I stopped buying salad dressings ages ago in favor of dressing salads with flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The only catch was the price. Each little 12 ounce bottle sets me back about $25.
Then, I realized I could make them myself. Easily. Quickly. For about one-third the price. In fact, the price was even less for me because I happen to have a garden brimming with fruit that might otherwise go to waste.
The simple explanation for how to make flavored oils and vinegar is: Heat the oil (or vinegar); add the fruit, garlic or herbs that you want to use for flavor. (In the case of citrus flavors, add just the peel, without the white rind.) Cover. Remove from heat. Leave it alone for a few hours. Taste.
Not quite flavorful enough?. Heat it a little longer, on low…it shouldn’t boil, but can simmer a bit. Remove from heat. Cover. Wait. After an hour or two, scoop out your herbs, fruit or fruit rinds. Pour into a stoppered bottle.
You want an actual recipe? Okay. It’s almost too easy to share, but here are two — one for lemon-flavored olive oil; the other for raspberry vinegar.
FYI, I have a number of cute little vinegar and oil bottles that I bought at Pier One ages ago. I pop them in the dishwasher once they’re empty and re-use. You can also reuse the oil and vinegar bottles you bought from those high-priced specialty stores. But, if you want to get fancy (maybe even make these as holiday gifts for your friends), you can buy stoppered oil and vinegar bottles from General Bottle Supply in Los Angeles for a few bucks a bottle; other wholesale shops, such as Specialty Bottle in Seattle, charges a bit more per bottle but may have smaller minimum order requirements. (General Bottle’s minimum order is $50. To reach that level, I had to buy a 24-pack of the 250 ML Quadra bottles at 86 cents each; a 24-pack of the 500 ML bottles at $1.44 each; and 48 cork stoppers. Of course, now I have enough bottles to make birthday and holiday gifts for all my friends. But, I digress….
Citrus-infused olive oil
500 ML Olive oil (about 2 cups)
skin from 2 lemons
Heat the olive oil to a simmer; Add the lemon peels. Stir. Cover. Set aside.
Wait at least two hours; taste.
It should have a nice lemony smell and flavor. If the flavor is too subtle, you can re-heat and add a little more lemon skin, or lemon zest.
When you’re happy with the flavor, scoop the lemon out of the oil and transfer the oil to a corked bottle.
Oil: $2.37 (Costco sells 6 liters of pure olive oil for $28.39. 500 ML = 1/12th of the total or $2.37)
Lemons: $2 (This is a high estimate and doesn’t account for the fact that you still have the lemon when you’re done. You’ve only used the peel.)
Total cost: $4.37.
Your savings over retail: $20.63
1 cup raspberries and/or black berries
500 ML (about two cups) balsamic vinegar
Heat the vinegar in a pot until it simmers. Stir in the berries and remove from heat. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour. The berries will largely disintegrate in the hot liquid, leaving only small seeds and a few pieces of fruit. Remove the remaining fruit and transfer to a corked bottle.
Balsamic: $5.50 (Costco balsamic sells for about $11 per liter)
Total cost: $7.50
Your savings over retail: $17.50