How to Make Spruce Tip-Infused Olive Oil

spruce recipes
Several weeks ago, I took on the challenge of replicating a dish, the Golden Trout, created by Chef Curtis Duffy of Avenues restaurant in Chicago. Though I didn’t fail miserably (as I ended up with a dish that tasted quite good), I didn’t quite succeed (it was a far cry from the real thing). But that project exposed me to a few culinary things that I’d never known of before. One of them is spruce-infused oil. Let my ignorance be known: I never knew of such a thing.

Growing up in the tropical climate, there was nary a spruce tree in my neighborhood. Once in a while, I found myself in the midst of pine and fir trees while vacationing with my family in the northern or northeastern mountainous areas of the country where the climate is cooler. But even then, I doubt anyone of us would think of young pine needles as edible let alone delicious.

spruce recipes
For his Golden Trout dish Chef Duffy, seared the trout in grapeseed oil which had been infused with spruce tips, and served it with spruce-flavored pudding and spruce-flavored meringue among other elements. While the trout is the soprano prima donna, it’s undeniable that the presence of spruce touches everyone else in the entire ensemble. The pine-y smell is not supposed to overwhelm, but tease. It’s that refreshing je ne sais quoi in the background that makes everything more special without making it obvious as to why.

Weeks later, the moment I saw new spruce tips emerge from their papery casings, I grabbed them by a bucketful. Depending on where you live, you see this happen at different times. It could be anywhere from early spring to late spring. For sure, though, wait any longer into the summer and the young, tender, fragrant tips will become tough, resinous, and not appropriate to be used in this manner any more.

Inspired by the many spruce-themed creations on this blog and my blogger friends, Don and Jenn, at foodieprints, I set out to experiment with spruce tips.

spruce recipes
One of the most versatile things that you can make with spruce (pine, fir) tips is spruce-infused oil. For this batch, I warmed up 32 fluid ounces (4 cups/1 quart) of the best olive oil just until it reached 130°-140° F. Then I poured the warm oil into a jar in which I put 2 cups of spruce tips which had had their papery casing removed, been cleaned and thoroughly dried. I closed the jar and kept it in the refrigerator for two weeks. The result is delicious infused olive oil that makes a very fragrant vinaigrette.

Do you have any spruce or fir or pine tips emerging in your backyard? You may want to grab some and make this infused oil or spike your favorite cookies, cakes, breads, mayonnaise, etc., with them.

And hurry. They don’t last long.

10 Responses to How to Make Spruce Tip-Infused Olive Oil

  1. Silvia May 17, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    I’ve never thought of making spruce oil, but this sounds so exquisite.
    When I was a child my grandmother used to make a jam from pine tips but I’ve associated this with a medicine, because grandma used to say I have to eat it in order to be healthy throughout the year.
    But now I’m considering this otherwise.

  2. Arwen from Hoglet K May 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    All this foragable food in the Northern Hemisphere! I’m so unaccustomed to the idea, but it’s amazing to have so many edible plants around, and so many people who actually eat them.

  3. Charles May 18, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Thank you for this. There’s a lot going on here in Oregon with Douglas Fir tips. Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery in Portland makes a Douglas Fir Eau de Vie that has and exquisite flavor. Capturing this flavor in a neutral oil is perfect. Thanks again.

  4. Leela May 18, 2010 at 12:51 am #

    Charles – I have to look into Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. Sounds exquisite. Thanks. 🙂

  5. Manggy May 18, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    I’ve never been up close with a spruce before, so I don’t know what aroma this could impart, but I will say that it looks beautiful 🙂

  6. OysterCulture May 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    What a delicious and most intriguing sounding oil. Living in an apartment we have no spruce, but I sense a walk on the wild side is in order.

  7. Kristen May 27, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    My kids came in today with these little spruce tips stuck to their clothing. I guess I will try the oil now, do you suppose it is a sign?

  8. christinemm November 10, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Silvia your grandmother was right, pine needles (fresh green) are filled with vitamin C. For one thing pine can make a tea that has a citrus taste.

    The photos are gorgeous Leela. I’m glad you enjoyed this trial.

  9. Robin May 22, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    It sounds delicious! Do you use 2 cups dry or 2 cups fresh tips?

  10. Leela May 22, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    Robin – Fresh. It’s better to use fresh spruce tips; they’re more fragrant.