The Garlic Farm presents...
Garlic background, tips, recipes & recipe links
About our garlic
Garlic cooking advice, recipes & recipe links:
About our garlic
At the Garlic Farm we grow one hardnecked variety of garlic, German White, which has a strong garlic flavor as well as a bit of heat. In early years of the farm we experimented with quite a few different varieties; we settled on the German white for flavor, reliability in the field under our climate conditions, and storage life.
Like all hardnecked varieties, in June our garlic produces a flower stalk, or scape that many people consider a delicacy. We open the barn for a couple weekends in June to sell the garlic scapes to those fans. (See more about garlic scapes on our scapes links page and scapes recipes page.)
Garlic harvest time
Normally we harvest the bulbs of the garlic in mid-July. At that point we sell the garlic fresh from the field for immediate use. The fresh garlic has the texture of a bulb--more like a water chestnut--and it, too, is prized by some fresh garlic afficionados although it won't store well because of its high moisture content.
Curing garlic for storage
As you've read above, freshly harvested garlic contains lots of moisture. The curing process dries out the garlic steadily so the bulbs and the surrounding wrappers dry at about the same rate. That way the coverings enclose and protect the cloves during several months of storage. After a few weeks of curing, by mid-August the garlic is ready to buy for storage.
We cure some of the garlic by hanging it in bundles in the rafters of our converted tobacco shed, specially designed with ventilation controlled by movable planks along the length of the barn. Some of the garlic dries in a greenhouse converted to a curing house with stacks of wire racks that allow good air circulation around the bulbs, aided by powerful ventilation fans.
Forms of garlic we sell
We sell the garlic by the pound in several forms: by the bulb, by the bunch for rustic hanging, and by the bag (once the garlic is fully cured). We also make up a limited number of "braids" for decorative use or culinary gifts.
When to shop for your garlic
We often sell out of the top quality garlic by early October, so shop early in the garlic season to avoid disappointment if you want enough garlic for a few months of cooking, for gifts, or for planting.
The extra large bulbs go for a higher price because growers prize the larger cloves work for seed stock. The larger bulbs work especially well for roasting, too.
Seed garlic versus cooking garlic
Seed garlic and culinary garlic are the very same thing. You can plant any of our garlic, and you can eat any of it, too.
Growers customarily want large cloves, and so often they seek out the largest bulbs available. In home kitchens, on the other hand, cooks often prefer smaller cloves to more easily control the amount of garlic in each dish.
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hardnecked garlic stores for about six months from the July harvest, maybe a bit longer if you have excellent storage conditions.
Smaller bulbs tend to last longer, so if you buy any large bulbs for cooking, use them up before the bambini.
The ideal storage conditions mimic winter, the off-season for garlic plant growth. So if you can, store your garlic close to freezing but not quite cold enough to freeze the bulbs, at low humidity (60% or so), away from light, and well ventilated. Achieving those conditions may be challenging in your home, but if you use your imagination, perhaps some test instruments, and maybe a bit of experimentation, you will almost certainly come up with a way to store some of your garlic stash through the beginning of next year. For example, a couple years ago, when we had a mild winter, I inadvertently left some small garlic bulbs in the truck cab all winter under a layer of brown paper bags. The garlic didn't freeze in there out on the driveway, even in January, and to our surprise we discovered that many of the cloves were still edible in March.
Where not to store your garlic: in a basket over the sink because there's too much humidity and light, in the refrigerator where it's probably too humid, or hanging out on the porch where it might freeze or receive too abundant sunlight.
In the still-humid weeks at the end of the summer, take care to store your garlic where it's cool and there's very good air circulation. In a damp place, the papery garlic wrappers pick up moisture from the air, and with it, increase the risk that the garlic will develop mold. In a warm damp place, especially if there's light available, too, the garlic will probably start to sprout because plants just want to grow, and so the cloves will begin to sprout if the conditions are even halfway right.
The late-summer storage challenge explains why many Garlic Farm customers opt to buy their garlic in bulk in September rather than August. Just don't wait too late in the fall; we usually run out of garlic before we reach the end of the market season.
