I am fully aware that it is still late August, but I am programmed to think of putting up food for the winter in mid-summer. See Grandma, Mom, and Dad? I did pay attention! And so, in the spirit of playing ‘the ant’ to any food preservation grasshoppers out there…
It’s garlic season! Yippee!
If the only garlic you’ve ever eaten was from a plastic wrapped box or precut in a jar you’ve been missing out mightily. The flavor of fresh garlic is complex. It is spicy and pungent. There is no substitute for it.
Garlic from the bulk bins in most grocery stores, while a step above the cello-wrapped boxes and jarred variety, pales in comparison to good garlic purchased from a reputable farmer. I saw my garlic guy today and stocked up on the garlic that should get us through the remainder of pickling season and the winter. He sent me home with 10 pounds of German Porcelain and Italian Red garlic. **These are both hardneck varieties. Hardneck garlic remains healthy longer in storage than does softneck garlic.
At a loss as to where to find fresh garlic locally? If you’re in Western New York or the Southern Tier I can give you my garlic guy’s name. If you’re not from these parts, the folks at Local Harvest have a wealth of information on local-to-you growers and farmers markets.
Garlic is, after blueberries, the second easiest thing to store for the winter. To keep garlic for several months you can create the ideal storage conditions by keeping heads intact in a cool, dry, dark place with plenty of air circulation. Some good ways to do this are:
- Buy some cheap pantyhose. Drop a head of garlic down each leg into the foot, tie off or cinch with a twist tie, and repeat until hose are full. Hang this from a beam or hook in your closet, basement or root cellar.
- Store in mesh bags in your closed pantry or cabinets.
- Hang in mesh bags from a hook or beam in your closet, basement or root cellar.
- Store in a cool place in a mesh bowl under an overturned clay pot.
Some sure fire ways to ruin your garlic include:
- The fridge. Your garlic should not be stored in the fridge at all. The cold temperature changes the flavor of the garlic. If you chop more than you need for a recipe, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and use within 24 hours. There will be some loss of flavor, but you’ll probably be able to live with it.
- The freezer. Ditto on the cold temperatures, but the freezer has the added disadvantage of ruining the texture of fresh garlic. Don’t be tempted!
This is what 10 pounds of fresh garlic looks like! That bowl is huge, I tell you. For reference purposes, it’s bigger than a breadbox.
…And as if fresh garlic (bought inexpensively in late summer) readily available in your home isn’t enough to tempt you, let me share one other thought with you. You can roast a bunch of heads of garlic and freeze the roasted garlic. **The earlier caution about freezers and garlic does not apply to lovely roasted garlic.
The beauty of roasted garlic -addressing for the moment the uninitiated- is that it morphs garlic into a sweet, mellow spreadable form of garlic with none of the sometimes maligned side effects of raw or fresh garlic. The five and a half billion things you can do with roasted garlic are the subject of an upcoming post. But for now I’m going to apply peer pressure to those who haven’t yet made this. Come on. Make it. Everyone’s doing it. You’re missing out if you don’t. What are you, a square? (Er, does anyone say that any more?) And since I’m brow-beating you into making it I’ll leave you with my recipe for roasted garlic.
- 2 heads garlic
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried version of either herb)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Trim any funky dangly bits off the root end of the garlic and brush away any loose paper without separating the cloves. (That’s the hairy end, just in case you’re wondering!) This should allow it to stand up solidly. Lay garlic on its side on a cutting board and -using a sharp knife- trim about 1/2″ from the flower end of the garlic bulb. This should just expose the tips of the actual cloves of garlic.
Place the garlic heads with the cut side up in a small baking dish that is at least as tall as your garlic. (If you don’t possess such a thing, simply form a crude bowl from heavy duty aluminum foil and proceed…) Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the tops of the garlic and sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper. Top each garlic head with a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Cover the dish with foil (or crimp your foil ‘bowl’ up at the top) and place in the oven to roast for between 30-35 minutes. **If using the foil bowl method, be sure to place on a rimmed baking sheet before popping into the oven. It’ll keep you from having any spills and from cursing my name.
Examine the garlic to test for doneness. The ultimate roasted garlic will have a browned papery exterior (but not blackened), deep golden brown cloves and will yield when squeezed gently. When garlic reaches these benchmarks, remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before using.
To extract garlic to use, flip the slightly cooled heads upside down and squeeze from the root end toward the blossom end like a toothpaste tube. Now eat! (I’ll be posting our favorite ways of roasted garlic consumption very, very soon. Ya’ll come back soon for the recipes!)