Saturday, 28 September 2013

Fresh Garlic Bulbs, How to Tips

So my mother was an excellent cook, she knew how to roast and make some pretty decent meals, but dessert is where she really shined and it wasn't until I had moved out and lived with some more cultured people that I learned most of my savory cooking skills.

One of my favorite lessons was when my friend tried to show me for the first time how to use fresh garlic.  She started by telling me how to peel the garlic and her tip was to put a large flat knife over the garlic bulb and smash it with the heel of my hand so the husk around the garlic would split and the garlic flesh would be easy to get at. Well I followed her instructions, but I spent my childhood raised in a legit Nova Scotian Trailer Park, and when people say smash something, I tend to think that near full force is required. So when I "smashed" my garlic clove, I created some awesome garlic paste as I smashed the whole thing. But live and learn!

So here is a dandy guide to fresh garlic, in case someone other than me was raised a bit on the sheltered foodie side of life. I will also include examples of other ways I stuffed up with fresh garlic, because I find that knowing other peoples mistakes makes me both feel better and remember better.

Fresh Garlic, How to Guide

1) Store fresh garlic in a terracotta un-glazed ceramic dish. I have one that was meant to be a candle holder and is shaped like a chicken. I love him.

But WHY? Shouldn't I keep it in the fridge so it lasts longer?

Nope! If you keep garlic in the fridge several things can happen, the garlic can dry out and lose its flavor. This is bad for you because it means that flavor and aromatic hydrocarbons that started in the garlic have left it, so the garlic clove wont have as much flavor anymore. This also means that the smell from the garlic is now in everything else in your fridge. Like your milk, eggs, or butter and that is not pleasant.

2) Do not cover fresh chopped garlic with tin foil.

Why ever not?

Well, one time I thought I would be fancy and try and celebrate my then future fiance's culture and heritage, which is British. So I made a baked chicken leg dish and a potato and leek pie which called for some fresh onion slices and minced garlic on top. So me being me and wanting to be on top of everything I made the potato and leek pie the night before like my recipe said I could, and then covered it with tin foil until ready to bake. Like I do with most things I make ahead to bake later.

What went wrong?

Garlic turns blue when it comes in contact with some oxidizing materials, like tin foil. So my fancy, culture and heritage celebrating pie that was supposed to have a beautiful golden brown crust on top, had some golden brown hues, but also a lot of weird blue-green coloring. Blue-green is not my favorite color to eat. So that is what went wrong, and why I never made it again, and why there isn't a recipe for leek and potato pie here.

3) How should I peel the husk off a clove of garlic?

I now pluck the clove I want to use off the garlic bulb, peel away any loose husk, and then using the heel of my hand and placing the garlic clove on the counter so it is curved like a rainbow over the counter and press firmly but slowly with hand until I hear the tough bottom of the husk split. Then I just peel out the clove and we are good to go.

4) How should I incorporate fresh garlic into recipes?

If it is just going into a stock or being fried off, slicing the cloves is fine, but if it is going into a recipe and the flavor needs to disperse better than I usually use a really fine cheese grater and grate the garlic into the recipe. One average clove is about equal to about teaspoon of garlic powder. If you have colossal or elephant garlic you might need to adjust a bit, since those cloves are huge.

Also try and chop the garlic as close to cooking as possible, the flavor will get lost to the air if it cut too far from cooking time. Also the more garlic flavor you want, the smaller your chop should be. Hence why I usually use a fine zester or grater.

5) Gross! Now my hands reek of garlic! How do I fix that?

If you have a stainless steel sink, then rub your smelly garlic hands all over it to neutralize the garlic smell. Then wash with soap and water. Failing that rinse your hands with vinegar and then wash them and the smell should be nearly gone.


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