Garlic is one of the most powerful spices you can include in your dishes, but it can be pesky in the kitchen. Storing garlic, or rather just simply making sure you don’t waste perfectly good, fresh garlic, is something we always seem to struggle with.
Most people who buy garlic do so in a way that prevents the issue of having to figure out exactly how to “store” the garlic – meaning they either avoid the issue altogether by purchasing garlic powder, or they get the pre-minced jars of garlic that come in varying sizes and are offered by many brands. Anthony Bourdain was famous for saying “if you don’t buy fresh garlic, you don’t deserve garlic,” and while I won’t go nearly that far, I will say that there are certain times when pre-minced won’t do, powder most certainly won’t do, and you really want some fresh garlic to cook with.
The issue then becomes answering the question, “what do I do with all this left over garlic?” Unless you’re going to cook complicated meals for several days in a row, you’re highly unlikely to use an entire bulb of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic, and no matter how much I love it, I always seem to waste some.
So, that’s what we’re here to answer – not only “how do we store and preserve garlic”, but one of the things I see a lot of home cooks asking – can I freeze fresh garlic? The truth is that there are several different ways to store and preserve fresh garlic, and freezing is one of those options. We’ll discuss all options, to make sure that you don’t waste any of those precious bulbs you just picked up from the store!
Freezing Garlic – How Successful Is It?
So, the first method we’ll discuss is obviously the easiest – freezing the garlic for storage. The short answer is yes, you can freeze garlic, and they’ll keep fairly well. How you freeze them, however, will determine the overall shelf life you have, and the quality of the garlic remaining once you thaw it for use.
You can loosely toss garlic in a ziploc bag and toss it in the freezer, and that will work fine. The shelf life won’t be ideal, but it will work. However, and as you might guess, frozen garlic will last far longer while still being usable if you either vacuum seal the bag their in, or place in some other air tight container (live small tupperware). The more full the container is, the better the garlic will keep and freeze because you will have eliminated much of the oxygen that’s present in the container.
If you do use a ziploc bag, you should first wrap the garlic cloves in aluminum foil and compact as tightly as possible. This will help to somewhat seal the garlic before you place it in the bag, and preserve the garlic from whatever oxygen is present before it actually freezes.
Once you remove it for use, the garlic will thaw within an hour or so, and while not quite the quality of fresh, I would still say that recently thawed garlic is still better than using store-bought canned garlic. The best news is that, using this method of freezing garlic, you’ll be able to extend your garlic’s shelf life up to a year!
Another method that we’ve tried before, which proves to be really interesting, is to just liquefy the garlic and store in a small bowl or tupperware container.
While I don’t like pureeing garlic before freezing it as much as I do having whole garlic cloves and bulbs that I can thaw and cut, I do understand the usability aspect. This method requires no chopping, and you can generally expect the garlic to last a month or more in its frozen, liquid form. Once you thaw it, it’ll thaw quickly and you can use it almost like you would use reserved bacon fat or any other type of stored grease.
Just scoop out a tiny bit, use as you need, then refreeze!
Making Garlic Powder
While we’ve only done this a few times, you can use your excess garlic to make garlic powder. It’s pretty basic, and just requires some aluminum foil, a food processor, and a food dehydrator. At the end, you’ll need a spice grinder as well.
The directions are pretty easy. Just process your garlic cloves using a pulse until they mince finely. Lay them out and let them dry, or you can set them pat to take off the extra moisture. A few hours in a dehydrator, and you’ll have a chalky, consistent garlic.
From here, just break it up enough so that it will fit in a salt grinder, and use it exactly as you would that same grinder! You’ll have fresh garlic powder that will last several months – or more!
Final Method – Storing Garlic Cloves in Olive Oil
While this will extend the shelf life of your garlic, I’m not a huge fan of storing in oil. It maybe doubles the shelf live, but what if you want to use garlic that doesn’t taste like olive oil? No luck there. That’s the reason why we prefer the methods above, because it doesn’t really tamper with or change the flavor of the garlic by freezing it.
Ultimately it’s up to you on which method you prefer, but any of these should help you keep – and use – all of that fresh garlic you have!
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