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These make wonderful presents for the cook in your life, or for your own home decorating needs. I often pick up unusually shaped glass bottles and decorative corks throughout the year, ready for the oil-making spree in late summer or early autumn.
Hardy, woody herbs and dried seeds are best for decorative oils, as they do no deteriorate. Choose dried or fresh sprigs of rosemary, dried chili peppers, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dried lemon and orange peel, cinnamon bark and cloves.
Before you start, think about the herb mix you are planning to create. What will the oil be used for? An Italian mix could contain whole garlic cloves, rosemary and thyme sprigs and maybe some peppercorns and would be useful as drizzling oil for pasta dishes, bread and salads. For a Mexican mix combine whole chili peppers, cumin or fennel seeds and dried orange peel. Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried lemon peel, chili and peppercorns give a Moroccan flavor, while thyme, lemon peel, garlic and mint give a hint of Greece.
Add your chosen herbs and spices to the clean, dry bottle, then gently pour in the oil. Use good quality olive oil and ensure that the herbs are completely covered. Seal and label the bottle and keep in a cool, dark space until needed.