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Here is a very easy and inexpensive gift idea that looks and tastes equally as impressive. Buy some dark colored oil bottles (you may even be able to find some at your dollar store - the dark glass helps the oil stay fresh longer). Make sure to wash them out carefully before using them. Choose the flavor you would like to infuse your oil with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.
Slice up 5-7 cloves of garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, depending on how 'flavorful' you want it. Put your garlic and tomatoes in the oil bottle and add olive oil to the bottle. You can also use fresh herbs like tarragon or rosemary (you can buy larger bulk-sized bottles at your grocery store). Seal and refrigerate until you are ready to wrap and a a gourmet gift!
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Great gifts to give to teachers, hostess, family members. Take tall glass bottles and add oils and put in herbs and let set so oil takes in the herb flavor. Tie raffia and cloth bow on top with manila gift tag with type of oil, like Rosemary olive oil.
The trick with flavored oils is to make sure there isn't a trace of moisture anywhere, in the bottle or the ingredients. Adding fresh herbs or garlic is iffy. Dried herbs are much safer. Even with precautions, it's still prone to mold. It can cause real health problems for people with mold sensitivity long before the mold becomes visible.
Because of the dangers, especially in my humid climate, I've switched to making flavored vinegars. They're versatile, taste great, and are too acidic to promote mold growth.
I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO MAKE ROSEMARY FLAVORED OLIVE OIL. CAN YOU ADVISE HOW TO DO IT?
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Thanks! Topo Gigio from Baton Rouge
Be careful with this one. I believe there have been some problems with botulism growing in the anaerobic environment of the oil and various herbs. (11/17/2005)
You might want to consider some of the flavored Grapeseed Oils from Watkins. They are some of the most favorite products and come in four "flavors", including original (plain), Black Pepper, Citrus & Cilantro, and Garlic & Parsley. Grapeseed Oil is very healthy as is it lower in saturated fat and higher in unsaturated fats than nearly all other oils. It has a high smoke point, making it perfect for grilling or sauteing. I use the Garlic & Parsley with chicken or drizzled over a roast before roasting; it's very good.
If you have access to a copy of the Ball Blue Book (the "bible" of food canners and preservers), use their guidance in preparing your oils. Most herbs are fine, but you should totally avoid garlic because of the high risk of botulism. (11/18/2005)
I remember watching a cooking show where the chef made various flavored oils. He boiled and included a little vinegar in each bottle. He said it would keep the oil from developing botulism. The main culprit was garlic. I've checked all of my canning books--none tell how to make oils. I'd definitely do some research on the Web before making gifts that may make people sick. E-mail Ball, Kerr, and different cooking sites with the question. I'm sure you'll get some answers and some great recipes for making the oils too. Good luck! (11/21/2005)