The Infusion Incident, or How I Wasted A Lot of Garlic and Olive Oil

garlic-herb oil
For weeks I admired these bottles, only to find out the contents are potentially lethal.

A month or so ago, Shauna gave me several heads of garlic from her harvest. After last year’s success with pistou, I knew that I wanted to make garlic-infused olive oil.

Loosely following the guidance in Preserving Foods Without Canning or Freezing, I stuffed garlic cloves, rosemary and oregano into bottles and filled them with olive oil. For weeks I doted on the suspended herbs and the way the bottles would glow in the afternoon sunlight.

After the recommended steeping, I transferred the bottles to the cupboard where I intended to keep them on-hand for gifts. I reserved a bottle for myself, eagerly drizzling it in gazpacho, on focaccia, and in the skillet for sautéed vegetables.

There have been many kitchen blunders over the years, but none have almost killed me, as far as I know. The oil’s intermittent cloudiness should have been the first clue that something was awry. But even more astonishing is that I dismissed my friend’s declaration that the oil smelled foul. I was sautéing zucchini when Julie distorted her face and exclaimed, “Something smells like dog shit!”

Eventually the doubt started creeping in. I tentatively checked on the reserved bottles only to find questionable residues and murky oil. I finally (finally!) decided to Google “garlic-infused oil.” (This little exercise should have happened much earlier, but you’ve probably already figured that out.)

Apparently garlic-infused oils pose a botulism risk that I possibly could have mitigated. (One suggestion is roasting the garlic first and refrigerating the oil.) This has me wondering about the aforementioned pistou. Why was it delicious? It was almost the same combination of ingredients. Maybe I was just lucky? Please excuse me while I go cry in my festering olive oil.
garlic-herb oil

2 thoughts on “The Infusion Incident, or How I Wasted A Lot of Garlic and Olive Oil

  1. Yes, oil infusions can be pretty dangerous. And sitting olive oil in the sun even without anything in it will cause it to go rancid pretty quickly. I’ll pass on the infusions and keep my fresh olive oil in the fridge.

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