Black garlic bulbs for planting

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Black Garlic: How to Make it at Home

Take a quick black garlic internet tour and it is quickly clear. A lot of people are talking about black garlic and much of the information is conflicting. But one thing everyone agrees on: the flavor is nearly indescribable and the culinary possibilities endless. Descriptions include tastes of dark caramel, chocolate, hints of balsamic vinegar, molasses, fruity aroma, and hints of vanilla. No surprise black garlic is the new wonder ingredient for high-end chefs and cooking shows. Learn how to make black garlic at home. It is easy with a Folding Proofer.

Black garlic is NOT fermented

The black color results from a common chemical reaction involving sugars called the Maillard process. This is what causes browning in many foods such as sauteed onions, seared steak, toast, pretzels, and even roasted coffee beans. The reaction produces hundreds of flavor-making compounds giving black garlic its unique taste. Fermentation is unrelated to black garlic.

Black garlic is easy to make

There is no mystery to the creation of black garlic. Just moderate heat and time will convert a fresh head of garlic into this creamy black concoction. Maintaining garlic at 140 °F / 60 °C for about 4 weeks (while ensuring that the garlic does not dry out) will produce excellent results. Think of it as a extra long and slow roasting process. The Folding Proofer provides the ideal environment for making black garlic.

Printable Instructionsrecette imprimabledruckbares RezeptReceta Imprimible

Find out what all the buzz is about with our simple directions below:

Black garlic is more (and less) than you think.

Yield: Varies with pot size.

Timing: 15 minutes set up and 3 to 4 weeks in the Proofer.

Instructions:

Ingredients: Garlic bulbs

Equipment: Brod & Taylor Folding Proofer and Slow Cooker, metal pot with snug lid

Determine how many bulbs will fit into your metal pot. The pot should be paired with its original fitted lid or one that is snug. The Proofer will easily hold a 6 quart / 6 L stock pot. As garlic ages in the Proofer there is a noticeable aroma of garlic emitted. The greater the number of bulbs you age, the more intense the aroma. One solution to reducing the garlic smell is to wrap the entire pot and lid on the outside thoroughly and tightly with heavy aluminum foil before placing it in the Proofer. Just make sure the bottom of the pot fully contacts the aluminum heater plate in the proofer.

Prepare garlic bulbs: If necessary, clip any long roots off the bulb. If the stalk on the bulb is long, trim it to about ½ inch. If the outer papery skin of the bulb has soil or debris, remove just enough to expose clean skin.

Note: Trying to clean after you’ve made black garlic is difficult because each interior clove will become very soft and they can be smashed with handling. Garlic purchased in most grocery stores is ready to wrap with foil. Select fresh and firm bulbs for best results.

Wrap in foil: Cover each bulb with a generous sheet of aluminum foil. Press the foil tightly against the bulb to ensure it is completely wrapped with no exposed surfaces. If there is a tear in the foil, use another piece to cover the tear. This will prevent the bulb from drying out by retaining the bulbs’ natural moisture.Transfer to pot: Place all of the foil wrapped bulbs inside the pot and place the lid on the pot.

Prepare Proofer: Set the Folding Proofer on a surface which will tolerate about 140 °F / 60 °C temperatures. Natural wood surfaces such as butcher block can expand and contract with fluctuations in heat. Marble, granite, ceramic tile, concrete, or plastic composite (such as Formica) countertops work well. Remove the water tray and wire rack from the bottom of the Proofer. Place the lidded pot containing the bulbs directly in the center of the Proofer and on the metal surface in the base of the Proofer. Close the lid of the Proofer. Select Slow Cook Mode, using no rack or water tray. Set the Proofer to 140 °F / 60 °C and allow it to remain on for 3-4 weeks. Note: To use the original Folding Proofer Model FP-101 or FP-201, set the Proofer to 102 °F / 39 °C and allow it to remain on for 3-4 weeks. At a setting of 102 °F / 39 °C, the aluminum heating plate reaches 140 °F / 60 °C .

Check garlic: After 3 weeks remove one bulb from the pot and gently peel back the aluminum. Using a small knife, separate one clove and peel it open to expose the interior. It should be a very dark brown or black in color. If the bulb is not dark enough, place it back in the Proofer and allow it to remain in the Proofer for approximately 1 more week.

Storage: To store black garlic, the bulbs can be separated into individual cloves, left in their skins, wrapped in air tight plastic bags, and stored in the freezer for at least 1 year.

Black garlic has a soft, slightly sticky, intensely sweet and savory very rich flavor which is quite different from normal fresh garlic. It can be used in lamb, beef, poultry, seafood, pizzas, pastas, risottos, aioli, eggs and even dessert dishes.

Why and How to Make Black Garlic

Smooth and sweet, black garlic is the result of properly aging regular garlic over constant heat. Through the process, it is no longer pungent and crunchy, but instead softens and mellows. Packed with antioxidants, this easy to eat, exotic treat is the perfect addition to a healthy diet.

What is black garlic?

Black garlic begins as regular, white garlic. It is slowly transformed in a low heat environment over the course of several weeks. During that time, the garlic cloves change their color, texture, and flavor. The resulting black cloves were first used in Asian cuisine (attributed specifically to Korea), but they have now become popular all over the world.

Black garlic is also sometimes referred to as aged garlic or aged black garlic.

Is black garlic fermented?

Black garlic is normally said to be fermented over the course of 1-2 months. That said, many argue that the garlic isn’t actually fermented at all and that the change in color, flavor, and texture is the result of the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a process that is normally initiated by heat and in which there is a chemical reaction between the amino acids and sugars of food resulting in the browning of that food. You can see the Maillard reaction in action in bread crusts, grilled meats, toasted marshmallows, the crispy outer layer of french fries, etc.

Fermentation is basically the breaking down of one substance into another by microbes such as bacteria or yeasts.

Black garlic is aged in a warm, humid environment, and the normally pungent enzymes of the white garlic are broken down through the process. The breaking down of the garlic takes place over a long period of time (just like many fermented processes) making it different from the more instant Maillard reactions like toasting a marshmallow.

What does that mean?

From what I have researched, I will agree that the browning of the black garlic should be attributed to the Maillard reaction, which is really the main process going on here. Whether or not it can also simultaneously be said to be fermented, I don’t know for sure. One, of course, doesn’t necessarily have to be independent of the other. I guess what it comes down to is if any microorganisms are involved in the breakdown process or not, but I’ve also seen it said that the temperatures involved in making black garlic are too high for a true fermentation process to occur.

We’re probably just seeing an enzymatic breakdown that is taking place simultaneously with the Maillard reaction.