We advise people who buy many pounds for storage to go through the bags a few times during the fall and early winter to select select bulbs and cloves that are drying out more quickly (the wrappers and skins of the cloves become noticeably looser) to use up right away, leaving the bulbs likely to last longer for later use. You'd then remove any cloves or bulbs the have spoiled or dried out, too, to preserve the rest in good condition.
If you have lots and lots of garlic left as winter solstice approaches, think about giving some away as hostess gifts during the party season or use them up in especially garlicky recipes (see below).
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Meat, poultry, and seafood dishes
The recipes and methods and suggestions that we present all season long in the newsletter incline toward vegetable dishes. That's not by design or from any principled stand; it's the abundance of delicious fresh produce that leads me that direction. When veggies and fruits are in their brief season, that's what I want to cook with. During the Garlic Farm's tomato season, for instance, I want fresh tomatoes at every meal because the season is too fleeting, and I don't buy tomatoes out of season.
Come the cold weather, though, that's when I use the onions and garlic we've stored for roasts, slowly braised one-pot meals, and quick sautés with shrimp or scallops.
Roast with plenty of garlic
During the party season at the end of 2012, we enjoyed a lamb shoulder roast (a great cut from Kane's fine butcher counter) cooked with many cloves of garlic and a pork roast coated with minced garlic and herbs, both recipes from Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly's broad, informative, and entertaining cookbook The Complete Meat Cookbook (1998, Houghton-Mifflin). The book also includes a 40-clove garlic pork roast that we'll try before the end of the cool weather.
Since finding this replacement volume in the flea market/cooperative antique shop in the north end of town on Route 10, the book has been my go-to manual for meat cookery, but I always cut the recommended salt waaaay back because the authors evidently developed their palates on more salty food than I did. When I make up a batch of any rubs, I cut the salt down to 1/3 the recommended amount. I follow the author's instructions to salt meat before cooking, though; Aidells has done the legwork on this one, and he's proven that a little salt used before cooking often obviates the need for salting at the table--with no risk of drying out the meat.
The Granby Public Library and Cossitt Library do not include this cookbook in their collections, but it's in a handful of other libraries in the region. And who knows, another copy might turn up at the book stalls on Route 10. A later book by Aidells, The Great Meat Cookbook, adds coverage of bison, venison, and goat, as well as the new landscape of small-scale livestock production. The latter book is available in 10 public libraries in the county, including Simsbury, Canton, and Avon.
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Pot roast with garlic, drenched in onions
The pot roast method described in The Complete Meat Cookbook has become a cold-weather favorite in our household. Every time underblade chuck roasts go on sale at Geissler's I buy the biggest one in the case and make up a pot roast to serve our family of four for a couple of meals and maybe a lunch or two. (You can use brisket, as well.) The roasting takes about 3 hours, but the preparation is simple. Slicing onions and mincing the garlic is the only time consuming aspect, but so worth the time, as they perfume the kitchen with homey aromas as well as flavoring the meat--and any veggies you add in the last hour of cooking. And the authors suggest a way to incorporate the long cooking time into your schedule: prepare it a day ahead, letting it cook while you prepare a simple weeknight meal, dine, and clean up. Then serve it to the family or guests the next night.
Here's a link to a PDF of the recipe copied from the cookbook, annotated with my adaptations. I usually make up an 8-fold batch of the rub, with the help of a coffee grinder, and then use it for any beef roast over the next few months. Just one of the things that I like about the design of the book is the ample space for making notes.
More than one fan of this book says that the pot roast alone is worth the price of the book. I'd submit, however, that it's only one of a dozen recipes that are each worth the price of the book, recipes that you'll make over and over if you cook for carnivores. Find a copy to try out; let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you find a meat cookbook with better depth and breadth.
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Garlic & chive shrimp or scallop sauté
A method I learned from a California Culinary Academy cookbook, Classic Cooking Techniques, back in the 1980s.
