Home-infused oils for cooking or dipping make wonderful gifts for any occasion and for everyone on your list, from your closest friends to your workplace acquaintances.
Infused oils and vinegars are quick to make and dressing them with festive ribbons and bows leaves you with a simple, elegant, tasty treat to give.
Follow these simple steps to infuse oils with flavor:
Choose a medium-sized bunch of a fragrant fresh herb such as basil, thyme, or sage. Tear off the leaves and place them in the blender with a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Purée until smooth.
Pour into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Strain your mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pretty bottle that you have sterilized. Store it in a cool, dark place for about a week.
To decorate, add a festive ribbon, attach an attractive eco label, or tie on a gift tag cut from last year's holiday cards.
In addition you can infuse oils with citrus peel, ground cinnamon, vanilla pods, pink peppercorns, or chili flakes, but the length of time needed to infuse these ingredients is generally a little longer, up to a month in some cases.
You may also want to try making your own infused vinegars as well. The method is generally the same (try using cranberries), although you'll want to make sure that your vinegar storage bottles do not have a metal top (they will rust).
You will want to let the recipient know to keep the vinegar refrigerated and to start removing the herbs as they surface, since exposing them to air will create mold. Stored this way, your hand-infused vinegars will keep for several weeks.