It is, at the very least, quite similar to a fermentation process, but probably isn’t a true fermentation. I guess I’ll leave the precise distinction to those who are more knowledgeable about the specifics of each process. (I’m all ears to those who want to comment and give their opinion on the matter.)

Watch how easy it is to make black garlic at home

What does black garlic taste like?

When I tried black garlic for the first time, it really surprised me. I was expecting something strong and pungent like regular garlic, and, instead, found a smooth, sweet treat reminiscent of a balsamic vinegar reduction. The texture also completely changes from something that is slightly crunchy when raw to something that is soft and smooth, but somewhat chewy or even jelly-like. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like I’m eating some sort of exotic creamy gummy treat or something whenever I bite into a black garlic clove.

Some people compare black garlic to tamarind. While it isn’t as tangy as the tropical fruit, black garlic does have that sort of appearance and texture and it may share some of its flavor profile.

Here you can see a white head of garlic in front of several heads of black garlic. While the outer skin of the black garlic heads also shows a slight browning, the main difference can be seen in the black colored cloves once opened.

Is black garlic better than white?

Whether or not one is better than the other depends on your goals and is also really a matter of preference. They are quite different and some people are going to favor one over the other. I quite like both of them and would choose one over the other depending on the particular recipe I wanted to make. Sometimes you want the sharp, pungent flavor of raw garlic, sometimes roasted garlic is preferable, and sometimes a recipe can be transformed by the sweet, complex flavor of black garlic.

The nice thing about black garlic is that it is much easier to eat as a stand-alone food than white, raw garlic. So, if you are looking for the health benefits of garlic, but have a hard time taking in enough of it, black garlic is quite pleasant to eat as is. In fact, it can be almost addicting, and you may find yourself wanting to eat several cloves at once.

Is it healthier than white garlic?

Not only is black garlic easier to eat, but it may provide more benefits than eating raw white garlic. While both types of garlic have allicin, black garlic has higher amounts of S-Ally-Cysteine which is easily absorbed by the body and is thought to provide many of garlic’s health benefits.

Black garlic is also said to have around twice as many antioxidants as white garlic. On the other hand, black garlic extract was found to be less anti-inflammatory than white garlic.

Health benefits of black garlic

Black garlic, like its lighter counterpart, has been shown to have numerous health benefits.

It may be antimicrobial (fighting both bacteria and fungi), help normalize blood sugar, help protect the heart, and may even help defend against cancer. It is also thought to be anti-inflammatory and may help boost your immune system. It may even help with weight loss.

Why Make your own black garlic?

Not only is black garlic delicious and healthy, but it also tends to be on the expensive side. While I can buy several heads of garlic for around a Euro here in Spain, I’ve never seen a head of black garlic sold for less than 3 Euros, and that was its price on sale.

I have to admit that I really loved black garlic but stopped buying it because it was so expensive. While I would sometimes buy it when I found it on sale, I reserved it as an occasional special treat.

Little did I know that it would be so simple and easy to make my own black garlic at home. I can choose the size of garlic I want and the quality (like if I want to splurge on organic or not- which I, of course, do), and I save a lot of money.

How is black garlic made?

When I first saw black garlic in the supermarkets here a couple of years ago, I was intrigued and wanted to make my own.

Almost immediately I did a search for how to make black garlic at home, but at the time, there wasn’t a lot of information about it.

Can you make black garlic in a slow cooker?

Back then, I found somebody who was making it at home in a slow cooker. I don’t remember which page it was, nor do I know if it’s still up (I couldn’t find it when I searched), but I remember that the setup used included a lot of extra equipment that I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest in. They used a thermostat hooked up to a switch that would turn the slow cooker on and off to keep the temperature stable. They also constantly checked on the humidity and insulated the slow cooker on the outside.

I was afraid to spend the money on a lot of extras in an attempt to make something that I wasn’t even sure would turn out. I was further held back by an article I read that stated that black garlic made at home could never compare to that sold in stores because it was very important to keep the temperature and humidity completely stable and in a very exact environment.

I was tempted to try making black garlic by just placing it in the slow cooker on the warm setting for several weeks, but I was concerned that even at that lowest heat setting, my slow cooker would be too hot. I also couldn’t imagine running it for a minimum of 3 weeks. (My slow cooker at the time had pretty high wattage, and electricity here in Spain is quite pricey!)

I will say that I’ve since seen people who have successfully done just that- made black garlic using the lowest heat settings of their slow cookers. Someday I will probably try it for kicks, using only the “keep warm” setting of mine, but for now, I’m quite happy with my method.

Anyway, I’m not normally one to get scared off from trying to make something, but I have to admit that I was worried that my husband wouldn’t be on board with the idea of having my slow cooker running for so many weeks. With high electricity costs here in Spain, I also worried about if I’d actually be saving any money anyway. And what about safety?

So, I put off the idea of making my own black garlic until…

Can you make black garlic in a rice cooker?

With time, more and more people were making black garlic successfully at home and they didn’t seem to be complaining about the quality of the homemade versions in comparison with what they were buying in the stores.

The first non-slow cooker option I saw was for making black garlic in a rice cooker.

Again, if you want to try making black garlic in a rice cooker you’ll want to avoid the normal cooking settings. Instead, you’ll want to use the “keep warm” setting and keep the heads of garlic at that setting for a few weeks. (No matter what method you choose, it’s a good idea to start periodically checking on the progress of the garlic after around 10 days to get an idea for the best time to stop.)

Seeing so many people successfully making garlic in numerous appliances gave me new hope! I was ready to give it a try- and just as I had been eyeing another appliance said to be ideal for making black garlic…

Making black garlic in a proofer

Those who enjoy baking their own bread or making lots of ferments at home may be familiar with yet another fun, handy appliance, a proofer.

While I no longer bake bread often (normally avoiding the carbs and gluten), I do love fermenting all sorts of foods. We also love infusing oils using low heat over several days to extract as much as we can from whatever plant or herb we are using.

What is a proofer?

This is the foldable proofer that I bought and have been using to make black garlic.

A proofer is a sort of chamber that holds a particular heat and humidity for an extended period of time. It’s usually used to hold unbaked bread in the optimum environment for rising. It isn’t only handy for the fermentation of bread dough by yeast, though. It can also be the perfect tool for keeping other ferments at ideal temperatures. It would be ideal for making your own yogurt or sauerkraut. Next time I make my own soy sauce, I plan on using our proofer to ensure that I am growing the koji in the specific temperature range that ensures that only the correct fungus is growing (aspergillus oryzae).

It’s also great for tempering chocolate and can be used as a slow cooker that allows for cooking at a precise temperature. Using it as a slow cooker is great because you can use your own stainless steel pans inside it and don’t have to worry about breaking the ceramic insert (nor do you have to worry about the possible toxicity of the ceramic glaze).

