I recently came across an article about oil preserving and wanted to give it a try, but I wasn’t sure where to start. What kind of food works best? Does it need to be refrigerated? How long does it keep?

I’ve seen vegetables in jars of oil at the store before, but they seemed a bit mysterious to me- what could I do with them exactly? I did a bit of research and experimenting of my own to answer my questions.

sweet peppers, garlic, oil, and spices

As it turns out, the possibilities are endless and full of flavor! Foods preserved in oil are traditionally used in small amounts, as an appetizer or topping. It’s common for oil preserved foods to be served as an appetizer with bread, cheeses, and cured meats. The leftover oil is perfect for dipping bread, or making salad dressing.

spices emulsified in oil

Preserving in oil is an ancient food preservation method. In the days of the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers would store foreign foods they came across in oil, to preserve them until they could be transported back to Rome.  It remains a very popular method throughout the Mediterranean to this day, with olive oil being the most popular oil used. Foods that are traditionally preserved this way are fresh and dried vegetables, meats, cheeses, and herbs. Softer foods generally work best, as the oil is able to penetrate them more easily.   

peppers and garlic on a roasting pan

There’s a bit of a misconception that the oil alone is what preserves food. In fact, the oil works as a seal, preventing oxygen from reaching the food and creating an anaerobic environment.  Foods can still spoil in oil alone, so it’s essential to use salt, vinegar or wine in combination with the oil to prevent bacterial growth if you plan to store the food for any length of time.  Typically they will keep for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator, although it can vary depending on the types of vegetables, acids and/or oils you use. Typically they will keep for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator, although it can vary depending on the types of vegetables, acids and/or oils you use.  The oil should solidify within about 24 hours and can be brought to room temperature when you’re ready to use it.  If you’re using it in a stew or warm pasta, it can be thrown in straight from the refrigerator!  

peppers and garlic in oil

I decided to try a beautifully simple recipe for Perfect Peppers Preserved in Oil from Karon Grieve’s blog, Larder Love.  I substituted 1lb of sweet peppers for the bell peppers and used fresh thyme instead of dried. This was a super easy recipe- easy to follow and easy to make.   I roasted the peppers and garlic together at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, and then let them sit for a bit.  I figured out with a little trial and error that if you let the peppers sit covered for 10-15 minutes, you can easily peel the skins off.  

After layering the peppers and garlic with the oil and spices, I tightened up the Mason jar’s lid and stuck the mixture in the fridge, where I let it sit for a couple days. After the peppers had some time to soak up the flavor, I added them to plain hot fettuccine pasta and tossed until it was well mixed.  The heat of the noodles warmed up the oil and peppers and coated the noodles thoroughly.  

The oil had a delicious, spicy, smokiness to it, and the peppers were incredibly flavorful.  The mixture was much spicier than I anticipated, due to the red pepper flakes, so I would recommend cutting these back a bit if you want a milder heat.  The peppers and oil mixture was so flavorful that I didn’t add anything else to the pasta.  I’m definitely going to make this recipe again, and try this method with other vegetables!  Happy oil preserving!  

For more recipes and blogs, visit Spoiled In Sonoma!


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