What will you do with all that garlic?
It’s that time of year when we gather up the harvest for the winter. People around the country are canning, freezing and dehydrating to get their harvest stored. I didn’t get a chance to grow a garlic crop this year because we are moving. That means that I purchased my yearly supply from my favorite local bulk grocery. I now have 10 pounds of fresh garlic that I need to preserve until the next fall harvest.
Ten pounds of garlic might seem like a big bunch to you. How do you decide how much garlic to store for your family? How much do you use it in your regular cooking per week? We are certainly a garlic loving family. Ten Pounds of garlic equals about 75 heads and 600 cloves! That’s about 50 cloves per month or 1.5 per day. What am I going to do with all that garlic you ask? I have big plans!
Try these 6 easy ways to store garlic
1. Chop the cloves and refrigerate in olive oil – This will be my first project as soon as we are settled in our new place. We love to have chopped garlic ready to use in recipes, so I think it is worth the time to spend an hour or so chopping away. There are some considerations you need to follow for storage in oil. I will be chopping mine and placing them in ice cube trays – then into the freezer they go.
Better to be safe than sorry. This information comes from Colorado State Extension – “For home-prepared mixtures of garlic in oil, the FDA recommends that these “be made fresh for use and not left at room temperatures.” Any leftovers should be refrigerated for use within three days, frozen for longer storage, or discarded.
The reason for the concern is that un-refrigerated garlic in oil mixtures lacking antimicrobial agents have been shown to permit the growth of C. botulinum bacteria and its toxins, without affecting the taste or smell of the products. Toxin production has been known to occur even when a small number of C. botulinum spores were present in the garlic. When the spore-containing garlic is bottled and covered with oil, an oxygen-free environment is created that promotes the germination of spores and the growth of microorganisms at temperatures as low as 50 F.”
2. Root cellar storage in a mesh bag will extend the season many months. Garlic stores like onions. If you have grown your own you can dry and braid them together. Since I purchased mine, I will hang them in mesh bags. In fact, if you keep them in an airy, cool, dry and dark place, they will store until next harvest. This method also keeps them from sprouting.
3. Drying garlic couldn’t be simpler by using an oven or dehydrator. Be prepared for a fragrant house – then, choose firm, fresh cloves with no sign of bruising. Peel the cloves and cut them in half lengthwise. Dehydrating works best if you have uniform sizes so each piece will dry at the same rate. Garlic should be dried at 125 degrees until crisp. This may take up to two days at this low temperature. You can store the dried pieces in canning jars. You do not need to re-hydrate them before using in recipes. Or you can go a step further and…
4. Grind dried garlic and make garlic powder. Once the pieces are completely dry use a coffee grinder and process until it is the consistency you want. I have a KRUPS Spice and Coffee Grinder that I only use for spices.
5. Pickle your Garlic in vinegar with these easy instructions from Growing a Greener World. Pickled garlic can be used just like fresh and will last at least a year once you have processed them in a water bath canner. Plus, as an added bonus, once you have eaten the garlic you can use the garlic flavored brine in salad dressings!
6. Freezing you garlic is probably the easiest method of all and the one I am using until I can get to the rest of these. Either follow the directions in step number 1 above and freeze with oil or just pop the whole garlic bulb, unpeeled, into a paper bag and remove cloves as needed.
UPDATE August 2016: The whole garlic bulb freezing method only worked for a month and then the bulbs began to dry out. I don’t think I would use this method again. Instead, see how Fresh Bites Daily does it. I think the key point to remember is peeling the bulbs before freezing them.
BONUS – Well, of course, you should plant some of the garlic in your garden for next year, because growing garlic plants is almost ridiculously easy. All it really requires is decent soil with proper drainage, adequate moisture, and planting at the right time.
When is the right time for planting garlic? Right now! Plant garlic four to six weeks before your last frost date. You have some room to change the planting time a little. Mid September through mid-November are fine and will get you decent crops. The roots will start to grow soon after you plant the bulbs and you need to get good root development before the plants go dormant for winter. Expect green shoots to appear in the fall or spring, they will survive the freeze.
Try one of these ways to store garlic and have an effortlessly flavorful winter.