The great thing about the proofer I bought is that it uses very little electricity. Unlike my pressure cooker that runs at 1000watts (although, to be fair, using it in “rice cooker mode” at the “keep warm” setting probably wouldn’t be using nearly that much), my proofer only uses 200 watts. If it were on 100% of the time, it would consume 0.2kW/hour. Because it normally is only running 30% of the time while maintaining a temperature, though, it really only uses about .06 kW/h, around the same amount as a 60W light bulb. (Remember those?) 😉

Making black garlic in a black garlic fermenter

With the growing popularity of black garlic, more and more people are looking for safe, easy, and cost-effective ways to make their own. So, it isn’t surprising that numerous types of black garlic “fermenters” have also made their way onto the market. Black garlic fermenters are small appliances that look like rice cookers, but that are made specifically for making black garlic at home quickly and easily.

Here is an example of a black garlic fermenter.

Which method should you use for making black garlic?

Slow cooker/Rice cooker

To make black garlic in your slow cooker or rice cooker, use the “keep warm” setting (if your slow cooker has it). If your appliance doesn’t have a “keep warm” setting, use the lowest heat setting.

Pros: They are common appliances that many of us already have at home so no need to buy a new appliance that will cost you money and take up space.

Cons: Tends to use more electricity throughout the process, making it less cost-effective with time, especially if you live in an area with expensive electricity. Your slow cooker or rice cooker will be in use for weeks at a time, leaving it unusable for other recipes.

For testing out the process/making black garlic very occasionally, it may be worthwhile starting out with either a slow cooker or rice cooker if you have one before investing in something else.

Black garlic fermenter

Pros: Said to be the quickest method (normally estimating a “fermentation time” of around 12 days). Because it’s made specifically for making black garlic, these appliances normally do a pretty good job. They also tend to run pretty economically. This black garlic fermenter quotes using 2.16kW per day which isn’t bad, especially considering it can make 20-30 garlic heads at once.

Cons: Because it’s made specifically for making black garlic, this appliance isn’t really made to do anything else. So, unless you are constantly making black garlic, it can be a waste of money and can take up space unnecessarily. Also, most have a non-stick coating on the insert that goes inside them.

I chose against buying and testing out a black garlic fermenter because I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t find any with a stainless steel insert nor did I have room for an appliance only meant for making black garlic.

Proofer

Pros: Only uses a minimal amount of electricity to keep the temperature stable making it very economical to run. (I calculated 1.4 kW per day for the proofer I use, based on their estimates per hour.) Very good at keeping temperatures stable. The proofer folds up small so it doesn’t take up a lot of room when not in use.

Cons: The appliance itself isn’t cheap. If you don’t make bread or other ferments or won’t use it for making yogurt or tempering chocolate, you may end up with an expensive appliance that doesn’t get used often.

This is the method I use. We were considering buying a proofer anyway, and I liked the fact that it used the least amount of electricity. I also love the way my proofer folds up small for easy storage. (It’s like storing a tray.) I use stainless steel pans that I already owned to house the garlic inside the proofer so I don’t have to deal with non-stick coatings.

How to Make Black Garlic at Home

Black Garlic

0 from 0 votes Smooth and sweet, black garlic is packed with antioxidants and is the perfect addition to a healthy diet. Pin Recipe CourseCondiments CuisineAsian Keyword(s)garlic Special Diet(s)Candida Diet, GF, Paleo, Vegan Prep Time10 minutes Cook Time28 days Total Time28 days 10 minutes Servings145 cloves Calories3kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 heads garlic

Instructions

  • If the garlic is fresh from your garden, make sure to clean and trim all garlic heads. If bought from the supermarket, it is likely clean and ready to go.
  • Wrap the garlic heads in parchment or freezer paper. Then, to help keep them sealed, you can wrap them again with aluminum foil over the paper.
  • Place the wrapped garlic heads inside a stainless steel pot, or into your slow cooker or rice cooker. If using a black garlic fermenter, follow the instructions that came with your particular fermenter.
  • If using a proofer, place the stainless steel pot into the proofer and set it to 60ºC/140ºF. If using a rice cooker or slow cooker, cover with the lid and set to “keep warm” setting.
  • It’s a good idea to mark your starting date somewhere on the outside of your cooking appliance. (Yes, you can see we live a Spanglish lifestyle.) 😉
  • After a few weeks, you can begin checking on the garlic. Open a clove to check on the color and texture. You want to keep cooking until the cloves are dark brown to black. If yours are still lighter than that, re-wrap the garlic and cook for several more days/weeks. If you feel that it isn’t cooking fast enough, you can slightly increase the temperature, keeping it within the range of 60-75ºC/140-170ºF
  • Once finished, you can remove the garlic and store wrapped, or you can peel the cloves and store them peeled in a sealed container.

Nutritional Information

Serving: 1clove | Calories: 3kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 9mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg Tried this recipe?Mention @thethingswellmake or tag #thethingswellmake!

How much black garlic should you eat?

I’ve seen the suggested dosage for general well-being be anywhere from around 2g per day to just over 10g daily. A clove of black garlic can normally weight somewhere between 1g and 5g, so that could be anywhere between one and several cloves of garlic daily.

How long does black garlic keep?

Once aged, I like to keep the garlic wrapped up and placed in the fridge. You can also choose to peel open the garlic cloves and store them in a sealed container. Either way, if stored at room temperature, black garlic is said to keep for up to a month, but it likely will keep longer. It is just a lot more likely to dry out and not be at its best after that.

In the fridge, it can keep for somewhere between 3 to 6 months. To store longer, you can wrap them and freeze them for up to a year.

s h i n s h i n e

Black garlic is regular garlic treated with heat that gets its name from the color. It is often misunderstood as fermented, but it is “deeply caramelized garlic… a slow sugar break down over time.” Although I’ve seen it touted as a popular health food full of antioxidants in Korea since its introduction in 2004, and often mentioned as a chefs’ choice ingredent, it still seemed more exotic than common in the U.S. I finally realized that black garlic has reached mainstream at least in my little world when I saw black garlic everywhere around me, it seemed, within a few months. I was happy to see it used as a sauce on a beautiful crayfish dish at Moments in Barcelona last November, and I was equally amazed when I saw it being sold at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan. I hear you can also find black garlic in Dean & Deluca, too.

Companies that specialize in black garlic production have a long, careful process of keeping garlic heated at a constant temperature of about 60C/140F degrees for weeks, then for some, drying it out for another few weeks. And you can see the process reflected on the hefty prices. But with its popularity in Korea, it’s easy to find clips on the internet about how to make black garlic at home using a rice cooker. Since rice cooker is a staple kitchen item in Korea, this means that basically everyone can make black garlic at home – IF anyone wanted to.

