Vampires couldn’t survive in my house with all the garlic around! It seems like almost every meal I make starts with chopping garlic. I have yet to find another ingredient that’s quite as versatile. No wonder it is used as a staple ingredient in so many other parts of the world. There are several different types of garlic. The softneck varieties have the longest shelf life and are therefore the most common variety found in grocery stores. Besides fresh bulbs, garlic can be found in many different forms…frozen, dried, fermented black garlic or minced in tubes or jars.
Here are a few tips on buying, using and cooking with fresh garlic:
Garlic is available year-round. Choose big, firm, hard, plump bulbs with the white papery outer skin intact. Soft, shriveled or loose paper are a sure sign bulbs are no longer fresh. Keep in mind each bulb has about 10 to 15 cloves.
Store whole garlic bulbs like you would store onions – in an open container in a cool, dry place. Keep away from moisture. Stored properly, whole bulbs will last about 2 to 3 months. Individual cloves will last less than 1 week. If the bulb starts to sprout, remove the green stem and the garlic should still be good to use.
Cutting, crushing or smashing raw garlic will release the garlic’s pungent flavor and aroma. There are several different ways to peel a garlic clove. Here is the one we use most often in the test kitchens.
How to peel a garlic clove:
1. Separate a bulb from the garlic.
2. Cut off the root end of the garlic clove.
3. Place the garlic clove on a cutting board.
4. Place the flat end of a chef’s knife over the garlic clove. Press or pound firmly until garlic is crushed. (Be careful not to get your hand near the sharp knife blade.)
5. Remove papery wrapper around garlic clove.
Fun fact – If you are using a garlic press, you don’t peel the garlic clove. Just place it in the garlic press and the skin will remain in the garlic press. No need to get your fingers dirty!
Sautéing garlic produces a nutty, savory flavor that is not as pungent as raw garlic. Cook chopped, minced garlic or whole cloves in oil or butter just until it begins to soften. Cooking until it turns light golden brown will bring out more toasted notes. But be careful, if you burn the garlic, the flavor will be harsh and bitter. It’s best to throw it out and start over rather than ruining your whole dish.
Oven Roasting Garlic
Roasting mellows out the garlic flavor, making it irresistibly delicious and softening the cloves to the point where they can be easily spread. To roast, peel off the outer layers of the papery skin leaving the individual cloves intact. Cut about 1/2 inch off the top of a whole garlic bulb. The individual cloves should be visible. Place on foil, custard cup, small baking pan or garlic roaster. Drizzle with enough olive oil to generously coat the bulb. Wrap or cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until cloves are soft and tender.
1 garlic clove = 1 teaspoon chopped garlic = 1/2 teaspoon instant minced garlic = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Now that you know all about garlic, it’s time to get cooking. Margherita Pasta is a quick meal you can throw together in minutes, and the garlic flavor really shines. My favorite way to use roasted garlic is to spread it over toasted French bread. Simply remove one clove, and it is so soft and smooth, it will spread like butter. Another classic way is making Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Simply delicious!
"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French; sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek; soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good!" – Alice May Brock