RECIPE: Spicy Olive Oil Infusion

This past Christmas as during many Christmases, I gave olive oils out as gifts. I usually give out an Italian herb and a spicy blend. This year, I toasted the spices for the spicy infusion and added other herbs to deepen the flavors. I prefer spice that has other flavors underneath...not just a contest with my mouth to see how much hot I can handle. This olive oil fits the bill. Use it for chili or spicy soup, or even barbecue.

Ingredients for around 51oz. total (6 8.5 oz bottles) of olive oil

4 dried chili peppers, roughly torn up
4 bay leaves
1/8 cup multi-colored peppercorns
2 Tbsp. Red pepper flakes
2 tsp. Ground cumin
2 tsp. Chili powder
2 tsp Dried oregano
1 Tbsp. Smoked paprika
4-6 whole, peeled garlic cloves
Olive oil

Sterilize 2 32 oz. Wide mouth mason jars. Do this by boiling the jars and tops in hot, boiling water for five minutes. Make sure jars are completely dry before using. I let them air dry and go over them with fresh paper towels to make sure there is no water. If using any fresh herbs, rinse them and let them air dry on paper towels until completely dry. Bacteria hides in water, so if you want your herbs to last the infusion, be very careful to dry fresh herbs properly.

In a large frying pan, add all the above ingredients minus the garlic and toast on medium heat. The herbs will release their aroma. Toast on medium heat for 5-8 minutes, bruising and crushing them in the pan with the back of your spoon. l let the cool in the pan to room temperature. Evenly divide the spices between mason jars. Then divide your garlic cloves between mason jars. Add olive oil until all herbs are completely submersed. Oil is a natural preservative, but it needs to cover all the material to do it's job.

Keep them in a dark, cool place for 2-3 weeks. Periodically, shake them up to move the spices and check to make sure nothing weird or fuzzy is going on in there. If there is, toss it!

When ready, strain the olive oil, throwing away the spices. With all the fine spices in this mix, you may want to use cheesecloth on top of your wire mesh strainer. I was not that careful and just used some mesh. I did get some spice debris on the bottom, but it was no big deal. Sterilize your oil decanter (s) making sure it is very dry. Add the strained olive oil, using a funnel and label the bottle. They can be out at room temp for a few weeks, but any longer I suggest you refrigerate it. You can let it sit out for a bit before needing it so it decoagulates. Some people have told me I am too anal about this, but no one wants be careful. Enjoy!

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