Roasting Garlic Takes Your Cooking to the Next Level

Roasted Garlic...and the empty husk

Roasted Garlic…and the empty husk

My organic farm-Hill Creek Farm-neighbor loves to grow garlic, so I have tasted MANY different varieties-German Extra Hardy, German Red, Georgia Red, Georgia Fire, Metechi, Music, Kettle River Giant, Italian Artic, and Belarus to name just a few. All have slightly different tastes and some produce garlic scapes or have different weather tolerances.  Who knew there were so many kinds?  I knew there were smaller heads and bigger heads, but beyond that…  However, Doreen set me straight and gave me a garlic education.   This woman know garlic.

Garlic is in the genus of Allium, to which onions, chives, scallions, shallots and leeks also belong.  Is it any wonder that when we use garlic in cooking, we often use one of the other alliums too?  Garlic has many health benefits, and has been used throughout the ages for lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, providing antioxidants to ward off dementia, improving athletic performance, and helping to detoxify your body.  Now you’ve got to take a lot of garlic (or supplements) to benefit in this way, but it’s an indicator that garlic is GOOD for you.

Garlic produces a chemical called allicin. This is what seems to make garlic work for certain conditions. Allicin also makes garlic smell; however, there is evidence that cooking makes the garlic less effective for health benefits, despite making it more palatable for consumption in quantity.  Some garlic supplements are made “odorless” by aging the garlic, but this process can also make the garlic less effective.

When selecting garlic to buy, choose firm, plump bulbs that still have their paper-like skin intact. There should be no signs of sprouting, soft spots, or other blemishes.  Always store fresh garlic in a cool, dark, dry place that is well ventilated for 4 to 6 months, but is best when used within a few weeks.  Avoid storing whole heads in the refrigerator as the damp air promotes sprouting as does direct sunlight.  Storing in plastic bags will yield mold.  If garlic has been chopped, minced, or prepared in any way, it should be refrigerated. Be sure to store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent the garlic odor from affecting other foods.

A rule of thumb for raw garlic is the smaller the cut (think minced garlic), the stronger the flavor.  The larger the cut (think slices of garlic), the milder the flavor.  Smashed garlic that’s combined with salt and mashed into a paste is the most powerful of all.

Admittedly, raw garlic can be strong.  That’s why vampires and roaches hate it, right? But once you apply heat to it, it becomes mild and somewhat sweet.  The sweetest way to eat garlic is to roast it.  Here’s how.

Roasted Garlic

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Take a whole HEAD of garlic (there are many cloves in a head) and slice off the top end about 1/8th  of the way down.  You should see all (or most) of the raw edges of the cloves.   You can roast many heads at once.

    The Cut

    The Cut

  3. Discard the top slice and gently peel off the loose papery skin.  Don’t completely remove the skin-you want the head to hold together.

    Don't Peel Down Too Far

    Don’t Peel Down Too Far

  4. Place the cut garlic head on a piece of foil that is large enough to surround the head(s) with some extra room.
  5. Drizzle the head with some olive oil-about 1 tablespoon per large head. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

    A Little Olive Oil...A Little Salt

    A Little Olive Oil…A Little Salt

  6. Loosely wrap the garlic into a “Kiss”-type package, making sure the package is sealed.

    One BIG Kiss

    One BIG Kiss

  7. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour or until soft, depending on the size/number of heads you are roasting.   Overcooking can make the cloves harden or disappear entirely.  So don’t put them in the oven and forget about them.
  8. Take the package out of the oven and let it cool until you can touch the garlic head.  Take the head by the uncut end and gently squeeze into a bowl-it should come out of the papery skin like toothpaste.
    Mmmmm.  Garlic Toothpaste

    Mmmmm. Garlic Toothpaste

    A couple of cloves may need some individual help to squeeze out.  If you do not like messy hands, food-safe gloves might be a good idea. Refrigerate the roasted garlic for a week or two, but you can also freeze roasted garlic with little loss of flavor or integrity (unlike raw garlic).   If I buy bulk garlic when I am doing an event or a class, it is much less expensive than the supermarket, but I never need QUITE that much, so I roast the excess and freeze it so nothing goes to waste.  Use it as a spread on bread alone or combine it with soft butter.  I use it in salad dressings, sauces and soups.  Really anyplace where you want a mild garlic flavor.

But don’t expect it to repel vampires.

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Categories: Cooking Techniques, Recipes, Sides

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