Olive oil should be selected depending upon your cooking needs or its planned use as a condiment or as a preservative. You really can’t go wrong if you stick to olive oil labeled "virgin" or "extra-virgin”. These are usually the best quality of olive oil. They last longer before they go bad and are easier to digest than the refined olive oils.
Through the years, olive oil has been valued for its cooking uses and its medicinal value.
Olive oil contains approximately 85% unsaturated fatty acids. This means good nutrition and low cholesterol. In modern medicine, olive oil is also used to help treat cases of moderate hypertension and is a recommended dietary change to avoid unhealthy fats. It’s common knowledge that heart disease was almost unknown in many places before the advent of many refined and processed oils. A healthy and natural diet high in vegetables and herbs and plenty of olive oil were some of the reasons modern day health risks were almost unknown.
Even soap may contain olive oil as an important ingredient. The famous Palmolive detergent is named after the two main vegetable oils which made up its original formula.
It’s also quite easy to preserve many herbs, which lose their essential oils upon drying, in a good quality olive oil. If you have herbs which you would like to preserve for future use, you can do so by using olive oil.
Basil is a seasonal herb that will benefit by being preserved in olive oil. Basil is not always readily available when you may want to use it or need it for a recipe.
You can preserve basil by using the following method:
1.) Wash and dry the leaves of your fresh basil carefully. Make sure you allow the leaves to dry fully, any moisture left on the leaves can cause your olive oil to turn rancid very quickly.
2.) Place your fresh basil leaves into clean, dry glass jars and cover with your olive oil. Leaving a small amount of room at the top (this is called headspace for the uninformed).
3.) Store in the refrigerator. It should last till more fresh basil is available for use.
When keeping your fresh basil in this manner, you will have fresh basil available for your recipes when needed. The olive oil will not detract from the flavor or nutritional value of your herbs.
Chives, sage, etc. can also be preserved in olive oil in a similar manner. However, do not attempt to preserve garlic in this manner. There is an additional step that is absolutely necessary. Garlic cloves must be soaked in vinegar for at least a 24 hour period prior to being preserved in olive oil. This will destroy any botulism spores that may be present on the garlic cloves. Afterwards, you will also get the added benefit of garlic flavored vinegar that you can use on your salads and other dishes.
The shelf life can vary depending upon the quality of the olive oil that you use, the cleanliness of your canning jars, and the level of moisture of your fresh herbs. The best part is that there is no cooking involved. Merely a little prep time for the ingredients!
BTW, I forgot to mention that goat’s milk cheese can also be preserved in olive oil.
Here’s a link with pictures. Just mouse over the picture for a description.
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