09 June 2015

How to Infuse Oils With Herbs for DIY Recipes

My latest adventures involve using new oils and herbs.  I'm still learning about herbs, but so far, I am loving them!  You can add ground up herbs to your recipes, or you can infuse them in oil for the benefits without making your recipe lumpy.  This is perfect for hair recipes and balms.  I used infused oils in my Amish Drawing Salve (coming soon!), Moringa Infused Hot Oil Treatment, and Eczema Cream (also coming soon!).  It's really easy to do with a Crock Pot slow cooker, and you can infuse several at a time this way.

There are three ways to infuse oils: Without heat, on the stovetop, and in a slow cooker.  I've used all three, and I really like the slow cooker.  It uses less electricity than the stovetop, and it's a lot quicker than without heat.

You'll want to use dried herbs for your infusions because fresh herbs have water in them.  Water can cause mold, mildew, and bacteria to grow in your infusion.  You should use sterilized jars--running them through the dishwasher is fine--and be sure that they are completely dry before you use them.

Herbal infusions are great if you have dried flowers or herbs and don't want to buy an essential oil.  For example, if you have a rosemary plant but don't want to buy rosemary essential oil, you can infuse your dried rosemary in oil for very similar benefits.

How Much Oil to Use

Generally, you'll want to place a few tablespoons of the herbs in the jar and cover with oil.  Some recipes may call for less herbs per oil.  This isn't an exact science.  I've also infused oils with chamomile tea bags, which is great because its so easy to take the tea bag out, squeeze it, and toss it.  I used one tea bag per 1/2 cup oil.

Without Heat

If you are patient, you can infuse oils without heat.  Simply place the herbs and oil in a jar and cap.  Give it a good shake and store in a warm area for two to four weeks until the color changes.  You'll want to shake it around every day.  I can't do this in the winter because there isn't a spot that stays warm in my house.  That's why I used the stovetop method.

Stovetop Method

This one is a lot quicker.  Simply fill a pan with a few inches of water.  Set your jar of oil and herbs on a canning jar ring to elevate it and turn the heat on medium.  You need to be careful that the oil doesn't get hotter than 140 degrees, so you'll have to keep an eye on it.  Let it stay hot for about 20 minutes and then let cool.  Store it for a week, stirring it daily.

Crock Pot Method

This is my favorite because I don't have to keep an eye on the temperature, and I can infused two or more oils at once.  Both of my slow cookers have a warm setting, so I use that.  Just line your slow cooker with a hand towel and fill with a few inches of water and place your mason jars with the oil and herbs inside.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Turn off the heat and let cool.  Strain in to another jar and discard herbs.

Don't put the lid on the slow cooker because it can collect condensation, which will then drop in to your oil.  

Once your herbal infusion is done, you can strain the oil.  The easiest way I've found is to place several layers of cheesecloth on top of a mason jar.  Press the cheesecloth down just slightly so it's not taut and place a ring on the jar.  Slowly pour the herbs and oil into the jar.  Unscrew the ring, pull up the cheesecloth, and discard the herbs.  

You can substitute an infused oil for an oil in any recipe.  This opens up an entirely new world for DIY-ers!  Now you can take your favorite recipe and make it even better by using an herb that works best for your application.  Have fun experimenting!
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