If you haven’t heard of pickled garlic, you are missing out on something truly awesome.
Many people don’t know the golden rule of Garlic (I learned it a few years back reading Anthony Bourdain) – the smaller it is chopped, the more bitter it becomes. The larger, the sweeter. Pickled garlic takes entire bulbs (with only the largest being cut in half) and marinated in yummy acid (we use a 5% wine vinegar) and other pickling spices. It’s an awesome side to serve with cheese but just as amazing served in a salad, eaten solo or tossed in a stir fry.
We’ve shared a few posts in the past on pickling garlic:
- The batch that nearly pickled me (when peeling 6 pounds of garlic felt like the most brutal form of punishment in the world)
- Preserving Autumn (which included the recipe we use as our base)
Fast-forward to this year and we tackled 30-pounds of garlic (that’s a 1-quart mason jar beside the box for scale):
The wonderful thing about preserving is that you learn so many kitchen techniques – and you can compare your progress year after year to see how your skills are progressing. I’m pleased to report that , despite previous difficulties peeling a measly 6 pounds of garlic, 30 was a breeze.
Before sharing what worked, here’s a few things that don’t (and why):
- Smashing with a knife. I really wanted them to be in tact – and smashing can make it more bitter. Not the end of the world with dinner but when picking, it’s not what I’m looking for.
- Those ‘rubbery’ things. I’ve used them for small bits – but 200+ bulbs would just turn my hands to mush with this.
- Imported garlic and garlic with small bulbs. Both would work but the flavors would not be nearly as good as these – and the work would be a lot more.
- Pre-peeled garlic. You can use this but it tends to be dry and, in my opinion, not the greatest for pickling because of this.
What did work:
- Lay the garlic on a flat side (after breaking the bulbs apart).
- Rest the tip of the knife on your cutting board and ‘shut the drawbridge’ – let it come towards the cutting board – but only cut about 80-90% of the way through.
- WHen you are almost through, stop moving the knife and use your free hand to pick up the bulb towards you. For most of your garlic this will remove a third of the peel (the photo directly above this shows the results)
- Briefly blanch the bulbs in boiling water (I dip them for a minute or three in a stainless steel colander).
- The garlic will pop out of its skin with a gentle squeeze.
More lessons learned:
- More of a reminder – blanching also stops the bulbs from turning flourescent.
- We learned from our Facebook group that rubbing your hands on stainless steel helps get rid of the smell (and you can buy a puck for this purpose). I kind of like the smell – but it’s good to have the option in case I’m going out on the town!
- Watch your nails. If garlic gets under them (often happens when people peel with their hands – or when ‘scooping’ up large bunches of garlic) it will burn. And no one likes a burn (recall that olive oil helps calm the burn of hot peppers on your hands – not sure if it would do the same with garlic or not).
- Take lots of breaks. Unless ou’re used to hunching over with your hands close together like this for hours, breaks will speed up the process. I stopped for a few minutes after every fistful and ended as limber as I strted (I remember a ‘pinch’ between my shoulder blades that lasted for days last time).
That’s about half our yield – we got 32 (and could have had 3-4 more) pints of pickled garlic. It’s tough to believe most of this will be eaten in 4 short hours!