As we all know, garlic preserved by any method is not a substitute for fresh, but it does have its own charms and advantages. Different methods of preserving garlic lend themselves to their own culinary uses, so explore them all and see which ones best suit your needs. There are six excellent methods for preserving garlic. They are freezing garlic, drying garlic, garlic vinegar, garlic salt, garlic oil, and refrigerator garlic pickles.
Before we examine the specific preservation methods, I want to emphasize that preserving garlic in oil is not safe unless the garlic oil is frozen. Garlic is a low-acid food and oil provides an oxygen-free environment, a combination that allows the growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulism, which causes botulism. However, if you follow the methods in this article for freezing garlic-and-oil mixtures and keep them frozen until needed, it is safe.
Here are a few useful gadgets for garlic lovers, that will help with peeling, mincing, storage, and the like:
- Zak Designs E-Z Rol Garlic Peeler*
- NexTrend 3rd Generation Clear Garlic Twist*
- Norpro Large Garlic Baker*
- Norpro 5-Inch Ceramic Garlic Keeper*
- OXO Steel Garlic Press, Stainless*
Perhaps the easiest way to preserve garlic is to freeze it. Just peel the cloves and place them in freezer bags in the freezer. Easier yet, simply place the unpeeled garlic in freezer bags and remove as needed. With both these methods, the cloves become a little mushy when they are thawed, but their flavor remains good.
Another method for freezing garlic is to chop it and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. With this method, you can simply grate or break off small amounts of chopped garlic as needed, which is helpful for cooks who often must quickly throw a meal together.
You can also freeze garlic that has been pureed in oil. This is nice because the oil keeps the mixture from freezing solid and it can be spooned out as needed, another help for busy cooks. To make frozen garlic oil puree, place one part peeled garlic cloves in a blender or food processor along with two parts olive oil. Puree the mixture, then immediately transfer it to a freezer container. Cover the container and place it in the freezer. Do not store the garlic oil puree at room temperature or in the refrigerator because the mixture can support the growth of Clostridium botulism bacteria.
Peel the garlic, making sure to discard any bruised or damaged cloves. Cut the cloves in half lengthwise, place them in an electric food dehydrator, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying.
If you do not have a food dehydrator, you can dry the garlic in your oven. Make drying racks by stretching cheesecloth over the oven racks and securing it with toothpicks. Place the garlic on the racks and turn the oven to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, then lower it to 130 degrees until the garlic is completely dry and crisp.
To make garlic vinegar, take a bottle of white or red wine vinegar and drop in either whole or chopped garlic. Use as much garlic as you wish, as long as it is completely submerged in the vinegar. Store your garlic vinegar in the refrigerator and use both the vinegar and the garlic in salad dressings or any dish that calls for both vinegar and garlic. Garlic vinegar will keep, refrigerated, for about four months. If mold develops, discard the mixture.
Place dried garlic in a blender and process it until it turns to powder. Add four parts sea salt for each one part garlic powder and process for just a second or two to combine the two ingredients. Do not process the garlic salt too long because it will cake. Store the garlic salt in an airtight glass jar.
Fresh garlic and oil are a dangerous combination if left at room temperature. Because of garlic’s low acidity and oil’s lack of oxygen, they can cause botulism toxin to develop. However, peeled cloves of garlic can be added to oil and stored in the freezer for several months.
Commercially prepared garlic in oil contains a preservative to increase the acidity of the mixture and keep it safe. To make garlic-flavored oil at home, add dehydrated garlic to olive oil in a wide mouth jar, screw on the lid, and place the jar in the refrigerator. If the olive oil turns solid, just spoon it out. Be careful, however, to always use a dry spoon.
Refrigerator Garlic Pickles
Loosely fill a glass jar with peeled garlic cloves. Add enough red or white wine vinegar to cover the garlic and then add about one tablespoon of sea salt per cup of vinegar. Dried (not fresh) herbs such as red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and oregano may be added to taste. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to distribute the salt and herbs. Refrigerator garlic pickles will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator, as long as the garlic remains submerged in the vinegar.
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