Start to Finish: 4 days
Servings: 1 cup flavored oil
A citrus-y and herb-y leaf, lemon balm has culinary and healing properties that add flavor to dressings, salads, fruit drinks and sauces. When used to scent and flavor an oil, you preserve this herb's delicate flavor without having the leaves turn brown, wilt or get slimy.
Lemon balm oil is less potent in taste and smell than the fresh leaves. The oil makes a tasty base for a savory salad dressing to pour over mache or other delicate greens, or as a tangy addition to a citrus and berry salad. Use the oil along with lemon juice, fresh thyme and chervil to marinate thin slices of chicken breast or fillets of white, mild-flavored fish. Mix a few drops into a homemade lemonade to provide an herbal quality.
When you make the oil, choose leaves from the top of the plant as they're abundant, flavorful, tightly packed and freshest. Avocado is the oil of choice because it stands up to heat and imparts little flavor. If you prefer, use extra virgin olive oil, which is nutty, or bland-flavored grapeseed oil instead.
Store the steeped oil in a dark-colored bottle to discourage rancidity. Label the bottling date on the jar of oil for easy tracking.
- 1 cup avocado oil
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves
Tear the lemon balm leaves with your fingers to release the juices and place them in a clean glass jar. Cover with the oil and seal with the lid. Place in a cool, dark place -- such as a pantry -- and allow to steep for at least four and as long as five days.
Open the jar and strain the oil into another sealable storage container through a fine mesh sieve. Use the oil within three months to ensure freshness.