TODAY'S MAIN INGREDIENT - PODCAST
GarlicJuly 10, 2021
Today’s Main Ingredient is Garlic!
Host Mikki Uzupes talks with farmer Brian Fox from Salem Mountain Farm, where they grow over 30,000 garlic plants each year, and ‘culinary switch-hitter’ Marcia Dunsmore from Myrtle Avenue Bakehouse in Hawley. Registered Dietitian Carol Kneier shares that eating garlic reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol, and has other health benefits.
Scroll down to the end of the page for this week’s podcast “extra reel”, and to learn about “green” and “black” garlic!
A bulb or “head” of garlic, seen here whole, with cloves revealed (on the right), and a single, peeled clove in the foreground.
Garlic is an easy-to-grow crop. Known as the “stinking rose,” it is also a good insect repellent in the garden and for centuries has been used medicinally and as a home remedy. Garlic is classed in the Allium genus, along with its close relatives onions, leeks, shallots and chives. It’s a culinary staple in many cultures, both east and west.
Garlic is generally planted in autumn and then harvested the following summer, but it also can be planted in late winter/early spring. Plant where your garlic will receive full sun for 6 to 8 hours a day, in loamy, slightly acidic or neutral soil. When planted between September and November (usually after first frost), the roots develop during the fall and winter before the ground fully freezes. After the ground freezes, mulch well with 6 inches of straw or hay. Garlic needs a cold period of at least 40˚F for about 4 to 8 weeks. In early spring the plants will start producing foliage, easily pushing through the mulch.
• Get cloves from a local farmer or mail-order seed company. These are the seeds! Hardneck varieties are extremely cold-hardy and do well in the northeast U.S.
Important: Do not use cloves purchased from the grocery store, as most are treated to make their shelf life longer. They also do not grow well.
• Break cloves apart from the bulb several days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.
• Plant the cloves 2 to 4 inches apart, 2 inches deep, with the pointed end facing up and the wide root end facing down.
• Plant in rows spaced 10 to 14 inches apart.
• In winter, young shoots can’t survive temperatures below 20˚ Fahrenheit, so mulch heavily with straw for overwintering. Plus the mulch will keep down weeds and the soil from drying out.
• From mid-May through June, water every 3 to 5 days, then taper off watering as mid-June approaches.
• Garlic requires adequate levels of nitrogen, so fertilize if you see yellowing leaves.
• Before a flower blossoms, cut off the thin, curly upper stalks of the garlic plant.
The upper stems of garlic plants are called ‘scapes.’ Farmers cut these off the plant before it goes to flower so the plant’s energy goes into producing a bigger bulb. Farmers used to treat garlic scapes as a byproduct; however recently they have had great success selling them at farmers’ markets (see below).
To cut your scapes, wait until the center stalk completely forms and grows above the rest of the plant. As it grows up it will begin to curl or spiral. At that point, cut the stalk as far down as you can without cutting any leaves off. Not all of your scapes will come at once, so revisit the patch regularly until all have been removed.
• Scapes are ready to harvest a month or two before the garlic bulbs.
• Look for yellowing leaves from late June to August as a clue for when to harvest the bulbs.
• Dig up and inspect at least one bulb before the tops are completely yellow to see if your crop is ready to harvest.
• Once the bulbs are ready to harvest, use a spade or garden fork to lift plants carefully from the soil. Do not pull them up.
• Brush off the dirt and let the garlic plants cure in an airy, shady, dry spot for 2 weeks, making sure there’s good air circulation around them.
• Handle gently; bruised garlic doesn’t store well.
• After the bulbs are cured (the skin should be papery, the roots dry and the root crown hard) store in a cool, dark, dry place (about 40˚F is ideal).
• If you plan to plant garlic again, save the best-formed bulbs to plant their cloves (seeds) again in the fall.
Cuisines from around the world build their cooked, savory dishes on a foundation of sautéed onion and garlic, and then, depending on the food culture, they add other aromatic vegetables that provide a pleasant background flavor in the finished dish. The Italians have soffritto (onion & garlic sautéed in olive oil), and the Spanish have sofrito (onion, garlic & tomato or tomato paste sautéed in olive oil). The Chinese start dishes with ginger, garlic & chili peppers in vegetable oil. While garlic is not required in the French mirepoix (onion, carrots & celery sautéed in butter), it is certainly optional, as it is with the Cajun Trinity (onion, bell pepper & celery sautéed in vegetable oil).
