Fresh versus Processed Garlic
Mediterranean, Asian and Indian foods would not be the same without garlic. Originally, garlic was only available as bulbs. There was no need to buy this herb when it can be easily grown from fresh garlic cloves. If you see sprouts browning from your garlic and have a garden or even a pot, you can grow your own garlic.
Garlic is in the same family as onions, shallots, leeks and chives and has been used for cooking and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Its flavor is unmistakable and research indicates eating garlic may have significant health benefits even though recent findings have found no link between garlic consumption and lower blood cholesterol.
What are the differences between fresh versus processed garlic?
Garlic used for cooking is available in several forms at many stores and supermarkets:
2. Whole, jarred
3. Chopped or sliced, jarred
4. Minced, jarred
Fresh garlic has the best flavor and can be stored in a cool, dry place for months. Use cloves as needed by breaking what you need from the head. You can pan or oven roast cloves to produce a creamy, mild, even sweet flavor perfect for pestos, garlic bread or garlic toast.
If a head or cloves of garlic begin to sprout and you have a garden, plant individual cloves without removing the papery skin in the spring or fall (at least 8 weeks before a hard frost) with the sprout facing up. Plant cloves 4 to 6 inches apart and cover with about 2 inches of soil. Harvest garlic when the leaves turn yellow and begin to fall over but before they are completely dry. Dig up the heads, brush off the soil, and let them cure one to two weeks in a airy, shady spot.
Whole, Minced or Sliced Garlic
Jarred whole, sliced and minced garlic is a good alternate and more convenient than fresh garlic, but you pay a premium for the convenience and its flavor is usually inferior to fresh garlic. If you live in a humid area where it isn’t practical to store fresh garlic for long periods of time, you can clean and store whole, sliced or minced garlic in a clean jar with a lid, covered with vegetable oil (canola or soy) in your refrigerator for several months. Do not use olive oil which solidifies when refrigerated. The garlic infused oil can be used to make dressing, soups, and stews. Always maintain enough oil in the jar to cover the garlic.
For minced garlic, pulse cleaned cloves in a food processor or blender until desire size and store in a jar completely covered with vegetable oil. Use within a month for best flavor.
Minced garlic in water sold in stores has a preservative to retard spoilage.
Some recipes call for garlic powder which is dried, ground garlic that lasts for months and can be stored in your refrigerator or freezer if you buy large quantities.
Garlic powder is great for making quick garlic toast with a mild garlic flavor. Just spread a light layer of softened butter or margarine to one side of sliced bread (you can use frozen sliced bread), sprinkle liberally with garlic powder to taste, and if desired add dried oregano, thyme, rosemary or cayenne pepper for added flavor. Broil in a toaster or conventional oven until golden brown (5 to 8 minutes) on one side and serve.
Garlic powder can be stored indefinitely in the freezer. It remains free-flowing so you can use it directly out of the freezer.
Don’t mistake garlic powder with garlic salt. You can see how much lighter in color is garlic salt compared to garlic powder.
Garlic salt is a mixture of garlic powder and table salt. One teaspoon (5 ml) of garlic salt is about 70 percent salt and 30 percent garlic powder. To control the amount of sodium in my diet, I use fresh or powdered garlic and add salt to taste.
The decision to use fresh, jarred fresh garlic or powdered garlic depends on the recipe, how often you use garlic, and personal taste. I’ve found garlic sold in jars begins developing an off aroma within a few weeks of opening the jar. It is convenient, but I prefer fresh garlic. There is no substitute when it comes to aroma and flavor. Garlic powder is useful when you want mild garlic flavor without bits of garlic. I use it for garlic toast, dressings, and salads (macaroni and potato).