In an effort to find a new use for my old rice cooker, I’ve gathered information on the internet and followed the most common direction as listed in the recipe below along with my own way of drying it out for a week. I also found other minor details with different opinions on the internet. Some said to leave the garlic in the rice cooker for 10 to 15 days. Some say never to open the rice cooker, others say it’s okay. As it is widely seen as a medicinal food item in Korea, I’ve also seen a recommended dose of 5 cloves a day for adults but then, as much as a whole bulb of garlic a day from another blog.

What I failed to notice from various blog posts and clips of TV programs in Korea which came back to haunt me soon after I pressed the ‘Keep Warm’ button on my rice cooker was the smell factor. (See ! WARNING ! at the bottom of this post.)

Before I scare you with the smell during the process, I’m happy to tell you that the end result of homemade black garlic really is delicious. It is sweet, savory, tart, and earthy. Each garlic clove is a pleasantly soft, chewy jelly that reminds me of a cross between caramelized onion and balsamic vinegar.

I’ve been savoring 3-5 cloves a day, unwittingly following the random advice floating around on the internet, because it just happens to be the right amount to get my appetite up before meals. I’ve thought about adding it as an ingredient for another dish or cooking up a black garlic dish, but the few I have are too precious to experiment with, at least for my first batch.

After all, I decided it’s worth making black garlic at home. I’ll probably leave it for about 2 weeks in the rice cooker for my next batch (and gradually increase the duration each time) and see if the taste and texture develop differently. I just won’t be making it too often, since the whole process takes about 20 days or more for one batch. I’m also glad that I found a new use for the old rice cooker. It is now my precious black garlic maker which sits on a table next to the window.

BLACK GARLIC IN RICE COOKER

Ingredient
Whole garlic bulbs (preferably organic – why not?)

Equipment
Rice cooker with ‘Keep Warm’ function
Scented candle

Directions
Place the rice cooker in an area with good ventilation (near a window). Peel the outer skin of garlic so that you can see the separation of garlic cloves. Put whole garlic bulbs in one layer in a rice cooker. Close the lid on the rice cooker and press the button ‘Keep Warm.’ Leave it as is for 9 days.

After 9 days, turn off the rice cooker, take out the garlic bulbs and rest to let them come to room temperature. Peel – it’s an easy process since the cloves are mostly separated from the skin at this point – and place the cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with another parchment and air-dry in a cool area for a week. As a side note, I ended with about 80% of what I started with because I kept eating the garlic in the drying process.

Keep them refrigerated in a container.

! WARNING !
The fuming smell of raw garlic tested my will to go through with this process for the first couple of days. It started about an hour after I pressed ‘Keep Warm’ with a deceptively nice garlicky fragrance. Then it turned into something of a fuming, angry garlic monster that filled every air pocket in my apartment by the end of the first day. I tried to ‘manage’ it by leaving the window a tad open for ventilation at all times (mind you, this was January and this winter season wasn’t so kind to us) and by keeping a scented candle on when I was home for the first two days. That helped, but I really wondered if it was worth going through with this just to get a few black garlic cloves.

Yet I made it through because I just wanted to try it at least once. I’m glad I did, because the smell subsided noticeably after 3 days. It seemed that every 3 days, there was a shift in the state of garlic just from its smell. After the first 3 days, the smell became more manageable (I assume partly because my whole body was infused with garlic smell by this point although no one would tell me so). After 6 days, I started to wonder with anticipation how good the black garlic would taste just from the change in smell. On the 9th day, I just knew it was time to dig in – I could smell that savory, tart, sweet balsamic vinegar in the air and I no longer needed a scented candle.

Window ventilation and a scented candle are necessities, not mere suggestions.

One more thing… this process leaves the rice cooker with an undeniable garlic stench. It might actually compliment rice if you make rice in it afterwards. But if you sometimes make cakes from your rice cooker like I do, it’s nice to have an old rice cooker that can be designated as a black garlic maker.

I also recommend that you don’t host any parties or invite over your significant other, especially if it’s a relatively new relationship during this process. Maybe next time I make black garlic, I’ll start right before I leave for a long weekend getaway.

KOREAN WORDS
흑색 (black) black color
마늘 (ma neul) garlic
보온 (bo on) keep warm

Sure, it might look like garlic gone bad, but really it’s an ingredient we’re seeing at restaurants across the country. Black garlic is made when heads of (regular ol’) garlic are aged under specialized conditions until the cloves turn inky black and develop a sticky date-like texture. And the taste? Out of this world. Sweet, earthy, minus the allium’s characteristic heat—think of it as garlic’s umami-packed shadow. For in-the-know chefs, it’s the shortcut to adding intense “what is that?” flavor to everything from mayo to steak. “Nothing compares to black garlic,” says Sarah Rich, the co-chef of Rich Table in San Francisco. “The way it’s aged brings out so many rich subtleties. It’s thrilling to taste something so completely unique.”

1. What Is Black Garlic Anyway?

How does garlic become something so different? When bulbs are kept for weeks at low temperatures in a humid environment, the enzymes that give fresh garlic its sharpness break down. Those conditions also facilitate the Maillard reaction, the chemical process that produces wild new flavor compounds responsible for the deep taste of seared meat and fried onions.

What does it taste like? Aged balsamic, prune, licorice, molasses, caramel, tamarind.

Ted Cavanaugh2. How to Make It

Every nerdy chef worth his hand-harvested sea salt is experimenting with making the stuff in-house (including BA test kitchen manager Brad Leone). The trick? A rice cooker. The “warm” setting creates the right environment for transforming heads of garlic into black gold (assuming you have a few weeks to spare).

3. How to Use It

•Use the cloves as you would roasted garlic: Purée them with oil, then smear the paste on crostini, incorporate it into dressings, or rub it onto chicken or fish before roasting.
•Powdered, it’s like umami fairy dust: Sprinkle it on anything that wants some earthiness and depth.

Photo: Courtesy of a.kitchen

Courtesy of a.kitchen4. Spotted: Black Garlic on Menus

•Spiced Cauliflower with Avocado and Black Garlic at a.kitchen, Philadelphia
•Cream of Mushroom Soup with Black Garlic Sherry Panna Cotta at Perennial Virant, Chicago
•Skirt Steak Rubbed with Black Garlic at Upland, NYC
•Smoked Potatoes with Black Garlic Vinaigrette at Bar Tartine, San Francisco
•Burnt Leeks with Black Garlic Vinegar at Sitka & Spruce, Seattle

5. Where to Buy It

Black garlic is available in a number of forms—from whole heads to peeled cloves to a dehydrated powder—at specialty spice shops, some Whole Foods markets, and online at Black Garlic City.