I prefer unpeeled shrimp for this dish; the peels add extra flavor to the dish even though they are messy to peel at the table. That's no problem for some families and guests, especially outdoors in fine weather, but if your guests wouldn't regard peeling the shrimp as part of the fun of the meal, use sea scallops instead. Or use peeled shrimp. (Though I hope you'll try it at least once with unpeeled shrimp for the sake of comparison.)
Whether you're using shrimp or scallops, don't stray from the stovetop: they both quickly reach the perfect state of doneness, and once past that point the texture suffers.
- Several garlic cloves (number depends on your taste for garlic, the volume of seafood, and how well stocked your larder), about six cloves for every four servings, or 2 tbsp.
- Shrimp (raw, preferably unpeeled) or sea scallops
- Olive oil or a neutral vegetable oil suitable for sautéeing
- Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- Fresh chives, snipped into short bits, for garnish
Take the seafood out of the refrigerator to allow it to warm up a bit toward room temperature before cooking; pat the pieces dry, if necessary, to prepare them for efficient sautéing.
Peel and slice or chop the garlic. Not too small because you'll need to scoop out the pieces from the pan quickly to prevent them from burning and imparting off flavors to the oil.
Heat a heavy skillet on a medium-high burner. When the pan is hot, splash in a tablespoon or so of oil for every four servings and add the garlic; shake the pan or stir to prevent sticking. Watch it carefully and remove the garlic while it's still merely light golden; set the garlic aside to return to the pan at the end.
Add the seafood to the pan. Toss or turn the pieces over after a couple of minutes. Watch carefully; as soon as the shrimp turns pink or the scallops firm up to your preferred doneness, return the garlic to the pan, toss once or twice, and then slide the entire contents onto a serving dish. Sprinkle generously with the chopped chives and serve immediately.
If you don't have fresh chives on hand, use fresh parsley or thyme or a smaller amount of fresh tarragon. Fresh cilantro would work well with the shrimp, too, I think, though I've not yet tried that variation. If you have only dried herbs (about a teaspoon of thyme or rosemary or tarragon per four servings), rub them between your hands into the pan just before you add the seafood.
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40-clove garlic chicken
James Beard introduced this dish to America, and this is his version, a simple preparation of chicken legs braised for an hour and a half with peeled garlic cloves, celery, tarragon, and a touch of vermouth.
You can find thousands of variations of this recipe that's become a modern classic, both online and in print. Each contemporary culinary celebrity has a version online (Nigella Lawson, Alton Brown, Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, every cooking magazine and food show you can think of, and many a blogger). You can find versions that call for a crock pot or a Romertopf, but any heavy overproof pot with a tightly fitting lid will serve you well for this traditional braising process.
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Garlic broth & garlic soup
Double garlic soup
This recipe by Melissa Clark, published by the New York Times in scape season of 2008, calls for green garlic and scapes, which are both available only in the springtime. It's delicious made exactly according to the recipe, but I've adapted it successfully during the winter for the cured garlic that's available the rest of the year. Try using scallions or leeks or parsley to substitute for the green brightness that would come from the scapes in the springtime. As with so many garlic and onion recipes, it's flavored with thyme.
44-clove garlic soup
from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from a 1999 Bon Appétit recipe
This recipe combines roasted garlic with raw garlic sautéed with a good measure of sautéed onions. A little olive oil, a little butter, a little cream, a little thyme--what's not to like?
Roasted garlic soup
This soup calls for a large head of garlic per person. For a thicker soup flavored with roasted garlic, try this recipe culled by Swiss food blogger François-Xavier from a French cookbook that celebrates home cooking.
It starts with yet another specific method for roasting halved heads of garlic in oil cut side down in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees F.
You go on to make a roux by thoroughly mashing the roasted garlic with flour and then add hot broth or water, herbs, and very fine noodles. Serve with toasted baguette slices that have been rubbed with a garlic clove.
