbs, make sure they are completely dry to prevent bacteria growth in the olive oil. Oils are typically infused with only one type of herb, but flavors can be blended to suit your preferences. If using dry herbs, just place the herbs in the bottom of the bottle and use a funnel to pour the oil over the herbs. When fully infused, you can strain the herbs for a clear look.
You can flavor and mellow vinegars with so many kinds of garden herbs including fennel, rosemary, garlic, sage and chives. Purple basil is scrumptious and will flavor your vinegar a lovely pink. Depending your taste, use white, apple cider or red wine vinegar. Balsamic is Tom's favorite. Quality does matter here! Fill the jar to cover the herbs and put the lid back on. Try berries too! Score them first. Store in a cool, dark place for two to six weeks. The longer the time, obviously, the stronger the flavor. When the flavor is perfect to you, remove the herbs.
You can even infuse herbs in honey. But we found the flavor took a little longer to permeate the honey than with the vinegar or oil. So give yourself a month. Edible flowers pair well with the honey such as lavender, chamomile, rose petals, and nasturtiums. These flowers may take less time to infuse than with cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans or anise. All of which are very tasty! Try blueberries for an incredible mixture. Store in a cool, dry place with an airtight lid. It should last a year or more. Vanilla honey makes a great gift!
Water based infusions are kind of like steeping tea, except an infusion will need to be steeped longer. Place one tablespoon of dried herbs or three tablespoons of fresh herbs into your jar for each cup of tea you intend to brew. A mug or ceramic teapot will work equally well. Cover with boiling water. Place the lid on and let it steep for 10-15 minutes or overnight. Strain and drink. Mint is great for infusing and even better for your upset stomach. I preferred using dry herbs with the water over fresh.
Infusion tips & tricks
- Boutulism is one of the types of bacteria that can develop in the olive oil with herbs that contain traces of water. That is why it's critical to completely dry the herbs and the jars thoroughly. It's also a good idea to store in the fridge if you have the room and use within two weeks tops. Cold will slow but not eliminate the development of botulism spores. Garlic and citrus are both naturally anti-bacterial, so the risks using them are minimal. But since this product comes with a drying station and my fridge is stuffed with who-knows-what, I'm using dried herbs. Not risking botulism here, I have enough problems! Trust me.
- Don't fill the whole jar. Try doing half batches until you get it right. You'll waste less oil, less herbs, less honey. All of which can be pricey. Especially when you're working with oil, you don't want it to go rancid before you can use it. Besides, fresh oils just taste better.
- Wash your bottles with soap and hot water or throw them in the dishwasher (that's me!) and allow them to dry completely before use by placing them in the sun or leaving them out overnight. This allows all the water to evaporate. Don't forget what I said about botulism! It is decidedly unpleasant.
- Label your jars with contents and the date. Store in a cool location out of direct light to maximize shelf life. Was just cleaning out the garage and I found an infusion that Tom and I were given on our honeymoon. No clue what's in there now, just know I'm not consuming it. Maybe I can convince Tom? Tom has actually consumed food left on plates by people in restaurants after they've left. Ewww.
- Flavored oils make wonderful gifts as a dipping sauce or marinade. Herb-infused oil is a light and tasty way to add flavor to many types of meals. It can be used in cooking or as a dressing drizzled over vegetables. You can't go wrong with basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano or chives. The longer you leave these additions in the jars, the more flavor they will leave off.
One drying & infusing station from Architec valued at $70!