Garlic is a member of the onion family that, like onions, is grown for its bulb. The whole Garlic is called either a “bulb” or a “head.” Inside it, individually wrapped, are “cloves.” When the bulb sprouts, it grows leaves that look like chives.
When buying fresh Garlic, avoid any that are sprouting, or that feel loose in their skins. A Garlic bulb should feel heavy and solid.
You can also buy garlic frozen in small disks of about 5 g (.18 oz) each. The garlic is puréed; you just pop a portion out of the plastic package and use. Each portion is separate from the other for ease of use. It costs about £2.00 per 16 portion package (2005 prices, $3.50 US.) Each portion is equivalent to 1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and minced.
Garlic Hanging to Dry
© Paula Trites
Garlic gives out more or less of its flavour depending on what you do to it. Crushing it releases most of its ‘Garlicky effect’, chopping it slightly less; slicing it less still, and leaving it whole the least of all.
Take a whole, unpeeled clove of Garlic and lay it on a cutting board. Take a broad-bladed knife or cleaver, lay it sideways on the clove and pound it once with your fist. The skin will easily pull away. Continue chopping or crushing as needed.
Technically, if you love Garlic, it is better to use a crusher than to chop Garlic, because when you chop it some of its flavour and oil can be lost into or onto the chopping board, whereas if you crush it over what it is going into, any drips get salvaged.
If you have to do many cloves of Garlic at once, you can blanch them in boiling water for 5 seconds instead of whacking them with the knife. But then if you were doing that many to justify boiling a pot of water, why not buy a large jar of the minced Garlic at the store instead of 10 pounds of Garlic?
To roast a whole bulb of Garlic, chop off and discard the top third of it. Don’t peel it. Roast at 200 C (400 F) for about half an hour until the head is soft. Remove from oven, let cool, then squeeze the roasted Garlic out.
Substitute the bottled, minced Garlic for Garlic gloves at this ratio:
1 small clove Garlic = 1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced
1 medium-size clove Garlic = 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced = 5 g / .18 oz
1 large clove Garlic = 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons minced
1/8 teaspoon Garlic powder = 1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic = 2 medium cloves, minced
12 cloves = 1/4 cup of minced garlic (fresh or bottled)
Just oil isn’t enough to keep minced Garlic safe to eat: some sort of acid is necessary as well to prevent botulism. The bacteria that causes botulism is “Clostridium Botulinum.” It can’t grow in the presence of oxygen. When Garlic is covered with oil, however, there is no oxygen and the bacteria can thrive. Refrigeration will only slow down its growth. Food infected by botulism doesn’t look or smell different from safe food. The same danger applies to storing chopped ginger in oil.
When buying commercial “Garlic in oil” products, look on the label for salt or an acid such as a vinegar as being amongst the ingredients, which would make it safe.
To store chopped Garlic in vinegar, the advice is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts Garlic, but the vinegar needs to be a highly acidic one to be safe.
1 bulb = approximately 10 cloves
1 clove = 1 teaspoon peeled, chopped = 1/2 tsp minced = 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic flakes = 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic = 6 cloves
40 cloves garlic, roasted = 6 tbsp roasted garlic purée
4 bulbs = 1/2 cup whole fresh garlic
You can store whole bulbs for up to two months in those specialty terra-cotta storage jars. If any garlic you have at home has started to sprout, discard the green sprouty bits, as they will taste bitter. If the garlic has gone dry and spongy inside, just give up on it entirely and bin it.
Purée Garlic with oil (1 part garlic to 2 parts oil) and freeze. The oil, in a fridge freezer at least, will stop the garlic mixture from freezing solid, so you can spoon off what you need as you need it.
Any homemade mixture of garlic in oil not frozen should be refrigerated and used within 1 week. To store chopped garlic indefinitely in a refrigerator, the garlic should be in a strong vinegar.
You can freeze garlic cloves (peeled or unpeeled) in a freezer bag in the freezer. They’re a bit quicker to use, obviously, if they’re peeled first. When thawed, they’ll be a bit soft, which is fine for use in cooking as opposed to in fresh items such as salsas or salad dressings.
The best guesses on garlic’s origin place it in the South-west Asian steppes. Garlic was used by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Bible mentions the Hebrews eating Garlic in Egypt. The Romans used it a lot, but some considered it vulgar and common. The Romans almost certainly introduced it to Britain, as it was a staple in their soldiers’ diet.
Literature & Lore
“And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy.” — Bottom. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act IV, Scene II. Shakespeare.
The use of garlic is forbidden to Brahmins and Jains in India on religious and cultural grounds; they use Asafoetida as a substitute.
Our word garlic comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “garleac.” “Gar” meant spear, presumably referring to its spiky stalks, and “leac” meant leek.
Ross, Graham. “Garlic-in-oil”. Health Canada, November 2002.