Garlic is a pungently
odiferous member of the allium family (like onions
and leeks). Garlic is generally used as a spice or a
seasoning rather than as a vegetable due to its extremely
Garlic grows in large
papery heads. A novice mistake is to massively over garlic
things by following instructions incorrectly. Please
remember that the large bulb of garlic you buy is NOT one
'clove'. The whole garlic is called a 'head'. Each small,
individual segment of a garlic head is a clove.
Fresh garlic heads will
keep for a long time as long as they are stored in a cool
dark place. Do not keep them in the fridge or they will
start to sprout and become bitter. They can be frozen
without ill-effect, or simply stored in a dark cupboard
away from moisture. Garlic braids should be hung to
prevent crushing any of the cloves.
If you want to store the
cloves individually and ready for use, the garlic must be
either dried or processed. One good way to freeze prepared
garlic is to crush or mince it in a food processor and mix
it with a little water, then freeze it in ice cube trays
so you can get cubes out as needed. Otherwise it can be
frozen in olive oil, or frozen whole.
Never EVER store garlic
in olive oil at room temperature or leave garlic in oil to
sit on the counter. Because garlic is grown in the ground
it is frequently contaminated with botulism spores, which
are almost impossible to remove. These are harmless in
their normal state, but because they are an anaerobic
bacteria they will grow if the conditions are 'right' - ie.
submersed in oil and stored at room temperature. The
spores can not grow in the cold, so freeze or refrigerate
it, or better yet, store the garlic in wine or vinegar
rather than oil.
As a rule, the finer you
chop or especially crush fresh garlic, the stronger the flavor
will be. This is because the flavor compounds are released
by breaking cell walls. It is usually crushed with the
side of a knife (which also aids in peeling) or finely
minced and used to season other dishes, especially Italian
recipes. You can also use a garlic
press. But it can also be used in slivers or as whole
cloves, with a much milder result. Whole cloves are often
roasted, and as they cook their flavor changes
dramatically to become sweeter and less pungent.
One way to avoid the
problem of how much garlic to use in a recipe and how to
prepare it without ruining a chopping board and smelling
up the kitchen is to buy it pre-crushed or pre-chopped in
a jar. This type of prepared garlic keeps basically
forever in the fridge or freezer, and the garlic odor can
not penetrate the glass. It is milder and often sweeter
than fresh garlic because the 'garliciness' declines
slightly with time.
For cooking purposes,
garlic is often measured in "cloves". A word of
caution though: Depending on where you are in the world,
an average clove can vary from 1 g to 6 g, not to mention
the variations in taste. One should also consider the
origin of the recipe.
manufacturers of pre-packaged minced garlic, consider 2.5
g per clove, although one clove of fresh garlic can easily
go up to 6 g in stores. One teaspoon of minced garlic
would contain the equivalent of 2 cloves.