Ingredient Spotlight: Black Garlic

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What is it?
Black garlic has been around for awhile, but lately it's popping up on menus and at high-end grocers at a pace that reminds me of the way truffles exploded onto the mainstream culinary scene a few years ago. If you're a specialty foods chaser, black garlic should be on your list. It's simply garlic that has undergone a long and slow fermentation process under low heat, which transforms it into a darker, sweeter, more intensely flavored version of itself. The origins of black garlic are hard to verify. It's often attributed to an ancient Korean method for preserving garlic, which was adapted stolen by a British farmer and commercialized. Some consider it a superfood, but again, details are sketchy on that too. What I do know is that tastes wonderful and it's a fun ingredient to spruce up your usual dishes. Candied garlic probably doesn't sound nearly as appetizing, but that's what came to mind the first time I tried black garlic. The flavor reminds me of roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar and molasses rolled into one. It's savory and slightly tangy but the sweetness comes through most.

Where can you find it?
Unlike truffles, black garlic is much less expensive and easier to find. I've spotted it at Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, gourmet markets, and online via Amazon (affiliate link.) Expect to pay around $25/pound for peeled black garlic gloves, but it's cheaper if you buy whole bulbs. Most of the packages will only come with a bulb or two anyway, as you certainly don't need to work with a whole pound at once. Just keep that in mind, because there's no reason to settle for what will inevitably become a surplus of imitation (or heavily processed) black garlic flavored foods flooding the market. I've already seen a major spice company release a dried black garlic salt!

How can you use it?
Black garlic looks a little scary, in an intriguing sort of way, and its sticky texture can be awkward to work with at first. (So sticky, that the extra cost for the convenience of peeled cloves is not such a bad thing!) Once you've got the papery peel off, the cloves can be eaten raw or cooked in recipes. They're soft, so while you could chop or slice the cloves, the easiest way I've found to use them is mashed or pureed with other ingredients. It's not a substitute for using fresh garlic in the base of most recipes, especially slow-cooked stews and braises. But it's an awesome finishing touch and adds complexity and depth to dishes in a similar way that roasted garlic does. It's excellent in stir fries, pasta sauces, salad dressing, aioli and my favorite, compound butter.

Check out a few of my dishes below for inspiration, or read on to the next post to learn how to make lamb chops even more delicious with black garlic! 

Rack of lamb finished with black garlic butter

Seared tuna over angel hair pasta with black garlic and spinach

Black garlic roasted collard greens, adapted from my Garlicky Oven Roasted Greens recipe

Grilled cauliflower with lemon, smoked paprika, black garlic butter and mint

Hanger steak with red wine reduction (black garlic butter used to finish the sauce)

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