“Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist.” – Mrs. W. G. Waters, ‘The Cook’s Decameron,’ 1920
When I began cooking meals, around the age of 12, my food-experiments were pretty safe, held-in-check by two constraints: a limited selection of bland, tin-can ground spices, and the minimalist recipes in our one and only cookbook, a red-covered Betty Crocker. I couldn’t get in too much trouble, because its recipes seldom called for more than one spice, beyond the omnipresent salt and pepper.
I don’t recall any of its recipes requesting whole-spices, other than a holiday clove-spiked ham, side-lined for “those more experienced”. That would be the women in my family who owned more than one cookbook, making them the true cooking authorities. They pretty much all felt the same way about whole spices: “too much work”, “too much money”, or “not as easy to use”.
During college, and later in marriage, my husband and I were drawn to “ethnic” foods, eschewing the salt and pepper of our childhood for more bold and spicy flavors – Thai, Moroccan, East Indian, Ethiopian, Burmese and Malaysian cuisine – which demanded the inclusion of roasted and ground whole-spices. Heretics! Our food-choices were an enigma to all who had thought they’d known us.
Good Intentions, Gone Bad
During a wee-bit too-spicy dinner, we watched, wide-eyed, as both sets of parents gulped glasses of ice-water, profusely apologizing to each other for the dinner my husband and I had made. Acting as if we weren’t even physically present at the same table, they “set the record straight” that not a single one of them had raised us “to be this way”.
Our downfall, which caused everyone pain, was the fresh garlic. It was a wild element which we needed to tame, nothing at all like the bland, brown-powder (it should be white – brown is oxidized) of our childhood.
Lacto-fermentation = Ancient Convenience Foods!
We fast-tracked our garlic-education, eating our way through several years of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where we fell madly in love with pickled-garlic, garlic ice cream, garlic-stuffed olives, aioli, garlic paste, marinaras, and pestos, opening up a whole new world of eating.
We made a habit of eating at the The Stinking Rose in San Francisco, where we learned to appreciate the amazing flavors of whole garlic cloves, gently pan-roasted in butter – an amazing combination spread on San Francisco sourdough bread.
We discovered there was more than one type of garlic!
- Softneck – most common grocery store variety, covered in white paper; commercial large-scale production, harder to peel, stronger flavor because it contains more allicin, longer shelf life; good for pickling, dehydrating and curing (hanging to dry); lasts for months; some are also purple in color, so can’t tell softneck by the color – be sure to confirm variety/type with grower, if possible
- Hardneck – chef’s love this; doesn’t have the harsh “raw” bite of the softneck due to less allicin, has more of the “garlic” flavor without the pain; easier to peel; grown by local growers more than huge commercial ventures; deteriorates very quickly so is best for immediate culinary use; when stored raw, withers away quickly within 3-5 weeks; for long-term storage, slice and dehydrate or ferment; color variation ranges from purple, purple striped, red, red-striped and white; maybe confused with some softneck so be sure to check variety/type with grower
Experiment #1 – Pickl-It Garlic
Determined to re-create both the pickled and butter-roasted garlic cloves, we filled a 1 1/2-liter Pickl-It with several pounds of peeled, softneck, garlic cloves along with a 3.5% brine.
Thinking that would be enough to last until the next growing season, we used every single Pickl-It pickled clove by Christmas.
They’d only lasted four months because we’d eaten every single clove, setting a record for garlic consumption!
The naturally-fermented garlic cloves had been incredibly convenient to use, but also had a more pleasing flavor than the commercially-pickled cloves of our past.
Unlike the commercially-pickled cloves which had a harsh, bitter flavor from distilled vinegar, our Pickl-It naturally-fermented cloves had a smooth “tang” without the vinegar after-burn and the mellow flavor of baked garlic.
We had added them to every meal – not a bad thing given their possible health benefits – appreciating their added dimension of flavor to our breakfast soufflés, omelets, and egg and bacon or sausage skillets.
We increased our garlic-bread consumption.
The Pickl-It garlic cloves were remarkably identical to “The Stinking Rose” butter-roasted cloves – a sweet, mellow, no-odor profile just like whole baked heads. Gently melting our home-made, pastured, grass-fed butter, and adding a handful of smashed garlic cloves, made some of the most super-easy, super-tasty garlic bread we’d ever had.
I also discovered that some little (and big hands) were raiding the Pickl-It garlic container, snacking on them several times a week. Naturally-picked, probiotic-rich garlic cloves, which also doubled for baked garlic and snacks?!
We had a major hit on our hands!
We regularly pickle (naturally-ferment) 10 to 12 pounds of softneck garlic cloves, depending on their size and availability, from organic farm sources.
