Do you cook with a lot of garlic? Have a beautiful garlic bounty from the garden? Or do you just want to make sure the one garlic head you brought home from the grocers lasts (and is delicious) down to the last clove? Here’s everything you need to know about storing garlic — with some very tasty options!
Shopping for garlic
Of course, you want to bring home the freshest cloves. Choose bulbs that are:
• Firm. They shouldn’t be squishy soft when you gently press on them.
• Not starting to sprout.
• Not lightweight. Feel the heft. If the garlic is very light, it may mean that it has decayed or shriveled up inside.
Note: If the garlic has a purple cast or purple striping on the skin, it’s simply a particular variety — a rich, robust one, in fact!
• In the cupboard
If you have a small amount of garlic that you’ll be using soon (and by soon I mean within a couple of weeks), find a dark, dry place for it. Give it plenty of air circulation, to prevent mold. I keep mine in a mesh basket. Wire baskets, baskets with loose weave, or mesh bags will also work. Don’t break the head (or “knob”) apart — it will keep longer when stored whole.
The best temp for storing garlic is 60 to 65 degrees F. And while too much humidity will cause mold, humidity that’s too low (think winter furnace time) will shrivel up the cloves. So how do you get the right humidity? That’s what garlic keepers are for, and you can find all kinds of them, from simple to exquisitely handmade. Another possibility: Good Housekeeping recommends storing garlic under an unglazed (terra cotta) flowerpot in the cupboard. The pot creates a little humidor while still providing air circulation. (Choose a pot with a drainage hole for air circulation.)
In perfect conditions, garlic will keep for three to five months.
• In the refrigerator or freezer
As a general rule, you don’t want to put garlic cloves in the refrigerator. But you can put peeled whole or peeled and chopped garlic in the fridge if you’re planning to use it soon (you prepared too much for a recipe, for example, but will use the leftover in the next day or two). Be sure to put it in an airtight container — unless you want your refrigerated desserts to smell like garlic!
Note: Don’t take garlic out of the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Otherwise, you’ll promote sprouting. It’s fine to eat garlic that’s sprouting, though it’s past its prime. When you cut the clove, simply remove the green sprout. (It’s no trouble.)
If you make roasted garlic (see below), it will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and in the freezer for a few months. And pickled garlic (see below) will last for months in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze garlic. Just puree it with a little oil (about 2 parts oil to 1 part garlic), place in a designated ice cube tray, and store in the freezer. Toss a cube of your frozen garlic into soups and sauces as needed. BTW, never store garlic in oil at room temperature. To avoid botulism (eek!), keep it in the refrigerator and use it up within about a week.
If you have garlic with soft tops still attached, you can braid them together. (There are hardneck varieties of garlic, too. These will adamantly refuse braiding!) A hanging braid (in a dark, ventilated area) will keep 3 to 5 months. I love garlic braids and have grown garlic just to be able to store it this way! Here’s a lovely tutorial on how to braid garlic.
If you have a dehydrator, you’ll want to follow its directions for garlic. If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s easy to dry garlic in your oven. Some convection ovens even have a dehydrate setting, which keeps the temperature at 140 degrees F and the fan running — perfect for dehydrating. If your oven doesn’t have a dehydrate feature, simply set it as low as you can to reach a temp of about 130 to 140 degrees F. (Use an oven thermometer.) Prop the oven door open, if necessary.
Place peeled, sliced or chopped garlic on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake until the garlic is dry, stirring every half hour or so. It should take about two to three hours. Watch it to make sure it’s slightly darkened but not brown. Cool completely, then place in an airtight container in the freezer.
Making garlic powder or garlic salt
Process dried garlic (see above) in a blender or food processor until fine. To make garlic salt, simply add salt to taste (4 parts salt to 1 part garlic powder is a good ratio for starters). Don’t over-process, or the salt will cake together.
No peeling necessary! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place unpeeled garlic bulbs in a lightly greased baking pan. (I use olive oil to grease the pan.) Bake about 45 minutes, until the bulbs are very soft. Remove from the oven, cut the ends off the bulbs, and press out the flesh into an airtight container. This garlic flesh can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for a few months. Roasting gives garlic a delicious mellow flavor quite different from raw garlic.
Did you wrinkle your nose? Pickled garlic sounds potent, but pickling actually makes the garlic mellow! The easiest way to pickle garlic is to make refrigerator pickles. Just peel the cloves and put them in a glass jar with a little pickling or kosher salt and seasonings. (Mustard seed, crushed red pepper, and fresh dill are good choices.) Cover with white vinegar or white wine vinegar. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for a few days. They’ll keep for a few delicious months. No processing!
You can also simply cover the garlic with a dry wine or a white or wine vinegar, without salt. Either way, be sure to refrigerate immediately and keep refrigerated, or it might grow mold.
BTW, canning garlic isn’t recommended because the garlic will lose some if its flavor when processed. (It requires pressure canning because it’s a low-acid vegetable.)
Have you braided garlic? We’d love to see a picture! Do you have a favorite garlic variety?