Poached garlic soup
This recipe derives from Richard Olney's. Here you cook the garlic in broth rather than roasting it in the oven as the base for a soup that also includes potatoes and milk and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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Methods for roasting garlic
Roasting transforms the garlic into a spreadable texture, bringing out the sweetness and taming the spicy heat. Not only that, if you let your friends squeeze the garlic out of the cloves themselves to spread on crusty bread, roasted garlic can serve as appetizer and icebreaker all in one.
Gary noticed that people who stop by the market sometimes ask how to roast garlic. In the summer of 2011 I did some research on roasting methods because it had been a long time since I roasted garlic myself. Instead of dredging up my own stale memories, I conducted a survey of methods.
Given that Google returned 47,000 results for the keywords "roasted garlic" in summer 2011, lots of different instructions exist for roasting garlic.
A couple different methods
One of my favorite garlic cookbooks, Linda & Fred Griffith's Garlic Garlic Garlic (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) was the only source I found in 2011 that described two distinctly different approaches:
- Dry-roasting cloves in a skillet,
- Oven-roasting heads of garlic, with oil and a little water.
Dry roasting in a skillet
In the dry-roasted method, which the Griffiths say is a Mexican technique, unpeeled cloves go into a hot cast-iron skillet, where you cook them for about 15 minutes, turning often, till they're soft and the peel shows some charred spots. After the cloves cool, you peel and mince them, using the toasted pieces to flavor your dish.
The Griffith's take on oven roasting calls for preheating the oven to 325 degrees F., removing any loose papery wrappers, cutting off the top of the garlic bulb to expose the tops of the cloves, placing the bulb in an ovenproof dish, sprinkling on a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of water. They say to cover and then bake the garlic head for 1 hour and 15 minutes, uncover, baste, and finish baking uncovered for another 15 minutes.
Skillet browning followed by oven roasting
In the summer of 2013 I found a hybrid method that Patricia Wells recommends for roasting fresh garlic, which is available only in the spring or at the very beginning of the Garlic Farm season. She says that this approach works just as well for cured garlic.
She lops off the top bit of the bulbs to expose the cut surface of the cloves. She sautés the bulbs cut side down in a heated skillet with some olive oil to brown slightly. Then into the oven for roasting.
Choosing a temperature and cooking time
Recommended oven temperature and cooking times are all over the map in the many recipes I've compared:
- 45 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees F. The roasted garlic samples Allison and Patty prepared for Open Farm Day 2013 were roasted at 400 degrees F. for about an hour.
- 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. (hardly seems long enough, does it?)
- About an hour at 350 degrees F.
- 75 minutes covered at 325 degrees F., then uncovered for another 15 minutes
- An hour and a half at 300 degrees F.
Some of the time/temperature differences derive from taste preferences.
If you want a browned, deeply caramelized result, you'll probably want to take the long and low approach. A shorter cooking time won't brown the garlic so much, and it may preserve more of the garlicky bite in the finished product.
Personally I'm going to continue to experiment with the time-temperature gradients--and with covered the whole time versus uncovered at the end--watching carefully to make sure the garlic doesn't go into the burn zone. The moisture content of the garlic at the outset also probably makes a difference in how long it takes to soften, so figure on checking the tenderness with a fork or cake tester.
Prepping the bulbs
Most roasters recommend removing all but the innermost papery wrapper layer on the garlic before roasting, but that's probably not necessary, as some recipes say you can leave all of the wrappers on during cooking. I'd recommend rubbing off all loose bits of the wrappers, however, so they don't come off later to mix in with the finished garlic paste when you squeeze the softened cloves out of their peels.
Most recipes also recommend slicing off the top of the bulb to expose a cross section of the cloves, which allows them to absorb a coating of olive oil. Some recipes recommend a sprinkle of salt and pepper or sprigs of herbs in a bigger pool of oil.
Nearly all recipes recommend standing the bulbs pointy end up for roasting, but if you prefer a darkly roasted flavor, you can flip the cut side down.
On the other hand, some methods keep it simple and say to just put the intact bulb into an oven, no toppings.
