Garlic is the New Black
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
What's all this about black Garlic then?
It's a question I often hear. Many people have never heard of black garlic, let alone have any idea what to do with it. That's not surprising really, despite it being a food that is centuries old.
It was only in the last couple of years I've heard of it myself, and I have a background working in trade kitchens!
It started as a little taste..my partner Keith had tried black garlic before and been blown away by it. He was determined for me to try it, and had searched high and low for a good place to buy black garlic in Ireland.
Eventually he found somewhere that would deliver black garlic to your door. It was a good quality product from a reputable Irish company. When it arrived, though, it was wrapped in plastic. Not the worst thing in the world, but I do try to avoid it. None of that was on my mind though, when I took my first taste. I couldn’t believe the softness, the sweetness, the plumy fruitiness of the garlic.
Was this really garlic I was tasting?! Not only were the cloves pure black throughout, but they were soft and chewy. There was no overpowering garlic smell, and the flavor was mellow and sweet. What trickery was this?!
The black garlic Keith bought didn’t last long. Every time I walked past it, I stole another clove. I couldn’t get over it! I didn’t know (or care!) about all the health benefits of black garlic, or the versatility in cooking. I just became obsessed with the taste and texture of it.
It got me wondering: how on earth could garlic become like this? What has happened to it to make it so delicious? What is black garlic, really?! Could I make it myself?!
I researched. I found so many Youtube videos promising to reveal the secrets of making black garlic yourself at home. I tried all of them. I failed.
Incidentally, if you are thinking of making black garlic in a slow cooker, my advice would be don’t. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the amount of time, energy and money I spent trying various different methods has led me to this conclusion: It’s not worth it!
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I found myself reaching an “A_HA!!” moment and skipping around the kitchen doing my happy dance. I had figured it out. I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.
So I invested and went full steam ahead into the garlic making business. I found a local supplier and got production underway. Then I decided to start growing garlic myself. This way I can keep the process local from start to finish, be choosy about the varieties I plant, and keep things as natural as possible.
I began growing garlic that was suited to the Irish climate, choosing varieties that would flourish where others wouldn't survive. As a crop garlic is relatively easy to grow, and I decided to do so without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilisers. Maintaining the integrity of the soil is important to me, so I embraced the "no dig" method of layering manure, compost, top soil and seaweed over the existing soil.
With that, the micro farm began.
More on that in another post.
For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t) black garlic is not like “normal” garlic.
#Higher in Protein
#Higher in Bioflavanoids
And can be eaten straight, as it is.
Not as part of some kind of “Hottest chilli” style competition, but as a genuinely enjoyable snack. I was as surprised as you, believe me.
So here it is:
What is Black Garlic? Black garlic is nothing like regular garlic. It is squidgy, soft, sweet and black in colour. It is made by taking "normal garlic" (allium sativum) and aging it in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. This causes the fresh garlic to be transformed in terms of colour and texture into a black, chewy, jewel which can be described as "jelly like" or "sweet". It is this jelly like jewel that has been enjoyed in South Korea, Japan and Thailand for centuries and is now loved by chefs all over the globe.
What's so special about it? Apart from the deep,mellow taste, the gummy bear texture and the enticing sweet smell?
Quite a lot it would seem.
The reaction that causes garlic to transform so magically is called the Maillard reaction, and chefs will be familiar with this, as comes into play a lot with cooking. With black garlic, however, things are a bit more interesting. The aging process decreases the levels of allicin (which is responsible for fresh garlic's whiffy odour) and enhances the bioactivity of fresh garlic. The changes in physicochemical properties may be responsible for the reported antioxidation, antiallergic, antidiabetes, antiinflammation and anticarcinogenic effects of black garlic. For more information on the studies that have been conducted, see the overview here https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949816301727
What can I do with it?
What can't you do with it? For a start, you can use black garlic in any recipe where you'd normally use fresh garlic. It is not as strong as fresh garlic so you may want to add it towards the end of cooking.
Black garlic can be used in homemade aioli or black garlic mayonaise, stirred into a creamy mushroom pasta or squashed over bruscetta. It can be added to a tomato and herb soup, a hot and spicy ramen or a miso soup. Black garlic works well to add a fruity sweetness to curries or an umami depth to braised tofu. (Check out the black garlic encrusted tofu recipe from BIG FRIENDLY GRUB!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nBm-KLBQ6g&t=1s
Perhaps the best thing to do with it, though, is to eat it as it is, straight from the packet! The only limit is imagination.
Have you tried black garlic? What did you do with it? I'd love to hear your comments!