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I've made a red-wine vinaigrette dressing using olive oil (which makes up the majority of the dressing), red wine, garlic, and basil.

My problem is that whenever I take it out of the refrigerator, especially when it gets low, the olive-oil leaves it practically solid. I understand that this is normal for olive oil, but it is rather annoying having to get it out 30 minutes before I make a salad or a sandwich (as I don't normally have that kind of time).

My question is, since everything in there but the garlic doesn't need to be refrigerated, is it safe to leave it out of the fridge and let it stand at room temperature? Or is it like all other (store-bought) dressing where after opening (mixing) it requires refrigeration?

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you should not be using raw garlic in a vinaigrette which you intend to keep. garlic carries botulinum spores, which propagate in anaerobic environments--i.e., when submerged in oil. –  daniel Apr 6 '11 at 17:58
    
Yeah I should point out that it's not /raw/ garlic, it's pre-prepped, minced garlic from a jar. Is that still a problem though? –  Mike S Apr 7 '11 at 3:36
    
Garlic from a jar, I believe, is blanched to remove any chance of botulinum. It should, however, be kept refrigerated. –  daniel Apr 7 '11 at 5:08
    
Alright. Thank you for the info. –  Mike S Apr 7 '11 at 13:41
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4 Answers

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Yes, you should refrigerate it.

Once a commercially bottled dressing is exposed to the air it is contaminated. Your homemade dressing is no different, and is likely more contaminated to begin with. The bottom line is that your dressing is food -- for humans, bacteria, and mold. It might not be the most hospitable of environments, but something is bound to find a home there. This process is arrested by refrigeration. Additionally, the garlic and basil will be going through a decay process that would be delayed by refrigeration.

I'm not sure what kind of olive oil you used, but I've never had a vinaigrette turn solid in the refrigerator. If you're in a rush I'd suggest submerging, or running hot water over the bottle you store it in to quickly thaw it. You'll shorten the shelf life, but if you're using it frequently enough (used all in less than a month) that shouldn't matter.

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I use extra-virgin olive oil (doubt the brand matters), and I go through about a bottle of this dressing a week so the shelf life isn't a problem. Thanks! –  Mike S Apr 6 '11 at 16:03
    
This is a largely incorrect answer, hobodave. If the vinaigrette is made solely from ingredients which do not need to be refrigerated, mixing them together isn't going to suddenly and magically require refrigeration. Modulo my point above regarding garlic and botulism, if the vinaigrette is solely made of non-refrigerated ingredients it does not need to be chilled. Further, olive oil does go solid at refigerator temperatures, so it is unsurprising that a vinaigrette will get thicker or solidify. –  daniel Apr 6 '11 at 23:00
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@daniel: It's not magic. White flour doesn't require refrigeration. Neither does water. Mix them together. Now it'll spoil (or become a sourdough starter). –  derobert Apr 7 '11 at 16:45
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Oil and vinegar are rather different than flour and water, which is why, you'll note, I was rather specific in the words I used. –  daniel Apr 7 '11 at 17:18
    
Neither vinegar nor oil will grow bacteria, but together somehow they can? I don't buy it. "I've never had a vinaigrette turn solid in the refrigerator" -- you shouldn't be surprised in the least to find that olive oil gets sludgy when refrigerated. Maybe it isn't solid, but it sure doesn't flow easily. It's like molasses when refrigerated. -1. –  jcollum Feb 19 at 21:09
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My employer makes vinaigrette dressing professionally and distributes to Kroger stores, Meijer, and other chains. What Adisak mentioned about acidified ingredients is correct. In fact, you could acidify them yourself as we do. Mix the vinegar and flavors together (garlic, spices, etc...), and refrigerate over night. Make sure to blend/puree the ingredients to allow the acidification to work properly. Food code states that the finished product should be at a certain PH level to be used as shelf stable (non-refrigerated). But that shouldn't be an issue as long as you aren't adding more than 50% oil to the mix (plus the testing meters for ph in non-clear liquids are expensive). And leave water out of the mixture as it adds more complex variables into the equation. And as many have said, dry ingredients are the safest, but on the other hand... sadly just don't taste the same.

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Daniel is right about the raw garlic and botulism. If you make a dressing with raw garlic, eat it right away - don't store it. It's possible that the vinegar would kill the bacteria, but I wouldn't take the chance. This also means you shouldn't store raw garlic in oil. This doesn't apply to cooked garlic, by the way.

Otherwise - go ahead and leave it out. I've never seen a vinaigrette go bad, and I doubt that I ever will.

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It's not raw, it minced garlic which comes from a jar but without looking I can't tell you if it's cooked or not. Thanks for the information though. –  Mike S Apr 7 '11 at 3:37
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Olive oil with any vinegar with only dry ingredients added is safe to leave on the counter. It's fresh made properties begin to deteriorate immediately. Pungent qualities and olive oil flavor will get stale flavor after a few weeks for sure. I've tried it. Answer , make it fresh once a week.

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Garlic can be risky, however. –  Yamikuronue Feb 13 '12 at 21:54
    
Note... fresh garlic is risky... dried garlic is pretty safe and so is commercially processed minced garlic from a jar (it's been acidified which is a preservative process by adding citric acid or phosphoric acid). I would still refrigerate nonetheless. –  Adisak Oct 26 '12 at 22:46
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