Cooking with Garlic

Cooking | December 12, 2016 | By

The very distinctive taste and smell of garlic has been a culinary and medicinal staple for thousands of years. The use of garlic is varied, from warding off vampires, to curing ailments such as infections or respiratory symptoms, to being a major seasoning in recipes. Garlic has been a mainstay in various cultures, with it’s culinary roots firmly set in the Southern European countries of France, Italy and Spain.

Once (and maybe even still to a few) Garlic was classed as an exotic spice, used in the preparation of specialty dishes. Today it’s probably one of the most popular herbs in modern cooking. Garlic is a member of the Lily family along with onions, shallots, leeks and chives. It’s an important ingredient in many recipes, from sauces to spreads, from mains to sides, everything except desserts. 

Actually, garlic is so common and readily available, you probably don’t think much about using it or preparing it. Here is some information you might not know and which could help you the next time you’re using garlic:

Varieties

There are three primary varieties readily available in most grocery stores – white garlic, rose-skinned, and violet skinned. Rose and violet skinned garlic are sometimes referred to as Mexican and Italian garlic, they have a milder taste than the white garlic. And then there’s Elephant Garlic… Elephant garlic isn’t a true garlic, it’s related more to leeks and has a milder taste.

Storing

Garlic should be stored in an airy, cool, and dark place. Unbroken heads of white garlic can be stored for up to 6 months while heads of rose or violet skinned garlic will last up to 12 months. Once broken into cloves, individual unpeeled cloves of garlic can be kept up to 2 weeks. Discard any garlic that has spots, is soft, or has green shoots.

Tips for Garlic

  • Sick of the garlic smell on your hands? There are a bunch of different products on the market professing to remove the garlic smell including a stainless steel bar in the shape of a bar of soap. Save yourself some money and leave them at the store. If you have stainless steel or chrome taps, simply rinse your hands under warm water, them rub your hands on the faucet and then rinse them again – presto smell gone. You can also use a stainless steel spoon.
  • For a subtle garlic taste in your salad, rub the inside of your salad bowl with a cut clove of garlic (cut side touching the bowl) before adding the rest of the salad ingredients. 
  • Try rubbing cut garlic over toasted bread slices for extra taste on your crostini.
  • You can crush garlic, you can slice garlic, and you can chop garlic (sometimes referred to as mincing). But what’s the difference? Slicing garlic is perfect for gently cooking in stews or sauces. It will have a mild flavor. When chopping garlic, the finer the chop, the stronger the flavor. Crushed garlic is the most potent and strongest as it releases more of the essential oils. Use the preparation specified in the recipe you’re using the garlic in. If the recipe doesn’t specify, go with chopped.
  • If you’re going to be chopping your garlic, an easy way to peel the clove is to place the unpeeled clove under a wide knife on its side, and bash the side of the knife once with your fist – the skin will then easily flake off.
  • If you need to have “crushed” garlic and you don’t have a garlic crusher… Again, bash the clove with the side of a large knife on a chopping board. Remove the skin and then roughly chop the garlic clove into slices. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on the garlic pieces. Now press the side of the tip of your knife and squash the garlic. Keep doing that until the pieces of garlic have become a paste.
  • Burnt garlic is very bitter, so unless otherwise stated in a recipe, cook garlic over a medium-low heat with a pinch of salt and a small amount of olive oil to prevent browning.
  • Other than fresh, garlic can be purchased in most supermarkets in various forms including canned, dried, extract form, juice, powder, and salt.
  • Unless you really have to, avoid processed garlic in the jars, it’s full of preservatives and often has a pronounced chemical flavor.
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