Choosing a roasting dish and cover
You could use a specially designed garlic roasting dish if you have one, but you don't need to go out in search of one. Just pop a bulb into a ramekin, custard cup, or other small ovenproof dish and then cover it with a lid or layer of foil. For roasting a batch of bulbs at once, use a bigger overproof dish.
Note that some roasters remove the cover for the last phase of cooking.
Many people recommend twisting up the garlic in a packet of foil, but a reusable dish works just as well. Unless you're planning to roast the garlic in a campfire, which takes a very long time if our experiments in the coals at our campsite are any measure.
Roasting with oil or water or wine or broth or...
Most recipes call for tossing the heads with some olive oil or brushing the cut surfaces of the cloves with oil. Some cooks recommend warming up the oil first with some herbs, such as rosemary or thyme or ground or whole spices, and then pouring it over the heads of garlic.
Alternatively, you could sprinkle a little bit of water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth over the head of garlic.
One recipe I found calls for dry vermouth instead of the oil or water, so you might try splashing on a bit of any other wine that's open. Not sure what a red wine would do to the color, though.
Producing garlic-flavored oil as a by-product
Some recipes suggest being generous with the oil, enough that you have a by-product: garlic-flavored oil to keep in the fridge and use over the next two or three days.
Just remember that garlic-infused oil isn't safe to use if you leave it out on the counter. And neither is garlic that's stored in oil. Roast the garlic and then remove it from the oil rather than storing the garlic in the oil. Store the oil separately from the garlic, in the refrigerator. Label the oil container with its expiration date, keep it in the fridge when you're not actively using it, and use up garlic-infused oil within two or three days. Don't keep it indefinitely in the back of the refrigerator. Don't take a chance on oil past its expiration date (one word for why: botulism). Toss out any oil that's left at room temperature for more than two hours.
An earlier version of these instructions allowed a longer storage life for the oil. I've scaled back to two or three days to conform to the guidelines published by the Insitute of Food and Agricultural Science at the University of Florida.
In California the equivalent organization says that you can freeze garlic-infused oil for safe longer term storage.
Using roasted garlic
You can use roasted garlic many ways, either as individual roasted cloves or as a purée made by mashing together a bunch of roasted cloves. Scatter cloves on pizza, in salads, in soups. Smear some on crackers or bread. Try the purée as the base for a vegetable dip or as a hummus ingredient. Mix the smoothed roasted garlic with mashed potatoes or other vegetable purée. Or blend it into softened butter to make a log of roasted garlic butter.
Storing roasted garlic: fridge or freezer
In Garlic Garlic Garlic, the Griffiths say you can store the oven-roasted garlic for about ten days in the refrigerator.
Cindy Rowland, who writes the blog Fix Me a Snack, tells us that she roasts a big batch of about three pounds of garlic at once. Then she removes all of the softened cloves from the peel and freezes the pieces on a tray before storing them in an airtight freezer container to use one or a handful at a time. By the way, Cindy opts to roast at 350 degrees for about an hour.
WARNING As noted above, store garlic in oil (whether roasted or uncooked) in the refrigerator for three days at most; remove garlic from the oil and freeze it for longer storage. Store garlic-infused oil in the refrigerator for not more than three days; freeze for longer storage. For food safety, do not allow garlic to hang out in oil on the counter; it must be refrigerator for short storage or frozen for long-term storage.
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Even from a distance the hanging garlic beckons visitors to the barn. Garlic Farm, August 2012
photo by Nancy E. Dunn
Garlic roasting links
Jessie Kanopa, one of our favorite food bloggers at The Hungry Mouse, devotes an article to roasting garlic by her preferred method. As always, Jessie profusely illustrates her how-to with detailed close-up photos.
In a YouTube video Chef Meg shows how to roast garlic, in a clip that takes just over a minute. She prefers shorter cooking time. No matter how long you decide to cook your roasted garlic, if you want a very quick demonstration, this is the best of the video clips I screened on the web.
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PHOTO: A garlic braid, fall 2011
photo by Nancy E. Dunn
Updated 21 September 2013