Tired of just sprinkling your herbs and spices over your meals? Well, worry not, studious gardeners! This entry will teach you how to make your own infused and essential oils at home from plants you can grow in your own garden. In turn those could be utilised for everything from soothing aromatherapy, through cooking, to homemade remedies and soaps. Herbal infused oils are easier to make than essential oils, but the latter have the huge advantage of being much purer.
How To Make Them
Making infused oils is generally an easy process requiring little to no involvement on your part. The goal is to transfer the taste and scent of a plant into what is called a carrier oil. Either fresh or dried plants can be used. Fresh ones add a stronger flavour and scent but the oil spoils quicker and has to be kept refrigerated. There are generally two ways to make infused oils.
This the least bothering way to make infused oils of them all. Simply put the plants in a jar and cover them in a carrier oil of your choice. Virgin olive oil works wonderfully, but other more extravagant choices that can be used like grape seed oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, etc. It really depends on what you are planning to use it for. To “activate” the volatile ingredients rub or lightly cut the fresh plant material before adding. For dried plants or spices use heat to bring out their flavour and aroma. After filling the jar with the desired infusion and oil, leave in a sunny spot and the sun will do the rest. Just remember to shake or swirl the jar daily to dilute the essence.
A week should be enough time. Now all you need to do is drain the infused oil into a clean jar. You can either use a sieve or coffee filters if the plant material is too fine. The oil should be stored in a dry cool place, or in the fridge for best results.
Unlike the first one, this will take you around 5 minutes to 3 hours instead of a week. This method is better for dried herbs and spices since the heat helps bring out their flavour and scent. First you have to grind the herbs or spices with a mortar and pestle. Then put the material in a jar and cover with oil. Place the jar on a hot plate and simmer for around three hours.
WARNING: Make sure the jar is made from fireproof glass or use another type of container for this step if you are unsure!
For spices you can do this in a pan or a skillet. It should take around 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the oil bubbles and the spices start to sizzle. Stir constantly. Be careful not to overcook in both cases.
After that is done you have to filter the oil once again. A coffee filter or cheesecloth should do nicely. Just ensure the cloth is clean and unused. Trace amounts of detergent can completely ruin the taste if you are planning to use it for cooking.
It really depends on the combination of plant and carrier oil you are using. Infused oils can be used for cooking to give your meals some oomph. You can use fragrant flowers to make your own massage oils or even soaps with a bit more know how. Oil is generally awesome at sealing flavour and aroma.
How To Make Them
These will require advanced tools and a bit more involvement. Especially if you are going to build your own oil still. If you can’t be bothered to assemble one, you can always order an oil still online. For those of you partial to a DIY project, this bloke has a very detailed video on how to build your own. Basically the distilling process works like this:
- Fill the boiler of the still with water and the dried plant material
- Bring the water to boiling point
- The vapours are led down the tubing
- Tubing passes trough cold water or ice condensing the vapour back into liquid
- Using an essencier the oil is separated from the water
You don’t have to do much while you are distilling the oils besides observing that the water in the cooling tank doesn’t get too warm otherwise the vapour from the boiler won’t cool down to a liquid.
Drying is not mandatory, but it increases the amount of plant material you can use into each batch. If you choose to dry the material, it has to be done away from sunlight. The darker the room you do it in, the better the oils will be preserved in the plants. Every plant is different but a good rule of thumb to keep is to never overheat the material while drying it. Slow and steady wins the race. Make sure not to get it wet before distilling. Either way do not expect to produce a lot of oil from each batch. There is a reason essential oils are costy.
You can purify the oil further by running it trough a new clean filter cloth. Essential oils are best stored away from sunlight in dark glass bottles.
Again, the uses of these oils will depend on the plants you derived them from. They are usually diluted into other plant oils to prolong their life, and make the best of them since the process’ yield is low. Essential oils cannot be used for cooking unless diluted, and some of them are outright toxic, so do your research carefully. They can be used from anything from cleaning to medicine, but you should always advise with a healthcare professional before doing the latter.
And most importantly – Don’t be this bloke.