Pungent, piquant and peppery, cloves tie aromatics together in multifaceted dishes. You rarely find cloves as the main flavoring ingredient in a dish; they work best in supporting roles, such as infusions for finishing oils. Clove oil is used to anoint a dish with a suspicion of clove in the finish -- not enough to alter the flavor profile but just enough to make you think, "This has a little something special," and wonder what it is. Clove oil is easy to make, and a little goes a long way.
Toast about half a tablespoon of cloves in a saute pan over medium heat for every cup of oil you want to infuse. Toasting the cloves mobilizes their volatile oils and makes them easier to extract.
Wash the bottle and cap you'll use for the clove oil, along with a mortar, pestle and funnel. Fill the bottle with water and place it in a pot along with the mortar, pestle and funnel.
Cover the items in the pot with a few inches of water and boil for 10 minutes. Take the items from the water and invert them on a paper towel.
Rinse the cloves in a colander under cool water and spread them out on paper towels to dry. Dry the mortar with a paper towel, if you need to, and pour the cloves in it while it's still warm from boiling.
Lightly tap the cloves with the pestle to crack them. Pour the cracked cloves in the container, followed by high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Use the funnel if you need to.
Tighten the lid or stopper on the bottle and store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Shake the bottle every couple of days.
Infuse the oil with the cloves for two weeks, then taste it. If you want a stronger flavor, let the cloves steep for a few more weeks. If the flavor is where you want it, strain the oil through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and into an airtight sterilized serving bottle or container.
Store the clove oil in the refrigerator and use within 1 month.