Tuesday, August 22, 2017

May this House be Safe from Vampires

We LOVE garlic, and we use it in pretty much every meal we cook. It's also fun to grow, because you can plant it in late fall and it's one of the first things that comes up in the spring. This year, we tried a few new ways to preserve our garlic harvest. Let's just say the house is very safe from vampires now - and probably from any visitors at all, for at least the next 24 hours.

For some reason, the hardneck garlic failed completely; only the softneck grew. I was initially planning to cure it in a garlic braid. However, once we pulled it up we saw that we'd left it in the ground too long, and the outer skins were damaged. That doesn't hurt the fresh garlic, but it does mean that curing it whole wasn't a good option. Time to get creative! I present: garlic preserved two ways, pickled and frozen. 

First order of business for both: clean, separate, and peel a bazillion heads of garlic.

I don't have a shortcut for pulling the cloves apart apart, but I do have one for peeling.

Cut the ends of the cloves, and put them in a metal mixing bowl.

Put another bowl on top. (Preferably the same size; we just didn't have one. You're going for more "basketball" than "UFO". )

Now hold the two together and SHAKE! Vigorously. For a while.

When you're done, the skins should slip off easily.


Okay, now we're ready for an actual recipe.

Preservation Method 1: Pickled Garlic

I love the clove or two of garlic you sometimes find in the bottom of a pickle jar. So why not make a whole batch of them?

Recipe adapted from Homegrown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant
Makes 3-4 half-pint jars

2c white vinegar
2/3c sugar
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3c peeled garlic

Mix the vinegar and sugar together, bringing to a simmer over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. Pack garlic into clean, hot jars; fill with brine. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

We cut the recipe in half, since we didn't want to make that much. As a reminder, NEVER mess around with the basic proportions or ingredients when you're pickling or preserving. The acidity, sugar, salt, etc all contribute to maintaining a safe environment for food storage. However, you can play with the seasonings. The original recipe called for some hot peppers, which we left out because we don't like them.

I'm going to let it sit in the fridge for a few days, so the brine can mellow the heat and bite of the garlic. I can't wait to eat some!

Preservation Method 2: Freezing

For most of the garlic, we wanted to preserve it in a form we could use for cooking.Since we weren't curing whole heads, freezing seemed like the next best way to hang on to the original fresh flavor.

Apparently you can just peel and freeze individual cloves. But I decided against that, since it meant more prep when we were making meals later on. We wanted a method that would make it easy to throw some garlic into a recipe in a month.

A little research revealed that this was another handy use for my favorite preserving tool: the ice cube tray! We minced the garlic, packed it into an ice cube tray, and then filled each cube in with olive oil to hold it together. Once it was frozen, we popped the cubes out of the tray and into a freezer bag to store.

Important: garlic packed in oil should NEVER be kept at room temperature or even in the refrigerator. It's a botulism risk. This method is for freezing only, and garlic preserved this way should go straight from the freezer into your cooking pan.

We've already used part of a cube in a recipe, and it came out wonderfully. Since a lot of dishes that have garlic also use olive oil anyway, having a bit of oil in with the frozen garlic doesn't hurt anything. In fact, the flavor is even a bit more intense because the garlic infuses the oil.

So those are the two ways we're saving our homegrown garlic. Looks like this house will be safe from vampires for a long time to come!