Gifts created by the giver hold a special place. May home crafted gifts are very simple to make. If you are a gardener here is one that will make you a hit with your friends.
Herb infused oils:
If you have an herb garden, this is a great gift for your salad loving friends. Light flavor oils or extra virgin olive oil are the most preferred. Sunflower, safflower and canola are my favorites of the lighter oils. Nearly any herb or combination will work.
Dried herbs should only be used. While there are a variety of methods for drying fresh herbs the oven is the old reliable way. Try to do a large batch at one time to be more efficient.
Basil, Rosemary, thyme and sage are commonly grown herbs that work well. Tarragon, savory, dill and oregano are less common in most herb gardens but are perfect for infusing oils.
To dry, place the clean herbs on a ventilate surface. Pie cooling racks are perfect and if you can properly control your oven temperature steamer racks are better. These steamer racks are made out of wood or bamboo most of the time. So make sure you had adequate space between the heating element and the racks. The oven set on low (200 degrees to 225 degrees) with the door cracked open is my method. Drying times vary but three hours is about average if the herbs have had a day or two or air drying first. After drying take the leaves off the sprigs saving a few whole sprigs. If you have a dehydrator you are in great shape, just follow the directions with your dehydrator.
Containers that I prefer are clear glass corked bottled. Most that I used are recycled but they are available at all craft stores and on-line. Smaller bottles that will fit in an inexpensive spice rack are great. Fill the spice rack with a variety of your custom oils and you have a memorable gift.
I normally heat the oil to 180 degree with the herbs. Use about one teaspoon of dried herb per pint of oil for a light infusion and one tablespoon per pint for a strong infusion. Then let the oil cool to 120 degrees or lower before trying to fill the bottles. I prefer to strain my oils but that is not required. Do Not Pour Hot Oil directly into bottle, let it cool. Leave a reasonable air gap in the bottles before corking. Placing a full sprig of the dried herb or herbs in the bottle before filling adds a great touch.
Heating the oil extends the shelf life. Cool oil infusions are popular and easier. Just place herbs in the bottles and then fill with room temperature oil. Make sure you rub or bruise the herbs before adding cool oils to release more flavor.
Decorate the bottles as you please. With a name like captdallas2 I don’t do bows. I feel that the whole sprigs in the bottles are plenty of decoration. Hand made labels are a good touch that I will use on occasion.
If you want to kick the gift package up a bit, herb infused vinegar makes a great second gift. Try infusing oils and vinegars for home use first and develop your own special blend. Rosemary, basil and tarragon are great herbs for a start. Make one batch of each and blend varying amounts in your vinaigrette. Find your favorite blend and share with you family and friends.