It’s that time of year when gardeners all across the country gather up their harvest for the winter. Some of the most efficient methods of storing your harvest involve canning, freezing, and dehydrating. Unfortunately, this year I didn’t get a chance to grow a garlic crop. Instead, I purchased my yearly supply of garlic cloves 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 cloves might seem like a big bunch to you. But because we are a garlic loving family, storing garlic is one of the most practical methods for getting the most out of a harvest. But exactly how do I store it and make it last? Well today, you’re going to find out. Let’s go over how to store garlic with 6 of my favorite ways.
What Will You Do With All That Garlic?
Chop the cloves and refrigerate in oil
This will be my first project as soon as we are settled in our new place. Because we love to have chopped garlic ready to use in recipes, this is one of my most favorite methods. Granted, this process of how to store garlic will require that you chop a bulk amount of garlic cloves up front, but the ease of access with storing garlic this way is just so great.
There are some considerations you need to follow for storing your garlic cloves in oil. For example, know how much garlic you will use each week so that you do not chop more than you need. When you proportionally ration your garlic cloves, you avoid any waste. One of my favorite ways to do this is by chopping up the garlic cloves and placing them in ice cube trays. Then, I stash them away in the freezer until I am ready to use them.
Freezing your garlic cloves is essential to maintaining a safe harvest. Don’t believe me? Just hear want the FDA has to say. According to the 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 unrefrigerated garlic in oil mixtures lacking antimicrobial agents have been shown to permit the growth of C. botulinum bacteria and its toxins. What makes this growth dangerous is the fact that it will not affect the taste or the 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. This environment promotes the germination of spores and the growth of microorganisms at temperatures as low as 50 F.”
If you are like me and use garlic on a daily basis, then consider this option of how to store garlic. Having chopped garlic ready and on hand will make your cooking a whole lot easier. Just be sure you follow FDA guidelines of how to store garlic properly.
Root cellar storage
This next method of garlic storage is very similar to storing onions. All you need is a cool, dark area like a cellar. You will also need a mesh bag for your garlic bulbs. Storing your garlic this way will extend your harvest season many months.
Garlic stores like onions. If you have grown your own garlic, you can dry and braid them together right at room temperature. Since I purchased mine, I will hang them in mesh bags. In fact, if you keep them in an airy, cool, dark, and dry place, they will store until next harvest. Placing your garlic bulbs in a cool, dark area will also keep them from sprouting too.
Dry out your garlic
If you are trying to figure out how to store garlic effortlessly, then drying it out is the way to go. Drying garlic is so simple, anyone can do it! All you need is an oven or dehydrator. Be advised, before you start this process, you should be warned that you will soon have a fragrant house.
To start this process, choose firm, fresh cloves with no sign of bruising. Peel the cloves and cut them in half lengthwise. Try and get each piece to be the same size. 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. Once dried, you can store the dried pieces in canning jars. You do not need to re-hydrate them before using in recipes. If you are looking to take the storage of dehydrated garlic bulbs a step further, then you can try storing garlic the following ways too.
Make garlic powder
Grinding dried garlic and making garlic powder is another great way to store your harvest. Once the pieces are completely dry, you will grind them down using a coffee grinder. Process your garlic bulbs until they are the consistency you want. If you plan on grinding your bulbs regularly, I recommend investing in a spice grinder. I have a KRUPS Spice and Coffee Grinder that I only use for spices and it works wonders.
Make pickled garlic
Pickling your harvest is another great way to store it. Pickle your garlic in vinegar with these easy instructions from Growing a Greener World. Pickled garlic can be used just like fresh garlic. Better yet, pickled garlic will last at least a year once you have processed your garlic 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!
Freeze your garlic
Freezing you garlic is probably the easiest method of all when it comes to storing garlic. To freeze your garlic, all you need to do is follow the process in step one. You can also just pop the whole garlic bulb, unpeeled, into a paper bag and remove cloves as needed.
If you do plan on freezing your garlic, just be aware that this is a rather temporary way to store your garlic. The whole garlic bulb freezing method only works for about a month before the bulbs begin to dry out. For a more thorough method of how to freeze your garlic, see how Fresh Bites Daily does it. From personal experience, I think the key point to remember is peeling the bulbs before freezing them.
Bonus Tip – Plant Some More
Lastly, figuring out how to store garlic is great and all, but what’s even better is getting some of your garlic to work for you. Here is a bonus, you should plant some of the garlic in your garden for next year so that your supply continues. 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 is 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. Once they are planted, you can expect green shoots to appear in the fall or spring. Don’t worry, they will survive the freeze.
The next time you have a great garlic harvest (or buy bulk the way I do) try and store them with one of these methods. Now that you know how to store garlic, you will find that you will have an effortlessly flavorful winter.