Garlic - “The Stinking Rose”

The following tips and recipes have been culminated from years of reviewing cookbooks, watching cooking shows and Internet searches.  I have tried the majority of the recipes with a few tweeks from original recipes I found.

I own a small garlic farm in central NJ. Although currently small, my goal is to grow it into something big and successful.  I love to cook and do canning and garlic has become one of my staples.

Garlic is a seasonal crop.  It’s usually planted in October and into November and harvested in July.  There is a drying period.  Raw fresh garlic is a bit juicier and more subtle than dried garlic.  If you buy fresh “young wet” garlic, it should be stored in your refrigerator and used within weeks.  There are over 450 known strains of garlic. There are also two types of garlic, hardnecks and softnecks   Hardneck garlic is more flavorful and the cloves are bigger and easier to peel than softnecks. Softneck garlic, usually found in supermarkets and often imported, has the best storage life and is easier to braid than hardnecks. Elephant garlic, which is less pungent than regular garlic is not really a garlic, but belongs to the leek family.

When buying garlic, it’s best to buy local.  I would stick with US grown.  China has been dumping garlic on the US market below their cost. Much of the garlic that you will find cheap in supermarkets was grown in China.   Google “garlic and china” and you will be surprised to find some of the issues around it.  There have been reports of toxic metals and human waste used as fertilizer in some imported Chinese garlic. 

I hope you enjoy the recipes and the tips help you.

Peeling

Peeling garlic, and  lot of it,  can be very tedious. To separate the cloves, place the garlic root down on a hard surface.  Using the palm of your hand, place in on top of the bulb and press down hard.  This should start to separate the cloves from the bulb, enough to be able to pull them apart.

That was the easy part.  You need to now take the paper off the clove.  You can do it the hard way by using a knife and peeling the paper off.  An easy way to do it is by using a silicon tube. Place a few cloves in the sleeve and using the palm of your hand again, press down on the sleeve while rolling the tube along a hard surface.  This should separate the paper from the clove.

If you are peeling a lot of garlic, a fast way to peel it is use two small matching bowls.  Place the gloves in one bowl and place the other bowl on top. Rim to rim.  Grasp the bowls tightly and shake the heck out of it. When you separate the bowls, you will be happy to see all the paper is off your garlic.

In peeling or cutting garlic, try using a little lemon on your hands or surface of the cutting board to eliminate the smell.

Preparing

The first step to using garlic is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.

Peel garlic with a knife or alternatively, separate the skin from the individual cloves by placing a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tapping it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.

Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic's health benefits are attributed. In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait at least 5 minutes before eating or cooking the garlic. Also observe this 5-minute "time out" period before adding any high acidic ingredient to the garlic (for example, lemon juice). Ingredients with a pH below 3.5 can also deactivate the enzymatic process.

Since crushing and chopping are the food preparation steps that activate garlic's enzymes, these steps can help you obtain many of garlic's special benefits. For example, research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic in uncrushed, whole clove form will deactivate its enzymes, preventing these enzymes from working. For this reason, we recommend that you chop or crush the garlic cloves prior to heating. According to research on garlic preparation methods, it only takes 60 seconds of microwaving whole cloves to lessen some of garlic's health benefits. By contrast, many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking.

How To Store Garlic

Whether you buy it from the store or bring it in from your garden, you'll want to make the most of your garlic bulbs. Storing it is easy, although there are a few tips to keep in mind, particularly for storing garlic after you've broken open the bulb. And when you're ready to use it, you'll want to know how to prepare it to maximize its health benefits.

Storing your garlic in favorable conditions helps to maintain its healing properties and flavor. Properly stored garlic can last for months, ensuring that you always have some on hand for the next recipe.

"Young wet," or "new season," garlic is an immature garlic that is harvested in early summer. Immature garlic needs to be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week or so. It has a fresh, mild flavor and can substitute for onions and leeks or lend a subtle garlic flavor to a recipe. Some cooks consider this the best, most flavorful garlic. As an added bonus, it may be more easily digested than dry garlic. Experiment with some of this "fresh" garlic and see how you like it.

You'll need to dry your homegrown garlic before you store it for a prolonged time. After harvesting, carefully wash the bulb and roots. Let the garlic dry in a shady, well-ventilated, moisture-free area for a week or more. You can hang the freshly harvested bulbs from their stalks if you like.

Thoroughly drying garlic bulbs develops and concentrates their flavor, so don't rush the process. Once dry, trim or break off the roots and rub off the outer layer of parchment. If you've grown softneck garlic, consider braiding it for an attractive storage option.

Whole bulbs of store-bought garlic will keep for several months or more when stored at room temperature in a dry, dark place that has ample air circulation. Keep in mind, however, that garlic's lifetime decreases once you start removing cloves from the bulb.

Storing garlic uncovered, such as in a wire-mesh basket inside your cupboard or beneath a small overturned clay pot, is ideal.

You can also store garlic in a paper bag, egg carton, or mesh bag. Just be sure there is plenty of dry air and little light to inhibit sprouting. To avoid mold, do not refrigerate or store garlic in plastic bags.

If you've prepared more garlic than you need for a particular recipe, you can store minced garlic in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. Although the most active sulfur compound diminishes within a few hours, refrigeration will slightly slow the process. Use refrigerated garlic as soon as possible. Some people are tempted to freeze garlic, but this is not recommended because its texture changes, as does its taste.

Cooking with Garlic

When garlic is cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows and is sweet with almost a nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. This nutty flavor makes a surprisingly nice addition to desserts, such as brownies or even ice cream. 

Cooked, whole, uncut cloves barely have any aroma at all, while raw garlic is the strongest in flavor.   When sautéing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavor turns intensely bitter, and you'll have to start over.   The smaller you cut garlic, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor. 

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the "flower stalks" of hardneck garlic plants, although they do not produce flowers.  They are tender with a mild garlic taste.  They are usually harvested around June.  You can keep scapes in a plastic bag with a little water in it for a few months.

You can chop them into salads or use them as a topping, like scallions. More mature scapes can be sauteed lightly and used over pasta, with eggs, mixed with cooking greens, pickled or pretty much in any dish that would be complemented by garlic.  (see recipe below)

You can sometimes find scapes at farm stands although sometimes they are usually hard to find and sell quickly.

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