Black garlic has become quite popular over the past few years among many top chefs.
What is it exactly? It’s regular raw garlic subjected to heat and humidity in a closed environment for more than one month. During that time the garlic's sugars and amino acids break down and produce melanoidin, which makes the garlic turn black. The result of this aging process creates a product which has been variously described as akin to sweet balsamic, tamarind, licorice, and chocolate. This type of garlic is smoky and chewy and without the bite of fresh garlic, and can be used to flavor all types of foods, giving them that unique “umami” sense of taste. One social benefit of eating black garlic is that it does not give you garlic breath.
Koreans have been eating garlic for centuries to treat a host of ailments ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes and arthritis, daily popping a few cloves like candy. In fact, black garlic has been shown to contain higher levels of antioxidants than regular garlic and therefore more effective in preventing and treating illnesses. Celebrities like Dr. Oz and Oprah have begun extolling its medicinal benefits.
A company called BlackGarlic.com in Hayward, Calif., began producing black garlic a few years ago, and according to founder Scott Kim, the company can hardly keep up with demand.
Lisa Lloyd and her husband of Obis One LLC farm in Salem County, N.J., also produce black garlic and have created a line of specialty black garlic products. In fall 2013 they planted more than 30,000 cloves of organic garlic which will be ready for processing this summer and on the market in early fall. I recently tried some with great pleasure, including their ‘black crack’—a grinder of dried black garlic granules which delivers a pungent black garlic flavor and seems like a great alternative to salt or pepper. As Lloyd says, “Don’t be afraid to try it. It may not look like something delicious, but you will be in for a pleasant surprise!”
Chef Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., uses black garlic in his cooking, and after researching several techniques, he now makes his own from local fresh garlic bulbs that he wraps in plastic and seals in an airtight container before placing in a dehydrator for 4 weeks (See below for recipe.)
If you're seeking natural alternatives to treat health issues, a product like black garlic that tastes good and is good for you may be just what you're looking for. Black garlic anyone?
To Your Health!
Evan Hanczor's Black Garlic Technique
• Container to place garlic in
• Damp hay or similar material
• Plastic wrap
1. Take some whole heads of garlic - as many as you'd like, but since this recipe takes a while I'd recommend doing as many as possible.
2. Put them in a container - we use a third pan or half-hotel pan in the restaurant - and cover the container all around in a few layers of plastic wrap, to ensure no moisture can escape. If you like, you may add a little damp hay or similar material before wrapping, to help prevent the garlic from drying out.
3. Once the container is completely sealed with plastic wrap, cover once with a layer of foil. Set your dehydrator to 140 degrees F. If you have multiple shelves in the dehydrator, set your black garlic on the bottom shelf. Feel free to use the dehydrator, if space allows, for other purposes while the black garlic is working. (We continue to dehydrate beets, mushroom stems, and also make garum-style fish sauce alongside the black garlic - as long as your black garlic is tightly wrapped there should be no ill-effects or aromas.)
4. Be prepared for the wait! We've found the process to take between 26-35 days, depending on how often we're using the dehydrator for other projects, the size of the bulbs, and the moisture content. A noticeable color change may not begin to occur until 15-18 or so days into the process, so don't worry if nothing seems to be happening.
5. You'll know the garlic is ready by its deeply browned color and sweet, captivating aroma when you unwrap the container.
6. Store the black garlic in an airtight container until using, and be sure to throw the garlic skins into stocks, soups, and sauces to utilize their flavor as well.