Do you grow garlic? Many folks braid the stems and let the garlic bulbs dry for later use, but I’d rather do all the prep work in a couple hours, then not have to get that garlic smell on my hands for the rest of the year!
So, how do we process garlic?
The best way I’ve found is simply to freeze it!!
We plant our garlic cloves in the fall, cover them with a couple inches of mulch to over-winter, and then dig them up in June. That’s it. No fuss, no bugs, no babying the plants. We don’t dry it, braid it, keep it in a dark place. We dig it up and immediately cut off the stems and roots and clean the dirt off those little bulbs. I’m not saying it’s an easy job, and in truth, you need to get everyone in the household helping with the process. If not, someone will walk into the house during the process and die from being overwhelmed by the garlic smell!
We process about 40-50 bulbs a year, giving us about 130 frozen tablespoons of garlic, filling 7 quart-size freezer bags. I estimate that’s two meals with garlic per week for a year, and a little extra for the vampires.
Trim off the stems and roots and rinse off any dirt. Peel off the skins. Place cloves in a bowl of cold water. Repeat for four hours, or until you’ve run out of garlic, or until you give up.
Drain cloves and place in food processor. Pulse to mince. If you want more of a paste that freezes better in clumps, add splashes of water until you get the consistency of stiff oatmeal.
Drop tablespoons of garlic onto parchment-paper-lined trays and place in the freezer for a couple hours.
Once frozen, bag your garlic. Trust me – you’ll probably want to place your bag in a second bag to reduce the garlic smell in your freezer.
Frozen garlic will not have the same firmness as fresh garlic, so if your garlic is the star of your recipe, use fresh, but if you’re just adding flavor to chili, soups, steaks, frozen is fine.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE USE PLASTIC BOWLS OR FREEZER CONTAINERS!!!!! You’ll never get that garlic smell out of your Tupperware. Use glass, metal, or disposable plastic like Ziploc bags.
Your frozen garlic will be great for about 6 months. The aroma fades a bit after 3-4 months and the flavor fades a bit after 6 months. You can still use it after 6 months, but you may need to use more. If you only want to use it for 6 months, you can repeat the storage process with harvests twice per year. Garlic can be planted in both spring (for a fall harvest) and fall (for a summer harvest). Keep out 2-4 of your bulbs, divide into cloves, and replant. You’ll never buy garlic again!
You do NOT need oil in your garlic. Yes, you can add oil and salt, but having oil mixed with food and sitting at room temperature runs a risk of botulism, so why even chance it. If you want oil, defrost your garlic and add the oil later.
You don’t have to defrost your frozen garlic when cooking. Just throw a clump in your pot. If starting with the garlic in a fry pan, remember there’s a bit of water in there, so watch for pops and splatters. If you want to defrost first, place a clump in the fridge for a couple hours, or microwave in a GLASS bowl for a minute.
Fresh garlic tastes different than the store-bought jar. It’s a lot milder with less bitterness. Generally, it’s BETTER!
You can tell by the handwriting, there were two of us processing this garlic. It was a tedious job.
Smells like an old Italian restaurant up in here!