Black garlic’s pricey. Here’s how to make your own — no fermenting required.

Aged black garlic is sometimes called “fermented,” but that’s an inaccurate characterization. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

In which I answer a leftover question from a previous week’s chat:

How do I make my own fermented black garlic at home? I’m experienced with other fermentations (kimchi, brewing beer and kombucha, pickles, vegan cheese, etc.), and black garlic seems like it may be simpler to make, maybe by just longer aging? There are places where I can buy it, but the closest ones are an hour’s drive from me and charge at least $12 for a small box.

I bow to your impressive fermentation experience! But it will do you no good here. That’s because what’s called fermented black garlic isn’t fermented at all. In fact, it’s caramelized.

More Chat Leftovers: Wedding chocolate SOS; the best way to cook brown rice

But first, let’s back up. Why would anyone want to turn garlic black? Because it creates a whole new garlic flavor: softened, sweet, layered, earthy, umami-packed. Chefs love it, as Bonnie S. Benwick wrote a few years ago. It’s used to add flavor to a wide variety of foods, including even desserts, and is thought to have several health benefits.

Now, how to make it? According to Bon Appétit, chefs do it by heating whole garlic bulbs in a rice cooker, which provides warm, steady temperatures for a period of weeks. Over time, the Maillard reaction takes place. That’s the same phenomenon that browns meat and toasts bread, and it usually requires high heat. In the case of black garlic, the heat isn’t high, but it lasts long enough so the Maillard reaction is achieved. The cloves blacken and soften, and the garlic is ready to use.

Do your googling and you’ll find descriptions of several techniques for aging, using rice cookers and other devices. I haven’t done it, so I can’t endorse one over the other. So, time to experiment! It’s not the fermenting you’re used to, but it still sounds like fun.

Surprisingly — or maybe not — garlic does not make an appearance on this year’s list of Things We Love. That’s our Valentine’s Day-inspired collection of odes to the people, foods, books and other things that make our hearts skip a beat. Read about Joe Yonan’s mushrooms, Bonnie in chefs’ kitchens, Tom Sietsema’s favorite cookbook, Maura Judkis’s gummies, Tim Carman’s meat thermometer, Emily Codik’s special sauce, Fritz Hahn’s session beers, Kara Elder’s trivet and Becky Krystal’s spoon spatulas.

Want to join in by telling us about something you love? Then be right here at noon today for the Free Range chat, our weekly one-hour meetup with readers. Other possible topics of conversation: Wine columnist Dave McIntyre’s explanation of why rosé has morphed from a spring wine to a Valentine’s Day choice; and Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan’s look at how aquafaba — a.k.a. bean water — can take the place of raw egg in some cocktails.

Can’t be there at noon? As always, you can submit a question early, then check back later for a response.

Ways to use black garlic, from our Recipe Finder:

(Renee Comet/For the Washington Post)

Creamy Vegetable Ramen

(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Fingerling Potato Salad With Gribiche

How to make black garlic in a dehydrator

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Step-by-step instructions showing you exactly how you can make black garlic (an Asian delicacy) in a food dehydrator.

We grow and eat an obscene amount of hardneck garlic. How much? Well, we’ve singlehandedly killed eleven vampires over the past year with our garlic breath.

Whether it’s green garlic or garlic scape pesto in the spring or the jar of homemade garlic aioli that we use throughout the year, we can’t get enough of the stuff.

Hardneck garlic, softneck garlic?

If you’re curious about the differences between softneck and hardneck garlic or you want to find out how to grow your own heirloom hardneck garlic using organic methods, be sure to check out our article: A love story: why and how to grow hardneck garlic.

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Mmm! Heirloom hardneck garlic is cured and ready for the kitchen. Some of these bulbs will be saved and used for seed garlic this fall. Pretty cool to know that all of these varieties came to the US via USDA scientists from the Caucasus Mountains when the USSR was collapsing. They don’t tend to store as long as softneck garlic but we love the taste and size of hardneck varieties. #heirloomgarlic #hardneckgarlic #organicgardening

A post shared by Tyrant Farms (@tyrantfarms) on Jul 21, 2019 at 11:47am PDT

We thought we’d explored pretty much every way to eat cooked and raw garlic over the years. Nope.

There’s always something new to try or create with pretty much anything you grow in your garden. We realized this, again, when we first heard about “black garlic” earlier this year.

A half gallon jar of raw hardneck garlic before being transformed into black garlic.

What is black garlic?

Black garlic is garlic aged under specific temperature and moisture levels which transforms its color, taste, and chemical composition. Black garlic can be made using softneck or hardneck garlic.

While black garlic does not utilize a true, classic fermentation process (it’s a very slow Maillard reaction), our guess is that there are beneficial bacteria cultivated in/on black garlic that could classify it as a probiotic food. (If nothing else, black garlic’s fiber content would still make it a prebiotic.)

This is the color of black garlic skin when it’s done.

What does black garlic taste like?

If you were blindfolded and subjected to a black garlic taste test, you’d never suspect you were eating pure garlic. That’s because black garlic tastes sweet, slightly tangy, and savory with zero garlic flavor – like a combination of sweet tamarind and balsamic vinegar.

Homegrown hardneck garlic transformed into delicious black garlic in a dehydrator.

Black garlic’s lack of the characteristic harsh garlic flavor you’re accustomed to is due to the break down of allicin that takes place when making black garlic. Warning: due to this change in flavor, black garlic will NOT repel or kill vampires, so you’ll be completely defenseless.

Also, rather than the crunch of raw garlic, black garlic has a soft and gooey consistency.

Where did black garlic originate?

Black garlic is not a US invention or even a new invention, although it’s now becoming all the rage in high-end US restaurants.

Black garlic’s exact origin point and date are unknown, but it has been used for centuries in Asian countries — namely South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

Outside of its culinary value, does black garlic have medicinal value?

Recent research studies on the medicinal benefits of black garlic show that it has the following health benefits:

  • strong antioxidant activity,
  • suppression of allergic response/antiallergenic,
  • antidiabetic and promotion of weight loss (specifically hyperlipidermia),
  • anti-inflammation, and
  • anticarcinogenic effects (specifically with leukemia cells).

It’s always nice when something you love eating also has proven medicinal benefits!

How to make black garlic in a food dehydrator

Black garlic is typically made in a rice cooker or slow cooker, which is a pretty simple process… Set cooker to warm and come back in 2-3 weeks.

Our problem: we don’t have a slow cooker or rice cooker. Ugh.

However, given all the produce that we need to dry throughout the year — from acorn flour to dried tomatoes — we do have a 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator. This baby may well be our most treasured possession given the value it adds to our lives.

