Garlic is one of the most versatile flavors to ever grace a kitchen. It not only tastes wonderful, it’s very good for your body. It is one of Mother Nature’s most precious gift to cooks of all levels of expertise. Read on for garlic cooking tips, and everything you need to know about garlic.
The edible bulb or head is composed of 10 to 12 smaller cloves (also called “toes”). It is a root crop, with the bulb growing underground. The crops are harvested in mid-July and hung in sheds to dry before reaching their prime in late-July/early-August.
There are over 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide. American garlic, with its white, papery skin and strong flavor is one of the most common varieties. Italian and Mexican varieties, both of which have pink- to purple-colored skins, are slightly milder-flavored.
Elephant garlic (allium scorodoprasum), which has very large, extremely mild-flavored cloves, is not a true garlic, but a closer relative to the leek.
Garlic Selection and Storage
Choose heads that are firm to the touch, with no nicks or soft cloves. If you notice dark, powdery patches under the skin, pass it up because this is an indication of a common mold which will eventually spoil the flesh.
Store unpeeled heads in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods. Do not refrigerate or freeze unpeeled garlic. Properly stored, the heads can keep up to three months.
As it ages, the garlic bulbs or heads will begin to produce green sprouts in the center of each clove. These infant green sprouts can be bitter, so discard them before chopping the cloves for your recipe.
However, if you plant the cloves and let them sprout to a height of about six inches, you can use the sprouts like chives in salads and such.
Garlic may also be purchased as peeled whole cloves or minced, both stored in olive or vegetable oil. It is imperative that garlic in oil be stored under refrigeration to avoid potentially-deadly botulism bacteria growth. If you use a lot of garlic and wish to cut your preparation time down, you can pre-peel and store your own in olive oil in the refrigerator, but the best flavor will come from freshly-peeled cloves. Use garlic powder, garlic salt, and garlic extract (juice) only as a last resort.
How to Peel Garlic
To peel a garlic clove, place it on a cutting board on its side, and gently press down quickly with the flat side of a butcher knife. You should hear/feel a small cracking or popping sound. The skin should then easily peel off. If you find the skin clinging desperately to the clove, congratulations! You have fresh garlic. As garlic ages, it shrivels inside the skin, making it easier to peel.
If you are peeling a lot of garlic, you might be interested in the handy garlic peeler tube. There are many different brands of these tubes, and they are quite inexpensive. To use, you place the unpeeled cloves inside a silicone tube, and just roll the tube on a countertop with the palm of your hand. It is a simple tool, yet surprisingly effective.
Garlic Cooking Tips and Hints
One average head of garlic holds 10 to 12 individual cloves. One tablespoon of minced garlic equals about 3 average cloves. One average clove yields 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Plan on 1/4 teaspoon of dried garlic powder to substitute for 1 clove of fresh garlic.
Believe it or not, one raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed releases more flavor than a dozen cooked whole cloves.
When the cloves are cooked or baked whole, the flavor mellows into a sweet, almost nutty flavor that hardly resembles any form of pungency. This nutty flavor makes a surprisingly nice addition to desserts, such as brownies or even ice cream. Roast whole heads of garlic for a fantastic spread on bread.
Cooked, whole, unpierced garlic cloves barely have any aroma at all, while raw garlic is the strongest in flavor.
When sauteing garlic, be very careful not to burn it. The flavor turns intensely bitter, and you’ll have to start over. Saute until it is aromatic, usually 1 minute or less, then proceed with your recipe. If you are combining raw garlic with other sauteed veggies, the garlic goes in last.
These garlic cooking tips should help enhance your recipes and help you in creating your own.
There are a myriad of garlic presses available on the market, but I personally prefer the Zyliss brand. This is the queen of all presses in my humble opinion, and although it may cost you a little more, it is virtually indestructible, as well as a pleasure to use and clean. I’ve been using my original Zyliss garlic press for over 30 years!
If you have a good press like the Zyliss, you don’t even need to peel the cloves before pressing, which can be a wonderful time-saver. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity.
An easy rule of thumb to remember regarding the potency of the flavor of garlic is: The smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavor. Chopping finely and/or pressing a clove exposes more surfaces to the air, causing a chemical reaction to produce that strong aroma and potent flavor.
How to Remove Garlic Smell from Hands
We love that sexy aroma in our food, but how do you get rid of the garlic smell on your hands after peeling? Washing the hands just doesn’t do the job, because the sulphur molecules seep into the pores of your skin. If you have a stainless steel faucet, you’re in luck! Simply rub your clean hands on the faucet. The chemical reaction between the stainless steel and the garlic oils magically nullify the smell. It really works!
If you don’t have a stainless steel faucet, try a stainless steel odor remover, which is also very inexpensive. These are also readily available. Most of them look like a bar of soap made of stainless steel, and you use it just like you are rubbing a bar of soap to lather up.
Garlic and Health
Garlic has long been considered a medicinal food. It was used to protect against plague by monks in the Middle Ages. Hippocrates used the vapors to treat cervical cancer. Garlic poultices were placed on wounds during World War II as an inexpensive, and apparently quite effective replacement for antibiotics which were scarce during wartime.
Now science is beginning to prove the medicinal properties of garlic that our ancestors took for granted. Studies have shown this vegetable can suppress the growth of tumors, and is a potent antioxidant good for cardiovascular health.
Other studies show garlic can reduce LDLs or “bad” cholesterol and is a good blood-thinning agent to avoid blood clots which could potentially lead to heart attack or stroke.
All of this natural medicine comes at a cost of only 4 calories per average clove. Eat your garlic! 🙂
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