The first month I lived out here in California, I craved Italian food. You see, I didn’t know it, but the subtle smell of the famous nearby garlic farms in Gilroy, California were wafting my way. Talk about making a girl hungry all the time — garlic is one of the most appetizing smells I can think of. You might need a mint afterwards, but nothing adds more flavor than garlic.
So today, for our Food Friday, let’s talk about a Southern favorite — garlic!
History & Growing or Purchasing
- Garlic was once thought to have healing powers, but even modern-day researchers agree that this power plant can forestall diseases such as cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and infections. Garlic is also an excellent antibiotic.
- Garlic is related to the onion family, and some of the milder forms such as green garlic can resemble a mild leek. It’s easy to grow year-round in most climates, but if you live somewhere where it does get cold, wait until fall to plant. You can get a lot for your garden real estate, so plant those bulbs close together. They won’t mind!
- Choose garlic with firm, plump heads and dry skin. If you can purchase garlic whole, it will stay fresh longer if you leave the tops attached. You can find already peeled cloves in the refrigerated section, but they’ll be more expensive, and quickly lose much of the flavor.
- To grow your own homemade garlic “chives,” place individual cloves with the pointed end up about 1/2 inch apart, in a pot of soil so that only the tips are above the surface. Water just enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet, and in a few weeks, you’ll have garlic chives. Snip and use as you would regular chives for garnishing salads, soups, veggies and such.
- Garlic likes a nice, dark place to be stored, but it will last up to 2 months in a sealed bulb. After a clove is taken from the bulb, us it up in about a week. Older garlic has a harsher flavor, but you can boil for about 5 minutes to reduce if you’ve got to use it up.
- Garlic can be frozen by the head in a plastic bag, then just pop off a clove as you need it.
- If you must resort to using garlic powder as a substitution for fresh garlic, a little goes a long way. Use about 1/8 teaspoon powder for a clove of garlic.
- To quickly peel garlic cloves, position the flat side of a large knife on top of the clove and whack it with your palm, taking care not to hit on the sharp edge. Or if you’re peeling a lot of garlic, separate the bulb into cloves by placing it on your countertop, covering with a dishtowel and pressing down with a heavy pot. Then drop into boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds before rinsing it in a colander to make it easier to peel. Or, microwave that garlic on a paper plate for 1 minute to make it easier to peel the skin loose.
- Want a huge, time-saving liberating garlic tip? If you’re putting them through a garlic press, there’s no need to spend precious time peeling the skins. Pop it in there, skin and all, and squeeze. The garlic will come out, and the skin will stay in the press without clogging. Such easy cleanup! (Hey, if you don’t have a fancy garlic press, a clove under a pice of wax paper and a meat pounder, mallet, hard spatula, or even stiff wooden spoon will do the trick. Or the bottom of your chef’s juice glass.)
- However, those papery garlic skins don’t dissolve too well, so toss in the trash (and immediately make the hubby take it to the curb!) because they can clog up a garbage disposal.
- If you’re chopping garlic in a food processor, start the processor, then drop in cloves a couple at a time so the chopped garlic will cling to the sides of the bowl. Chop a whole head at a time, and save the rest in a sealed jar in the fridge for use all week.
- Chop garlic with just a little salt, and it will stick to your knife less. The salt absorbs a lot of the garlic juice and all those good flavors, so just skip adding salt from your recipe and turn the garlic and salt into your dish all together.
- As a general rule, anything crushed, chopped, pressed, or pureed will lend a stronger flavor, so if you want a sharp taste of garlic, season with smaller. If you want a mild taste, slice the garlic, or leave it whole.
- Want just the faintest taste of garlic to brighten up a salad? Slice a clove in half and rub the cut edge over the inside of the bowl before pouring in your greens.
- To mellow garlic flavor, put unpeeled garlic into a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil, drain, and rinse. Repeat twice more before cooling and pouring and you’ll have an almost sweet garlic taste.
- Don’t overbrown garlic, as it will turn bitter. Over medium-high heat, garlic will usually cook in under a minute.
- If you’re cooking a popular combination of garlic and onions, saute the onions first until almost done, then add the garlic at just the last couple of minutes.
- Garlic is fantastic in a stew, cooked slowly in a Crock-pot. It becomes mild and soft enough that you can crush it unto the pot and stir right in the liquid.
- If you accidentally get a too garlicky flavor, add a little honey to your dish to balance out.
- Roasted garlic turns golden and buttery sweet. It’s fantastic on baked potatoes or even grilled meats. Add to soups, sauces, or salad dressings. Here are a few more fantastic recipes to get you going on ideas to use some delicious, flavorful garlic: Garlic Butter and Garlic Puree (watch this fantastic easy preparation video for additional garlic tips from a chef)!
- Eliminate garlic’s strong aftertaste by chewing on a few fennel seeds or parsley after, or have some coffee. In the summertime, fresh-squeezed lemon- or lime-ade will also cancel out the flavor.
- Remove garlic odor from your hand by a similar technique — rub with lemon, then with salt. Rinse, and wash with soap and warm water.
- Have you ever seen those fancy silver soaps that claim to deodorize? Well, if you don’t have one, a large stainless steel spoon under running water will do the same trick. Then just wash with soap and water.
- To remove the garlic odor from your cutting board, wash with a paste of baking soda and water.
- Clean a garlic press immediately after using. Make sure you push any fragments through the holes with a toothpick and scrub any oil that might turn foul by the next time you press. If you’re looking to buy a garlic-press, make sure you get one that is dishwasher safe, so you can run it through the wash. Or, go old-fashioned, and use a toothbrush!
And hey, as an added bonus, if you get your fill at dinner, your extra garlic will keep that pesky Edward away!