Although available throughout the year, garlic is best in the spring and early summer when it is picked fresh; its tender, young cloves are moist and the skin is not quite hard and is almost pure white. As garlic ages and dries, its skin becomes brittle, the cloves begin to yellow and wrinkle, it loses its sweetness and acquires a sharp taste. Old garlic is still good to cook with, but use sparingly in raw dishes because of its strong flavor.
• Store garlic out of the refrigerator in a basket or a crock with a loose-fitting lid so air can circulate.
• Leave garlic in its skin until you are ready to use it, and do not chop it long before you need it.
• Once peeled, garlic cloves can be used whole, mashed, sliced thinly, or chopped finely. However, passing the cloves through a garlic press unfortunately produces an acrid flavor and pressed garlic cannot be sautéed properly. This is also a common issue with commercial minced garlic preserved in jars.
• You may want to remove the green sprout that’s inside the center of each clove. It’s called the “germ” and it can be strong-flavored and occasionally bitter. Cut each clove in half lengthwise and gently pull out the germ. [FYI: If the clove were planted, this germ would grow and become the first stalk of a new garlic plant.]
Technique: for mincing garlic into a smooth paste for sauces or salad dressing recipes: Sprinkle a bit of salt, preferably kosher, over chopped garlic. Rub the garlic with the blade of a wide knife, pressing firmly into your cutting board, and then keep mincing. The coarse grains of salt help break down garlic faster.
Technique: to prepare 2-ingredient Italian soffritto: Sauté the onion first, and after it becomes translucent, the garlic is added and cooked briefly until it is pale gold.
When sautéing garlic, never take your eyes off it, and never allow it to become colored a dark brown because this is what creates the offensive garlic-cooking smell and because a bitter taste will develop.
Cooking with Garlic Scapes
Although scapes have a much milder taste than garlic cloves, they still can be used any way you would use garlic, scallions, or green beans.
Garlic scapes have many uses: chopped, sautéed & added to omelets or frittatas; finely diced or blended into vinaigrette or added to green goddess dressing; throw them whole onto the grill as you would for grilled scallions; pickle them as you would for pickled green beans; make pesto, sauté for a pizza topping and save the oil for drizzling; mix chopped scapes with a stick of butter to make a garlicky compound butter for grilled or pan-fried fish.
Technique: Trim and discard the stringy tip of the scape, then cut the stalk crosswise, either into tiny coins or string bean-like pieces.
The next time you’re at the farmers’ market, pick up a bunch—scapes will keep for weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
6 Garlic cloves
12 Slices good, thick-crusted bread (1/2+ inch thick)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat a broiler or light a charcoal fire.
STEP 1 – Smash the garlic cloves with a heavy knife handle, crushing them just enough to split them and to loosen the peel, which you remove and discard.
STEP 2 – Grill the bread to a golden brown on both sides. As the bread comes off the grill or out of the broiler, while it is still hot, rub one side of each slice with the smashed garlic pieces.
STEP 3 – Put the bread on a platter, garlicy side facing up and pour a thin stream of olive oil over each slice, enough to soak lightly.
STEP 4 – Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of pepper. Serve while still warm.
24 Garlic cloves
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
STEP 1 – Place the garlic cloves and the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the garlic, discarding the milk. Do not rinse the garlic.
STEP 2 – Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and salt, then add the garlic cloves. Stir to coat them and cook until the garlic cloves are caramelized on the outside and very soft on the inside. Shake the pan often so they caramelize evenly, 20 to 25 minutes.
STEP 3 – Season to taste with pepper, remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use. Note: These little gems can be cooked up to a week in advance, stored in the refrigerator. Reheat in a small saucepan, covered, over low heat.
Garlic heads (one or more per person)
Olive oil and/or butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French bread
ROASTING: Pre-heat oven to 400˚ Fahrenheit
STEP 1 – Slice off the top quarter of the garlic head to expose the cloves inside. Place on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Note: Butter may burn at high temperatures.
