Weekend Project: Garlic, garlic, garlic!


Weekend Project is an ongoing series of slightly more involved recipes or food projects that are best tackled on the weekends.

I love garlic. It's hard for me to even conceive of the notion that someone can actually not like garlic. But indeed, there are a few lost souls who don't like garlic that much.

The thing that non-garlic people most object to about garlic seems to be the little, sometimes raw bits that get caught in their teeth if they are eating a salad or something. I guess I can reluctantly concede that point. (Although one of my favorite pizza toppings is thinly sliced raw garlic...)

Here are two ways of making garlic that even non-garlic people can love. One is a method that's popular in Japan, though it probably originated in Korea, to 'pickle' them in soy sauce. This not only makes tender, flavorful garlic that can be nibbled on as-is or chopped up and added to stir-fries and so on, but an intensely garlic-perfumed soy sauce that's great on meat, fish, or anything you like.

The other is a Provençal staple called garlic confit. Garlic cloves are poached gently until tender, then mashed into a paste. This paste is wonderful just spread on bread, or used to flavor pasta sauces, soups, and so on.

Peeling massive quantities of garlic easily

garlic_peeled1.jpgEach recipe calls for six whole garlic bulbs. That's bulbs, not cloves! The easiest way to peel a couple of cloves of garlic is to simply bash them with the side of a knife - the skin comes right off. But when you want to peel a big amount of garlic like this, what do you do? Especially when you want the cloves whole as for the garlic pickled in soy sauce?

Right now, I'm starting to see fresh garlic bulbs at the markets. Fresh garlic has a softer skin than the garlic that has been allowed to dry out on the outside. I find fresh garlic to be a bit milder than the dried-out kind and prefer it over the regular dried-off kind when it's available. However, it can be even harder to peel.

The answer is to nuke the garlic bulbs. By microwaving them for a couple of minutes, the moisture in the bulbs evaporates a little bit and creates a space in between the skin and the bulb. The skin then comes off quite easily. Also, this avoids the problem of the skin on your hands getting irritated from raw garlic juice. I picked up this Helpful Hint from one of the "urawaza" videos that I've mentioned before. The garlic video is here (Japanese). The skin doesn't come off as easily as in the video in my experience, but it still comes off a lot faster than trying to peel unprocessed bulbs.

So - to peel six whole garlic bulbs, cut off the bottom of the bulbs, place on a plate cut side down, and microwave on High for 3 minutes. Let cool completely, then peel. Easy! Be sure to get off the thin inner skin too.

Garlic pickled in soy sauce

garlic_shoyuzuke1.jpg A jar of garlic cloves in soy sauce makes a great gift for anyone who loves garlic and Asian food.

  • 6 large garlic bulbs (bulbs, not cloves), peeled following the instructions above
  • 1 1/2 cups soy sauce

Equipment needed: a small pan, a bottling jar and lid

Sterilize the jar and lid following the instructions on this page.

Heat the soy sauce in the pan over medium heat until it's hot but not boiling. Lower the heat to low and put in all the garlic. Simmer for 5 minutes. Put the hot liquid into the sterilized jar, and close the lid tightly.

Put in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. The garlic is ready to eat after that. Store in the refrigerator after opening. The soy sauce can be used for meat, fish, fried rice, etc, but make sure the garlic cloves stay completely immersed in the soy sauce in the jar.

Garlic confit

garlic_confit_olives1.jpg Garlic confit on whole wheat bread, with olives

  • 6 large garlic bulbs (bulbs, not cloves), peeled following the instructions above
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (optional) Equipment needed: a small pan

Heat the milk and cream together in the small pan until it's hot but not boiling over. Lower the heat to low, and put in all the garlic. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the garlic is soft and can be mashed easily. Drain the garlic.

Mash the garlic finely (a fork works great for this) or purée it in a blender or food processor to a paste. Mix in the optional salt. (I prefer not to put salt in mine, and to salt as needed when using it.)

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze one- or two-tablespoonfuls at a time, wrapped well in plastic. Defrost each tablespoonful at room temperature or by dropping into your sauce or soup.

Important: This cannot be put in a jar and stored at room temperature, unlike the garlic in soy sauce.

Note: You should not store the drained cream and milk that the garlic was cooked in. It can be used the same day however, for an amazing garlic-perfumed pasta sauce. Simply reheat with a knob of butter and a tablespoonful of the confit, mix in some shredded smoked salmon, chopped parsley, and a shot of vodka, season with salt and pepper, and serve on fresh pasta such as fettucine. Delicious! And bad for you!

Filed under:  preserves and pickles weekend project

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This is WONDERFUL! I grew up eating those pickled garlic cloves, and you are right, they are wonderful and a different way to experience garlic. and I'm going to try that garlic confit!

I'm thinking that the confit would be a good match with fish? Perhaps something strong enough to stand up to it, like salmon?

David, since the confit is like a mild, soft version of garlic, it goes with just about anything. Even ice cream! Just kidding. Seriously, it goes well with many kinds of fish, and chicken too.

Another way to peel garlic:

place individual unpeeled cloves in a stainless steel bowl
place an identical (or similar) sized stainless bowl on top of the first one to form a ball of sorts
shake, shake, shake!

The peels come right off and you can pick the cloves out! :-)

Aloha, I love the tamari garlic at Tamara's in Kaimuki. I bought peeled garlic in bulk, and wanted a way to use it so it wouldn't go bad. I was happy to find your site! How long can I keep in the Ball jar without opening? I'm sterilizing and trying my best not to touch. Can it keep past the 2 weeks? Mahalo for sharing!

How did your garlic turn out-was it as mild as Tamura's?
I tried a different method I found online (soaking in vinegar before the soy) but the garlic never seemed to get mild-
just curious and in search of the secret to Tamura's shoyu pickled garlic-luv it!
appreciate any feedback

My Mom always had a jar of Shoyu Garlic. I Loved pouring the soysauce onto slices of steak or eating the Garlic cloves with fish. They seem to keep for years and years. One question is when I tried it at home the Garlic tend to turn Green. Why is that ??

OMGoodness that sounds SO SO GOOD thank you for sharing!

I buy garlic in bulk, and cover it with champagne or white wine vinegar, store in the fridge. It's good, but after four weeks becomes blue tinged and sulpherous. This is usually not a problem since we eat lot of garlic at home.... Just if it gets pushed to the rear and forgotten. I will try the soy/tamari garlic next tome I go shopping. Yum.

Hi there, i know im pretty late to this one, but when you say store in a cool dark place is the fridge an ok place? I live in Florida and a place that is considered cool is hard to come by for two whole weeks...or should it be ok in the cupboard as long as its not way too hot? I know it sounds like a dumb question, but having never pickled anything before, I just want to make sure it doesn't go bad before I get to eat it. Thank so much, I love both your sites and visit them often.

Yep, storing this in the fridge is fine. I just wanted to give people the option of storing it elsewhere if they have small refrigerators, since it doesn't absolutely require refrigeration.