The next problem: we couldn’t find anything online about how to make black garlic in a food dehydrator. That meant we’d have to risk ruining our precious homegrown hardneck garlic if we wanted to have a go at it. (Better us than you, you might be thinking.)

Well, we’re happy to report that we have now successfully made black garlic in our Excalibur dehydrator!

Black garlic made in our Excalibur dehydrator.

And we’ve also learned from some of our initial mistakes…

Four things you need to know before making black garlic in your dehydrator:

1. Ideal temperature range

Yes, researchers have evaluated the best temperature ranges to make black garlic for ideal flavor and texture. Unfortunately, we found this out AFTER our first trial run making black garlic:

“… the aging period of garlic is shorter at higher temperatures . In the case of aging process at 70°C, the speed of aging is two-fold faster than that at 60°C . According to sensory evaluation, the quality of BG is better and its black color is homogeneous between 70°C and 80°C . Even though BG is produced faster at 90°C, it produces nonideal tastes, such as bitter and sour tastes . In the case of aging process at 60°C, the color of garlic was not completely black; thus, 60°C is also not an ideal condition for the aging process.”

Translation for us Fahrenheit users: the ideal temperature range to make black garlic is between 158 – 176°F.

WRONG temperature! We made our initial test batch of black garlic at 135F, which took 8 weeks! This is 2-3x longer than it should take within the ideal temperature range of 158 – 176°F. The taste of our low-temp garlic was very good, but the color was more brown than black.

2. Maintaining humidity/moisture levels

Whole bulbs of cured garlic (with their papery skins still on) have ideal moisture levels needed to produce good black garlic. Problem with a dehydrator is that it’s designed to dry foods out, not maintain their moisture levels.

That’s why we placed our garlic cloves into a sealed wide mouth 62 ounce/half gallon canning jar. This allowed the garlic to heat up inside the jar while also trapping moisture inside.

If at any point while making black garlic you have standing water in the bottom of your jar, you’ll want to empty the water out. (This is likely to happen as the garlic begins to transform and release water.)

Our first test batch of garlic intended for black garlic in a half gallon jar inside our 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator (trays removed). Making a single jar isn’t terribly energy efficient, but this was a test run and we didn’t want to waste too much garlic if it didn’t turn out well. You can also make black garlic in smaller jars and use a few drying racks to dry other produce at the same time.

3. Size and space needed

If you have a smaller dehydrator (ours is a tall 9-rack Excalibur dehydrator) simply use smaller jars than the 1/2 gallon jars we used.

4. Avoiding garlic smell in your house

VERY IMPORTANT: Unless you want your entire house and everything in it to smell like garlic, you’ll want to place your dehydrator outside in a protected spot! We started out with our dehydrator inside and were shocked by how strong the garlic smell was within a day, even though it was in a sealed jar.

We immediately moved our dehydrator into our garage. A covered front/back porch or shed will work fine too.

Black garlic from our initial low temperature test batch. These tasted great, but some of the bulbs didn’t get dark enough in color as you can see from the bulbs sliced into cross sections.

How to make black garlic in a dehydrator

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish Cuisine: Asian Keyword: black garlic, garlic recipe, hardneck garlic Prep Time: 5 minutes Author: Aaron von Frank

A simple recipe to make delicious black garlic at home in a dehydrator.

  • 10 bulbs fresh garlic or quantity of your choice
  1. Remove any dirt or debris that’s stuck to the outside of your garlic bulbs. Do NOT remove the papery husks/peel as this is needed to help the bulbs and cloves maintain ideal moisture levels.

  2. Place whole unpeeled garlic bulbs inside canning jar and screw closed. Place jar(s) inside dehydrator set between 158 – 176°F (70°C and 80°C). Place dehydrator in a well-ventilated, protected outdoor spot (garage, front porch, etc) to avoid an overwhelming garlic smell in your house.

  3. Check garlic weekly or more often as time progresses. If standing water accumulates at the bottom of the jar, pour it out. Your garlic’s papery outer skin will begin to turn tan then brown after a couple of weeks. Consider the top garlic bulb in your jar your “test bulb.” You can check individual cloves in your test bulb to get a sense of how the batch is progressing. Finished black garlic (3-4 weeks) should be very dark brown/black in color and taste sweet, tangy, and savory (like balsamic vinegar and tamarind).

  4. Once done, you can store your black garlic open on the countertop at room temperature for a week or more, or in a jar in your fridge for several months.

Black turmeric? A failed experiment…

Out of curiosity, we also put a jar of homegrown orange and white turmeric into our dehydrator to see how it would transform under the same conditions that make black garlic. Would we be the first to discover a new delicacy, black turmeric?

Is black turmeric (like black garlic) possible?

Not exactly. As it turned out, our “black turmeric” never turned dark in color, it just faded. It smelled like a wet dog, had the consistency of a rubber tire, and a taste to match. You never know until you try something though!

How do you eat black garlic?

Pop each clove of black garlic out of its paper before eating. Black garlic is great eaten plain as a small appetizer, added to salads, used as a flavoring in dishes, or made into sauces.

Now you have yet another way to enjoy eating delicious and healthy garlic, although black garlic tastes nothing like regular garlic.

Enjoy!

KIGI,

Other garlic articles to spice up your life:

  • A love story: why and how to grow hardneck garlic
  • Recipe: green garlic/garlic scape pesto
  • Recipe: garlic aioli (garlic mayo)

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What is BLACK GARLIC?

Black Garlic starts off as regular white garlic. The garlic is placed in a closed container and then it is exposed fluctuating humidity and temperatures between 50⁰ and 75⁰C (120⁰ and 170⁰F). It can remain at these temperatures anywhere from 12 to over 100 days. Black Garlic is commonly referred to as being fermented, in fact, it’s a process called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is essentially the processes of browning your foods, like a sear on your steak. The process of black garlic slows this process down over a number of days. This completely changes the flavor, texture, smell, and even increases the health benefits of the garlic.

Why should you EAT BLACK GARLIC?

It’s Delicious!

The Maillard reaction causes the garlic to take on a whole new range of flavors, smell and texture. The once hard, pungent, and overpowering spiciness of white garlic is transformed into something completely new. Black garlic has a soft and spreadable texture, a sweet aroma, and a combination of familiar flavors like umami, sweet molasses, a hint of balsamic, tamarind, and it’s even a little fruity like dates. This combination makes it a special ingredient comparable to no other. The versatility of black garlic makes it a really fun ingredient to try in lots of different types of recipes including Asian dishes, Italian recipes, burgers, salt/spice infusions, BBQ sauces, marinades, rubs, salad dressings, and even desserts! Black Garlic cloves are mild and sweet enough to just eat the cloves right out of the bulbs without worrying about that intense garlic breath. It’s one of our favorite ways to eat it!

