Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Vegetables | Herbs and Spices
Garlic is a pungently odoriferous member of the allium family (like onions and leeks). Garlic is generally used as a spice or a seasoning rather than as a vegetable due to its extremely strong flavour.
Garlic grows in large papery clusters. These clusters are called 'heads', 'bulbs' or 'knobs'. Each small, individual segment of a garlic head is a clove.
Freshly-harvested garlic bulbs must be cured prior to long-term storage. This curing dries out the exterior of the head, protecting the inner cloves from moisture and rot. Uncured garlic must be used quickly as it is more prone to spoilage.
Cured garlic heads will keep for a long time as long as they are stored in a cool, dark place. Do not keep them in the fridge or they will start to sprout and become bitter. They can be frozen without ill-effect, or simply stored in a dark cupboard away from moisture. Garlic braids should be hung to prevent crushing any of the cloves.
If you want to store the cloves individually and ready for use, the garlic must be either dried or processed. One good way to freeze prepared garlic is to crush or mince it in a food processor and mix it with a little water, then freeze it in ice cube trays so you can get cubes out as needed. Otherwise it can be frozen in olive oil, or frozen whole.
Never store garlic in olive oil at room temperature or leave garlic in oil to sit on the counter. Because garlic is grown in the ground it is frequently contaminated with botulism spores, which are almost impossible to remove. These are harmless in their normal state, but because they are an anaerobic bacteria they will grow at room temperature if submersed in oil. The spores can not grow in the cold, so freeze or refrigerate it, or better yet, store the garlic in vodka, wine or vinegar rather than oil.
Before using cured garlic, the cloves must be separated from their papery casing. One method of extracting the clove from the bulb is to hold it in your hand and then use a paring knife to gently stab at the center of a clove, pulling it out from the skin. One can also grasp the top (or point) of the clove, and push the coarse base into a hard surface (such as a cutting board) until the paper "cracks", allowing it to be easily peeled from the clove.
As a rule, the finer you chop or especially crush fresh garlic, the stronger the flavour will be. This is because the flavour compounds are released by breaking cell walls. It is usually crushed with the side of a knife (which also aids in peeling) or finely minced. You can also use a garlic press, or crush it in a pestle and mortar with a bit of salt added to help reduce the garlic to a smooth paste. But it can also be used in slivers or as whole cloves, with a much milder result. Whole cloves are often roasted, and as they cook their flavour changes dramatically to become sweeter and less pungent.
Garlic can be purchased pre-crushed or pre-chopped in a jar. This type of pre-prepared garlic keeps for a long time in the fridge or freezer, and the garlic odour cannot penetrate the glass. It is milder and often sweeter than fresh garlic because the garlic flavor declines slightly with time.
For cooking purposes, garlic is often measured in cloves. However, depending on the head of garlic, an average clove can vary from 1 gram (0.035 oz) to 6 grams (0.21 oz), and personal judgment must be used to determine the amount to use. North American manufacturers of pre-packaged minced garlic consider one clove as 2.5 grams (0.088 oz). One teaspoon of minced garlic would contain the equivalent of 2 cloves.
Recipes featuring garlicEdit
Many recipes use garlic, but those listed below feature garlic as a major contributor to the recipe.