Garlic Basics: Part One

garlicIn one of my recent Connecticut cooking classes, the conversation turned to garlic.  Which form do I prefer?  How do I store it?  And perhaps more importantly, how do you get that smell off your fingers?  I decided that since garlic is so widely used in cooking that I should dedicate a couple blog entries to the subject.

Garlic can be purchased fresh, dried (granulated or in powder form), pre-minced in a jar, in paste form, or frozen. 

Fresh:  Fresh garlic comes in heads which can be separated into cloves.  It is best stored in a cool, dry, dark place (like a pantry).  According to a garlic farmer I met last year at the  Susquehanna Garlic Festival outside Cooperstown, New York, storing it in a brown paper bag is ideal as it allows the garlic to breathe.  Simply remove the thin, papery skin before using cloves whole, sliced, minced, or pressed in your favorite dishes.

Dried:  Most people have a jar of either powdered garlic or granulated garlic in their pantry.  I am no different.  However, I almost always opt in favor of fresh over dried, except for in a few cases, like when I’m making garlic bread.  Unless you are willing to first saute your garlic, dried garlic is a much quicker, easier solution to garlic bread.  Like fresh garlic, these containers should be stored in a cool, dry location.  If your jars do not have expiration dates, it is best to replace them within about a year.  However, I will admit to having dried herbs and spices for far longer than that, but as long as it still is fragrant it is probably fine.

Pre-minced:  To me, this is the only objectionable form of garlic.  Garlic’s flavor changes when oxidized, so once this jar has been opened it goes straight downhill.  It goes bad quickly too.  Just say no when it comes to pre-minced, jarred garlic!

Paste:  This is not something  I buy, but some people like it for it’s ease.  Because it comes in a tube, oxidation is minimized, so it keeps longer than jarred garlic.  While I *love* tomato paste in a tube (for those times when you just need a small amount of paste), I’m not a giant fan of the tubed garlic.

Frozen:  Now before you think I’m down on everything but fresh garlic, I LOVE FROZEN GARLIC!  I buy it in packages that look like mini ice cube trays filled with minced garlic.  Because it is frozen it keeps very well.  Each little square of garlic is equal to one clove.  I toss them in soups, stews, and sauces, or anywhere else I need minced garlic.  Defrost it and it is the perfect addition to a salad dressing.  The brand I use is Dorot which is carried by Trader Joe’s.  It’s my favorite short-cut…ever.

Look for “Garlic Basics:  Part 2” soon, when I’ll cover the best methods for preparing garlic—how to peel, mince, mash, and press garlic with ease.  And lest you think I forgot—how do you rid your fingers of that garlicky smell?  Easy—-just rub your fingertips on something stainless steel while running them under water.  The backside of a chef’s knife is perfect (if you’re careful!), or if you have a stainless steel sink, just rub the bottom or sides while the water is on.  Some kitchen supply stores carry a gadget for this purpose— a little piece of stainless steel shaped like a bar of soap—cute, but completely unnecessary!  Give it a try!  (It works for onion-y fingers too!)

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One Response to “Garlic Basics: Part One”

  1. New Product Profile: Frozen Diced Shallots « Season To Taste Says:

    […] chips), something in the freezer case caught my eye.  Now, I’ve long touted the fabulous frozen minced garlic I use in just about everything.   I’d  also recently heard food-rumors that there is a […]

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