Check out our links to some great recipes people have made using black garlic.

It’s Good for You!

Black Garlic has some amazing health benefits. It has a higher level of allicin, which is great for helping to reduce inflammation. The levels of antioxidants can be double the amount found in regular garlic. Black Garlic is also great for blood circulation, stimulating white blood cell activity (which is helpful in counteracting colds and fungal infections), steadying blood sugar levels, and it’s also good for your cholesterol levels. These health benefits are already present in regular garlic but, due to the Maillard reaction, the levels of these compounds are raised immensely.

Black garlic is having its moment. A staple of Korean cooking, “black” garlic is simply garlic that has been heavily, heavily caramelized, whole in the head, until the individual cloves turn black and take on a very soft, almost jam-like consistency. And the flavor? It’s about as unrelated to raw garlic as you can imagine, the sharp, almost spiciness of raw garlic transformed into a mellow, molasses-like richness, with complex flavors of not just garlic, but also Worcestershire and licorice, accompanied by a very slight, very pleasant funk that gives black garlic a full, round flavor that’s really, really hard to describe.

Professional black garlic manufacturers have complex production methods, designed to ferment garlic at 140 degrees for periods of up to 2-3 weeks. The time-consuming complexity of the process is reflected in the price, too, with some online retailers charging upwards of $35 per pound for the stuff.

The good news is, if you have a rice cooker (and good ventilation…more on this later), it’s easy to start experimenting with black garlic at home. As it happens, your home rice cooker’s “Keep Warm” setting creates ideal conditions for making your own black garlic, in just over a week. Make a big batch, and use black garlic anyplace you would use traditional roasted garlic: in salad dressings, mixed with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread, in deviled eggs, in a pan sauce for steak, or simply smeared like butter on a warm loaf of crusty bread.

First, find a suitable place to leave your rice cooker plugged in and powered on for a week or more. The selection of venue is important, because the smells generated during the fermentation process are…intense, to say the least. The strong smell of garlic will permeate any room, ebbing and flowing every 2-3 days, and will linger for a long, long time. We’re fortunate to have an attached barn at our house with power outlets, but we are very, very grateful to have a black garlic preparation site that’s not part of our general living space. If you’re in an apartment or smaller house, consider placing your cooker near a window. Or two. And be prepared for questions from the neighbors. Oh, and for any rice you ever cook again to taste vaguely like garlic.

With your rice cooker set to “Keep Warm” (NOT a cook setting!), add 5-6 whole bulbs of garlic, in a single layer on the bottom of the cooker. Seal it up, and start waiting. On the third day, you should begin opening the rice cooker daily to allow excess moisture to escape, and move the garlic around with a wooden spoon. Other than that, just leave it alone.

Since all rice cookers are different, start checking your garlic after about a week, although the whole process could take as many as two weeks. The paper around the bulb and individual cloves should be pulling away in places, allowing you to peek in and see how things are progressing. The garlic is done when the cloves are completely black, and have pulled away from the insides of their clove walls. Allow to cool, then pull individual cloves out from the bulb (this is an easy and oddly satisfying process). Leave cloves whole, or mash and store in an airtight container for up to six months.

Gourmet Garlic: Black Garlic

“Do you sell black garlic?” I have been asked this question with increasing frequency over the last few years. Although black garlic has enjoyed a moderate level ofpopularity in North America, many people are unfamiliar with it, and even fewer have tasted it. Rich in both flavor and antioxidants, black garlic increasingly can be found in gourmet food stores and restaurants, and in addition, is readily available from online retailers.

The exact origins of black garlic are unknown and somewhat controversial, but it has been produced and used for centuries in various parts of Asia, including Korea, China, and Japan. In addition to being enjoyed as a delicacy in its own right, black garlic was, and still is, used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. In North America, the emphasis is on enjoying it as a culinary delicacy, where it is prized for its rich umami contribution to dishes.

Production of Black Garlic

Black garlic is commonly referred to as “fermented” garlic, but given the absence of microbial metabolism, this is somewhat inaccurate. Rather, the color, flavor and texture of black garlic are due to enzymatic breakdown, from the slow conversion of the natural sugars in the garlic over time. Nothing, including preservatives or flavorings, is added to the garlic, as all the required sugars are already present inside the cloves.

To produce black garlic, whole bulbs of raw garlic are placed into a sealed container. The container is then placed into a vessel in which the heat and humidity can be controlled. Clay pots, and – more modernly – dehydrators, pressure cookers and even ovens can all be used to create black garlic. Bulbs are kept at a moderate heat (approximately 60°C/140°F) for up to six weeks, allowing the sugars ample time to convert. Once the conversion is complete, the garlic can be enjoyed soft and fresh or left unsealed to further mature through oxidation and dehydration. This last step is essential if a dried product such as garlic powder is being produced. Fully processed black garlic can last up to two years in an airtight container and cool, dark storage area.

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All About Black Garlic

Black garlic is so named because of its matte-black, charcoalesque appearance. The color change is caused by the combination of sugars and amino acids through a process known as the Maillard reaction, which produces a brown-black polymer called melanoidan. Melanoidan is produced gradually and evenly throughout the garlic, giving the cloves a deepening brown and eventually the characteristic black color. Clove texture also changes, from firm and crisp to a soft and almost jelly-like consistency.

How does black garlic compare to fresh, raw gourmet garlic in terms of health benefits, taste and culinary use? When aliinase is broken down during conversion, a product of the process is S-allycysteine. This water-soluble, and thus very readily absorbed, amino acid is believed to function as an antioxidant by protecting cells from free-radical damage. S-allycysteine, which is present in greater amounts in black garlic than in raw, is also currently thought to help lower cholesterol levels.

The natural breakdown of the sugars produces a radically differently tasting and textured garlic. Spicy, sharp and pungent raw garlic flavor evolves into a more complex umami taste that is both sweet and savory at the same time. The flavor is often likened to balsamic vinegar, molasses and even fermented black beans. A garlic undertone is still discernable, however it has developed into a much mellower, slightly tangy flavor. Black garlic also undergoes enough changes in its composition that the compounds that cause the pungent odor and bad breath associated with normal garlic disappear, increasing its popularity as a gourmet item.

Black garlic is available as whole cloves, dried, and as a paste. Given the time-consuming process required to produce it, it can be more expensive than other garlic products. Don’t be shy about buying black garlic if you are able to find it, however – it can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and is versatile enough to be enjoyed on its own or as a component of a variety of dishes. For example, it is an excellent ingredient in stock, imparting a rich depth of flavor and providing an excellent base for sauces. The dried powder can be used as a flavoring in salad dressings, and the paste as a delicious spread on its own. One word of warning: the black garlic, especially if you are using a powder, will impart some of its black color to your dish, which some people may find off-putting. If you have been lucky enough to get hold of some back garlic and are wondering what to cook with it, BlackGarlic.com and Pinterest both have an excellent variety of recipes to try.