Creating lacto-fermented garlic is the easy part. Deciding how to use it may be the difficult part, because there are so many good choices!
Just like all the other lacto-fermented recipes, we can’t give you exact amounts of how many pounds you will use for each Pickl-It.
Garlic heads are all different, depending on the variety, grower, and growing season.
A good rule-of-thumb is that you may get anywhere between 6 and 16 heads of garlic in 1-pound. There may be between 6 and 16 cloves of garlic in each head. You can start to see the math nightmare developing….
Start off simple. Read through the recipe. It’s easy, so try it.
Pickl-It Pickled Garlic Recipe
The first and most important issue is that ONLY organic garlic should be used1. Like most of your other foods, try to find a local source so that you know what you’re getting, how it was grown, and what chemicals may or may not have been used.
The most time-consuming part about creating high-quality, stable, lacto-fermented garlic cloves is spent in separating the cloves from the garlic heads and removing the skins. But at the end of a not-so-tough day, you’ll have created a stable, tasty, naturally-preserved valuable food. It’s worth the time spent.
Take your time. You do not want to damage the delicate garlic clove skin, or cut into the cloves, which will start a chain reaction of chemical events.
Do not cut the root end as some recipes recommend. Typically, those who recommend cutting the garlic cloves, in order to remove the outer skin, are either going to use the cloves immediately in a recipe, OR, if “pickling”, they’re using the modern distilled-vinegar method along with heat-processing (pasteurization) which results in a dead-nutrient, embalmed substance.
They are not concerned with nutrition. Nutrition is, however, our highest priority.
Blanching is the key to skin removal.
- Break open a garlic head, sticking a knife tip, or if wide enough, your thumbs in a crevasse – the seam between two garlic cloves.
- Remove all garlic cloves from the root end and center stalk.
- Heat 6-cups of water to near-boil. There will be a “puff” of steam rising off the surface of the water when the water is ready.
- While water is heating, prepare a bowl of ice water which includes 4-cups of water and 4-cups of ice cubes. Set aside.
- If food-preservation – long-term 3-5 year storage in the Pickl-It is your goal, prepare 3.5% brine – 33 grams of salt for every 4-cups of water. Set aside. When creating smaller batches – 1.5-liter or less – use a 2% brine – 19 grams of salt for every 4-cups of water.
- Drop 1-cup of separated cloves into the simmering water for :30 (30 seconds).
- Remove cloves from water and quickly dip into the ice water. Cool for :30 (30 seconds) and remove from water by hand, or with a slotted spoon.
- Spread blanched/cooled cloves on a cookie sheet and continue with remainder of cloves until all of them are blanched and cooled.
- Squeeze the garlic cloves, one at a time, to release paper, if the paper isn’t already sliding off. Don’t crush the cloves. Some varieties are more “stubborn” and may take a gentle coaxing of a knife tip, OR, place 20-30 cloves in a kitchen towel and gently “roll” them back and forth between the towel, removing the “skin” or “paper”.
- Place peeled garlic cloves in the Pickl-It, cover with prepared-brine filling to the *Pickl-It shoulder
- Use the “Dunk’R to hold down “any cloves that float; adding carrot slices under the Dunk’R, if necessary
- Wrap sides of jar with towel to block out light
- Leave on counter for 30-days. Then place in refrigerator and continue to “age”; garlic benefits from aging up to 6-months before use; stores well in refrigerator, up to 3-years if stored in Pickl-It. When removing garlic cloves, be sure to leave the airlock in-place. That way, oxygen which enters into the Pickl-It, when it is opened, has a way of escape, up and out the airlock.
Some of the most reader-friendly articles I’ve found on garlic are located:
Garlic Health Benefits – health benefits as well as interesting information on topic use of garlic as a way to get it into the system faster as well as infusing wine, as another means of speeding it up into the system (since allicin, the key component is usually neutralized or greatly reduced by saliva and the stomach’s digestive enzymes, not necessarily making it into the digestive tract, etc.)
What Happens with Allicin Breaks Down – more in-depth on what happens with allicin breaks down in the system, and what other components are delivered due to that breakdown.
Ground, packaged spices turn rancid creating “off”, bitter flavors, as well as having a greatly-diminished shelf-life.
1 “Conventionally Grown Garlic Contaminated With Chemicals” – Natural News
|by Kathleen in Recipes | Permalink|
Did you know...
Pasteur referred to lactic-acid fermentation as “respiration without oxygen”.
—Pasteur Definition of Fermentation
Thanks for the clear instructions, Kathleen! I mustered the discipline to let the fermentation work undisturbed, leaving it alone! I’m not used to that! Used to skimming off mold! I’m amazed how good my first attempt with it – khimchee – has come out. You made it so easy.
—Jamie - Massachusettes