Here’s a recipe for spruce tip oil from The Boreal Feast to get you started, and a couple of tasty things to use your oil in. David Curtis of Up River Commercial Fishing and I developed them last year, when we were part of Ace Bakery’s fabulous Artisan Incubator Project. Our recipes were designed to complement an Ace Bakery product. If you have access to Ace Bakery products where you live, lucky you! If not, it’s okay. You’ll find something good.
Spruce tip oil is best used as a condiment rather than in cooking, in simple preparations that allow the bright, forest flavours to express themselves fully without dominating the dish. Experiment with uncomplicated recipes first, and as you grow more accustomed to the oil, try out new flavours. The oil pairs well with Mediterranean herbs such as cilantro, sage and oregano, and is a natural with lemon and juniper berries. My brother likes to spread spruce tip oil on crostini and layer smoked salmon on top. Spruce tip oil is a great dipping oil for crusty country bread and excellent in salad dressings and mayonnaise.
Wash spruce tips and pat them dry with a tea towel. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and air-dry them for 24 hours away from direct sunlight. Since you’re going to refrigerate the oil, the spruce tips don’t have to be desiccated, just dry to the touch.
Combine spruce tips and oils in a medium saucepan and heat gently to 180F (82C); this will take about 8 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat. Strain oil through a fine-meshed sieve and then through a coffee filter that has been soaked in canola oil. Pour strained oil into a dry, sterilized 2-cup (475-mL) screw-top jar. Use within a week to 10 days.
Makes about 2 cups (475 mL) oil.
Food Safety Note: Infused Oils
The important thing to be aware of when infusing oils is the danger of botulism. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum, commonly present in soil and dust, can multiply under moist, anaerobic, low-acid conditions, producing a deadly toxin as a by-product. Any water clinging to the material you are putting into oil provides an ideal breeding ground. It’s important to store oil infused with fresh herbs in the refrigerator and consume it within a week to 10 days. Dried herbs pose less of a safety risk, since the moisture has evaporated, but it’s still important to err on the side of caution.