STEP 2 – Roast until lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.
BAKING: Pre-heat oven to 250˚ Fahrenheit
STEP 1 – Set the whole garlic heads in a baking dish and top each with 1 Tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.
STEP 2 – Baste tops of the garlic, then add just enough water to film the pan bottom. Cover and bake another 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the cloves are tender.
STEP 3 for both – Serve with fresh crusty bread. Each person squeezes the soft garlic out of its skins onto the bread (with or without a good goat cheese). Or, use the squeezed cloves to make a garlicy dip or a spread!
1 cup chopped garlic scapes
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup Parmesan grated cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
STEP 1 – In a blender or food processor, add garlic scapes, basil, walnuts, Parmesan, lemon juice and pulse until combined.
STEP 2 – With the blender or food processor running, stream in the olive oil. Scrape down the sides and continue blending until the oil is emulsified and the pesto looks uniform.
2 garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or spicy brown)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or white wine or apple cider)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
STEP 1 – In blender or food processor, add all ingredients except for olive oil and blend until smooth.
STEP 2 – With machine still running on low, slowly add olive oil until blended. Lasts up to a week in the refrigerator.
Variations include adding yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, or feta to make it creamy; or make it Green Goddess by adding yogurt, herbs and avocado!
Brian talks more about their garlic growing techniques, and both Brian and Marcia share their experiences with “green garlic” and extra tasty “black garlic!”
More on Black Garlic
Black garlic is raw garlic that has been transformed by low heat and high humidity to a type of aged garlic that is deeply colored brown/black, the result of caramelization. It imparts a rich, sweet flavor to a variety of dishes and can be swapped for regular garlic in most recipes. Black garlic has twice the antioxidants as raw garlic plus other key nutrients that can improve your health and help prevent serious health-related issues.
How to make black garlic:
• Find a well-ventilated place, such as a garage or a protected outdoor location to follow this method for making black garlic. This is because there will be an intense smell of garlic that will permeate the house if done inside.
• Using a dry, clean, unused sponge with a rough surface, remove any dirt from several bulbs. Do not wash with water, which will disrupt the aging process.
• Place the whole garlic bulbs in a rice cooker or slow cooker, plug it in, and make sure it’s set to the warm or “keep warm” setting to keep the temperature between 140˚ and 170˚ Fahrenheit.
• Cover the bulbs with a layer of plastic wrap and two layers of aluminum foil; this step will help prevent the loss of humidity and help maintain the right temperature. Then wait 3 to 4 weeks, allowing the cloves to slowly become soft and black. Do not open the lid for the first 2 weeks.
• Around 14 days, the cloves will be black and rock hard, but let the process continue. At some point within the next week, the cloves will begin to shrivel so the bulbs’ paper feels loose, and this is when to check for doneness. Press your finger firmly against one clove to feel if it’s softening. If you feel it is, then remove one clove from the bulb’s paper skin for closer examination and peel the clove.
• Black garlic is ready when it’s spongy-soft and chewy—similar to a dried date or fig. Some of the inner cloves may not quite be ready, so leaving it for a few extra days is a good idea. Also, if the cloves look brown, they need a few more days to become completely black.
• When done, air dry the garlic heads for 4 to 5 days. After that the whole bulbs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months or in the refrigerator for longer shelf life.
How To Make Black Garlic (video):
Using Black Garlic: Replace black garlic for regular garlic in any recipe or as you would use roasted garlic. It works especially well when minced. Use in dressings and dipping sauces. Blend a few cloves into mayonnaise, or purée them with oil and then smear the paste on crostini. Rub it onto chicken or fish before roasting. Try black garlic vinaigrette, or chive & black garlic cream cheese spread. Toss minced black garlic with pasta or with beans & greens. Mix it into with ground meats.
Want to know more?
• How To Use Black Garlic: 15 Easy Ways | Gousto Blog
• DIY Black Garlic – Bing Video
Today's Main Ingredient is sponsored in part by:
Thanks also to Fertile Valley and Wolfe Spring Farms for their sponsorship of the BoldGold radio station broadcasts.
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