Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Freezing Garlic

I’ve been having some anxiety lately surrounding garlic. More specifically, I’ve started to worry that all the garlic we grew and stored last summer wouldn’t last until we’d used it.

Garlic is a great vegetable. So many of my favorite dishes include it and it stores so easily that it seemed logical that we should grow a substantial quantity of those funky, fragrant bulbs. In the past, we’ve purchased winter farmers’ market garlic that was dry, dusty and frankly moldy so I wasn’t overly optimistic about keeping garlic in Wisconsin through the winter. When I harvested our crop last summer I hung it in baskets in the basement to cure a while before tying it in garlands to hang in the fruit room/root cellar/server closet—it is the Twenty-First Century after all!

Since that room is visited frequently, I was keeping an eye on the state of the bulbs and have been happy with how they’ve been keeping. Lately, however, I’ve noticed the outer skins on some of the bulbs I’ve brought up to cook with have been more dry and looser. Also, some bulbs are showing sprouting cloves. They’ve got nowhere to grow at this point and are still safe to cook, but I decided that just in case I’d process and freeze some of them. I selected the remaining five bulbs of ‘Tai Lang’ for this project. Incidentally, I’ve found nothing about this cultivar online; Googling it just brings up my own references to growing it. All I know is I bought it at the Westside Community Market and the seller said it was hot.

The first step in processing garlic for freezing is to peel each individual clove. When I’m doing one or two or five for a recipe I just cut off the root end, halve it lengthwise and then flake away the skin with a knife. To peel quantities of garlic I use a faster method. First, separate all the cloves in the bulb and cut off  the root end. Then, lightly crush them with the flat of your knife. Be careful. You’ll end up with a chaotic pile of garlic cloves and papery skins.

Next, get a couple of bowls, preferably stainless steel, that are close to the same size. In a pinch, you can just use a bowl and a plate.  Put your distressed garlic cloves in the bowls and get ready to rumble!

Cover one bowl with the other and sha-a-a-ake vigorously. Listen to the tone and you can actually hear when the cloves have been removed from the skins. It’s pretty cool and I’m sure there’s some big-ass industrial machine out there that uses the same principle to do the same thing. Now you just pick the oh-so-tasty garlic cloves out of the skins and set them aside.

Next, chop the garlic to make it easier to dispense and use. Either coarsely chop it by hand if you have the time and patience. I didn’t so I used a mini food processor. Don’t overdo it. If you want a finer chop later you can always do it then.

The final step is to get some protection on those chopped cloves. Drizzle in a little olive oil and stir it into the chopped garlic. A little goes a long way! The key is to coat the cloves without having them swimming in it. Stir thoroughly so that they’re completely coated. The oil will keep the garlic from turning ugly colors and also make it easier to spoon out the quantity you need when cookin’ time comes around.

Finally, put the oiled garlic in a jar and screw that lid on tightly. Keep it in the freezer and just scoop out however much you need in your future cooking. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the effort now not only for saving yourself the chopping later, but for also saving some produce that may not have lasted until the next crop comes ready.How do you keep your garlic? I’d be interested in hearing new ideas on growing and storing one of my favorite crops. Comment or email to share your ideas.

This riveting, stem-grinding offering is part of Post Produce, hosted by Daniel Gasteiger over at Your Small Kitchen Garden. Check it out!

9 Responses:

daniel (small kitchen garden) said...

I love this idea. It stands to reason that garlic heads want to kick into growth mode as days grow longer. Such terrific industry to move them into alternative long-term storage so there's no waste. Thanks so much for sharing.

Vetrimagal said...

The storing idea is very good.
In India the pods are much smaller and sharper in pungency.

The storing after harvest , is conducive for economic reasons too. It does gets pricey in Summer when there is huge demand for pickling garlic.

Though one cannot use stored garlic for pickles, it can be used in daily cooking. Here , we also have the facility to pound it in stone mortar, and keep the juices within slow pounding.

I am thinking of trying it out this week.


Shady Character said...

Yes, Daniel, I can see now why commercial garlic has to be treated with inhibitors! You can't fool Mother Nature.

Hi, Vetrimagal and thanks for visiting. I ought to see if I can get my hands on some of those Indian garlic varieties and see if they'll grow here. My preference is for larger cloves since they're less work to prepare and they're excellent sliced paper thin on pizza. The pounding idea is intriguing. I've got enough to give it a try. How do you use or store it after treating it that way?

Vetrimagal said...

It is usually pounded or ground with salt.

Mil said...

Hi Mark,
Love the idea about jumping around with a bunch of garlic to peel them. There's also this other tool. Google "rubber garlic peeler tube" if you haven't seen this gadget.

When I worked in restaurants, we used to get big containers of peeled garlic. I was curious about how they peeled them all too and a longtime cook told me they have a very strong blower that blows all the skins off.

How do I preserve my garlic? I like pickling too. Very curious to hear how the freezer garlic holds up.

Shady Character said...

I'd forgotten about those tube peelers but now I remember seeing them in some catalog. I should try pickling some since I've got so much. Any recipe and usage suggestions?

Alyssa said...

Thanks for this post! I just recently learned about the steel bowl "shake" method for peeling and was glad to see you share it! I have one of those tube peelers but have never used it, I'll have to give it a try now. I find myself in the same situation every year too with my stored garlic. I am going to try this freezing method. This past year I tried drying some of my excess garlic based on a farmer's suggestion. Peeled the cloves and trimmed the roots then dried the cloves thoroughly in my dehydrator. After they dried I pulsed them in my processor until they formed a coarse powder and stored in a spice jar. It's been a great addition to my spice drawer for quick garlic flavor in cooked dishes.

Shady Character said...

Thanks for visiting, Alyssa. Yet another reason I should get a dehydrator, don't you think! Yesterday someone was telling me she dried under-ripe _watermelon_ in hers. How cool!

Mil said...

Gosh,I don't have a recipe for pickled garlic. I think I would take a recipe for pickled onions and use that pickling liquid for the garlic, and add some thyme and peppercorns for flavor.

I could see slicing up the pickled garlic and putting it with something rich. Smoked salmon? Or just grilled salmon? A little bit sprinkled on a cheesy pizza?