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Creole garlic

Tips for preserving garlic

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Penny Woodward gives seven tips for year round garlic.    

At this time of year, many home growers are running out of garlic or their garlic is starting to soften or sprout. At the same time, Australian grown garlic is harder to buy because it’s the end of the season and just before the new garlic is harvested in Queensland. Some of the following tips are ways to preserve garlic for longer storage and later use, but also some alternative ways to use garlic once it sprouts. With a combination of these you should be able to have garlic all year round.

1. If your garlic is still plump and firm but is starting to look as if it might shoot, you can freeze it. Just break it into cloves, but don’t worry about peeling the cloves. The skin loosens because of the freezing so the cloves are much easier to peel. The drawback its that the flavour is no-where near as good as fresh garlic, but it’s fine for cooking.

2. To preserve more flavour, try peeling and finely chopping or mincing the cloves and mix with enough olive oil to completely coat the garlic. Then immediately put it in a container in the freezer. The olive oil (and thus the garlic) never quite freezes so more flavour is maintained, you can just spoon it out as needed. You must never put cloves into oil and keep them at room temperature, or in a fridge for more than a week. By doing this you run the risk of the garlic being contaminated with botulism. Botulism is fatal.

3. You can also pickle garlic cloves in vinegar. This gives you lovely garlicky flavoured vinegar, but the actual cloves end up with very little flavour.

4. If your garlic cloves are spouting then plant the cloves. Put them into a pot filled with potting mix, with the top of each clove just below the surface. Water with dilute seaweed fertiliser. Cloves can be as close a 1cm apart. As the sprouts grow, just cut off the green leaves and use as green garlic, or pull the whole sprout out of the ground and use like spring onions.

5. Dehydrating garlic also keeps a lot of the flavour. Most people think that dried garlic tastes terrible, because we are all so used to imported dried garlic. But if you have good garlic, then it will dry well and maintain really good flavour. Cure your garlic as usual first and then peel cloves and cut into slices. Spread over wire and put out on sunny dry days, or in a room with a sunny window. Or use a dehydrator or low oven. Store in a sealed jar in a dark position once dried. Use as needed.

These two tips are for next year.
6. Cold smoke your freshly harvested garlic bulbs. This needs to be done at temperatures less than 50 degrees centigrade. This will help it to store for months longer. In Arleux,  France, cold smoked garlic has been produced since the 16th century, using the local peat for smoking. The process takes about 10 days, and as well as imparting a lovely smoky flavour, it also preserves the garlic so that it stores for more than 12 months.
7. Finally, if you want garlic that will store for 12 months or longer when properly cured, then you need to to grow or buy garlic that is long storing. Garlic in the Creole and Silverskin Groups will store for more than 12 months, so look out for cultivars like Rojo de Castro, Spanish Roja and Dynamite Purple (Creole Group) or Rose du Var, Lokalen and Fino de Chinko Ajofrin (Silverskin Group)