Herbs & Spices in the Tuscan Culinary Tradition

spicesIn the Tuscan tradition of country cooking  extra virgin olive oil and herbs have always been the starting point for any dish, whether meat or fish. Garlic, Sage and Rosemary are never lacking in recipes for chicken, rabbit and pork and in the preparation and preservation of game.Thyme, Mint, Juniper, Lavender and Tarragon are also used to enhance flavors and aromas of different dishes. Near the coast the herb predominating in fish dishes is the parsley that, with chili, stands out in dishes such as spaghetti alla Marinara and seafood salads. On the mountains Juniper is used with sweet chestnut cakes and it is also used for aromatic liquers.

 

infused2The herbs infused Olive Oil has also a great relevance as condiment and cooking in the Tuscan culinary tradition. Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (Garlic, Oil and Chili pepper) is a quick and delicious fix if you are up in the small hours.

 

 

 

How to Make Herbal Infused Oils

Just beginning on the road of herbalism, you will find that making herbal infused oils is rather easy and fun. The process is not labor-intensive but is definitely enriching.

First you’ll need your supplies and ingredients:

  • a small glass jar with air-tight lid (mason jars are perfect!)
  • cheesecloth or muslin
  • an oil base
  • dried herbs
  • labels

Once you have all your supplies and ingredients gathered and ready, you can make your herbal infused oil.

Here’s the process of making an herbal infused oil:

Fill the glass jar about 1/3 of the way full with your dried herb(s).
Pour your oil base over the dried herbs and almost all the way to the top of the jar.
Shake the jar gently.
Label the jar with the oil base, herb, and date.
Close the jar tightly and put it in a cabinet, in a dark cool place is best.
Every day for a period of 2-4 weeks (the length in time is your choice), gently shake the jar twice a day.
After your 2-4 weeks of the herbs infusing in the oil, open the jar.
Take a piece of cheesecloth and place it over top of the jar, then secure it over the top with a rubberband.
Hold the jar over another jar or bowl (whatever you’re using to contain your infused oil from here on out), and let the oil strain out.
Once most of the oil has strained, remove the rubberband and squeeze the oil remnants out of the herbs that are in the cheesecloth.
Bottle the infused oil and be sure to label and date it!

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