What Is Black Garlic: Learn About The Benefits Of Black Garlic

A few years ago I was shopping at my favorite grocers and noticed they had something new in the produce department. It looked a bit like garlic, or rather a whole clove of roasted garlic, only blacker in color. I had to inquire and asked the nearest clerk what this stuff was. Turns out, it is black garlic. Never heard of it? Read on to find out how to make black garlic and other fascinating black garlic information.

What is Black Garlic?

Black garlic isn’t a new product. It has been consumed in South Korea, Japan and Thailand for centuries. Finally, it’s made its way to North America, better late than never because this stuff is fabulous!

So what is it? It is, indeed, garlic that has undergone a process that renders it unlike any other garlic. It achieves a heightened flavor and aroma that is in no way reminiscent of the almost acrid odor and intense flavor of raw garlic. It elevates everything it’s added to. It is rather like the umami (savory taste) of garlic adding that magical something to a dish which sends it over the top.

Black Garlic Information

Because its garlic, you may be thinking about growing black garlic, but no, it doesn’t work that way. Black garlic is garlic that has been fermented for a period of time at high temperatures under a controlled humidity of 80-90%. During this process, the enzymes that give garlic its strong aroma and flavor break down. In other words, black garlic undergoes the Maillard reaction.

If you didn’t know, the Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that give browned, toasted, roasted and seared foods their amazing flavor. Anyone who’s eaten a seared steak, some fried onions or a toasted marshmallow can appreciate this reaction. At any rate, growing black garlic isn’t a possibility, but if you keep reading, you’ll find out how to make black garlic of your own.

How to Make Black Garlic

Black garlic can be purchased at many stores or online, but some folks want to try to make it themselves. To these people, I salute you. Black garlic isn’t difficult to make per se, but it does require time and precision.

First, select clean, unblemished whole garlic. If the garlic needs to be washed, allow it to dry completely for 6 hours or so. Next, you can purchase a black garlic fermenting machine or make it in a slow cooker. And a rice cooker works pretty well too.

In a fermenting box, set the temp to 122-140 F. (50-60 C.). Place the fresh garlic into the box and set the humidity to 60-80% for 10 hours. After that time has elapsed, change the setting to 106 F. (41 C.) and the humidity to 90% for 30 hours. After the 30 hours are up, change the setting again to 180 F. (82 C.) and a humidity of 95% for 200 hours. If you do not wish to purchase a fermenting machine, then try to follow the same temperature setting with your rice cooker.

At the end of this last phase, black garlic gold will be yours and ready to incorporate into marinades, rub on meat, smear on crostini or bread, stir into risotto or just lick it off your fingers. It really is that good!

Benefits of Black Garlic

The major benefit of black garlic is its heavenly flavor, but nutritionally it has all the same benefits of fresh garlic. It is high in antioxidants, those cancer fighting compounds, which makes it a healthy additive to almost everything, although I’m not sure about black garlic ice cream.

Black garlic also ages well and, in fact, gets sweeter the longer it is stored. Store black garlic for up to three months in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Photo: Penny Woodward

Black garlic is a delicious and fascinating ingredient, but it’s not a different cultivar or type of garlic, so what is it?

Black garlic is sometimes described as fermented garlic but it is actually made from standard garlic bulbs, slowly cooked until the cloves are black and almost treacly. Some passionate garlic people would actually say it is not garlic at all because the taste is so totally different. The flavour has been variously described as moist licorice, balsamic vinegar, richly umami, sweet and savoury, garlicky prunes, sweet and syrupy, tamarind, dark caramel, bitter and sweet. The answer is probably that you need to taste it yourself and decide.

The chemistry of black garlic

To understand what actually happens when making black garlic, then read this paragraph. If you want to just know how to do it, then skip this and go to the following paragraph. There are no bacteria or micro-organisms involved in making black garlic. It is actually produced by a form of slow cooking: a low, slow roast that involves a gradual breakdown of sugars over time. It is partly the heat denaturing the enzyme allinase and partly a Maillard reaction that causes a stream of chemical changes, producing dark brown and black clove colours, and the complex, sulphurous caramelised flavour. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat, and is a form of non-enzymatic browning (Block, E., 2010).

How to make black garlic

It’s relatively easy to produce at home with a little patience and a bit more electricity. The essence is slow cooking in a fairly airtight container that retains moisture, at a steady temperature of about 60°C for 30 to 40 days (that is not a typo!). It can be done in an electric rice cooker, slow cooker or electric dehydrator (as long as you can seal in moisture) or equivalent.

Select good-quality garlic bulbs (no mouldy or damaged cloves), remove any loose skin but leave the bulb wrappers intact and moisten the outside of each bulb with water. Wrap 6 or 7 bulbs together in two layers of aluminium foil so they are well sealed. Repeat if you have more bulbs. If you are using a rice cooker, make sure you have one with a ‘keep warm’ setting that doesn’t automatically switch off, and plug up any steam holes so that the moisture doesn’t escape. Sit the wrapped bulbs in a container so they are not actually touching the bottom of the bowl. (I use a colander with small feet.) Put the lid on and turn to warm if you are using a rice cooker, or set to 60°C for a dehydrator. Now be patient because you really do need to wait for 30 days. After that time has passed, unwrap them. The bulb and clove skins will be a sort of dirty, grey-brown. To see if it is properly cooked, peel a clove. If it is not yet black and soft, put it back in for another 5 to 10 days. The blacker the cloves, the sweeter they are, with less of the true bitey, garlicky flavour. The bulbs should be moist and soft, not dry.

Once the cloves are black and treacly, remove them from the cooker and now leave the skins to dry out in a warm and dry but shaded position. Once the skins are dried they are ready to eat or store. The bulbs will keep for months in a sealed container in the fridge.

Using black garlic

Peel the cloves and try just eating one or two on toast; or purée a few with the juices left over from roasting beef or lamb, and serve alongside. They also combine well with scrambled eggs, pasta and risotto, or you can slice and add them to pizza. Alternatively, serve a few cloves with fish, grilled chicken or pan-fried gnocchi. Black garlic is also used in desserts, and even with chocolate. Don’t use too much, it’s the nuance that’s important.

For much more on growing, harvesting, curing and storing garlic, plus different varieties to try, don’t miss Issue 92 ABC Organic Gardener. Out Now!

By: Penny Woodward

First published: December 2016

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