A Guide To Buying And Cooking Garlic
Garlic is an ancient food and medicine, and while it may not protect against vampires or ward off evil spirits as some people once believed, it certainly will take an ordinary meal and make it something special.
Garlic is not only flavorful, it’s healthy as well, being an excellent source of manganese and vitamin B6, and a good source of vitamin C, calcium, selenium, and vitamin B1.
In the United States, most of the garlic found in grocery stores comes from California. While garlic can be grown in nearly any area of the States, cold climates tend to produce hot-tasting garlic. (Still, it’s easy to grow garlic from sets found in garden centers, so give it a try this spring.) Fresh garlic is available year round.
How to Buy and Store Garlic
Look for firm, plump garlic with snug skins. The paper-like outer layer should be intact. Avoid garlic that feels spongy, is shriveled up, or has green sprouts coming from the top.
Each garlic bulb contains about ten to twenty individual cloves, but left over garlic lasts for weeks if cloves are left attached to the woody base of the bulb. Unbroken garlic bulbs last up to 4 months if kept in a dark, dry, cool location.
Do not store garlic in the refrigerator, or it will rot and become moldy much more quickly, and do not store garlic in oil or it may cause botulism poisoning.
How to Prepare Garlic
Garlic is typically either chopped or minced for cooking. Begin by removing as many individual cloves as the recipe calls for. Cut away any green sprouts that are coming from the top of the plant; these are bitter and should be thrown away or added to the compost bin. Or, if you happen like their flavor, add them to your next salad.
To remove the papery outer layer of the cloves, place a single clove on a cutting board. Hold the thick part of a chef’s knife (near the handle) over the clove and press down firmly. The papery layer should now peel away easily.
To chop the clove, hold onto it by the thick, woody stem and cut lengthwise. Remove the woody section and cut crosswise. To mince, continue chopping until the garlic is in tiny pieces, or place a clove (preferably the papery layer already removed) in a mincer.
How to Cook Garlic
Garlic is often sauteed in oil, but don’t over cook it, or it will taste bitter. Minced garlic cooks in a minute or less. If you need to saute onions and garlic together, add the onion first. When the onions are nearly done, add the garlic. Stir the garlic frequently to prevent burning it.
How to Roast Garlic
Roasted garlic has a much milder flavor than raw or sautéed garlic. Garlic cloves may be added to roasted meats or vegetables, or you may roast whole garlic bulbs.
To roast whole bulbs, remove the papery outer layer, leaving the garlic bulb whole and the individual cloves attached. Cut ½ inch off of the top (the pointed end) of the bulb. This will expose the inside of the individual cloves.
Place the bulb in a small dish or in a garlic cooker. Pour about ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the bulb and let it sit for about 2 minutes. Pour another ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the bulb.
If you’re using a garlic cooker, place it directly in an oven (preheated to 375 degrees F). Otherwise, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the garlic bulb on it. Cover with aluminum foil and place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F. Bake between 45 and 60 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and browned on the open ends.
Allow to cool several minutes, then use a knife to cut the skin around the cloves. Squeeze the meat from each clove.
Roasted garlic may be served as is (with a dip, if you like), or it may be minced or chopped for cooking or for spreading on bread or crackers.
Garlic may interfere with certain medications. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about possible interactions.
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