Using and storing new season garlic
Can you please tell me the best way(s) to make use of, and store, our beautiful New Zealand new season garlic. I have previously frozen individual cloves, which works but it seems to reduce its intensity. Someone mentioned to me that they crush large quantities into jars, top with oil, and store in the fridge. I have previously sliced the garlic and added it to large bottles of olive oil to infuse, but then read that it isn’t a good idea due to a reaction between the garlic and the oil. Any good ideas?
New season's garlic — it’s hard not to throw it into everything you make at this time of the year isn’t it? The soft skin and plump cloves are just begging to be crushed, sliced, sauteed and emulsified every which way imaginable. However, rather like raspberries or asparagus, it does have a season and in some ways it’s maybe not the best idea to plan to make it last all year long. What you want to do is use it to its max before you tire of it and can’t face another slice of garlic bread dipped in aioli.
However, there are ways to keep it going, most of which you’ve suggested yourself. Freezing whole heads, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or foil to prevent the neighbouring hokey pokey ice cream becoming too savoury in the freezer is a good way. The flavour does diminish somewhat but it still remains impressive enough, and come winter you can throw the defrosted heads in with your roast mutton leg. Or break the cloves apart, don’t bother peeling them, and cook alongside a whole duck or chicken.
You can also peel it (although sometimes the skin is so fine you needn’t bother) and cover with enough olive oil (not extra virgin) to come 1cm above the top of the highest clove. Slowly bring to a simmer, then lower the temperature and cook over a low heat until the cloves become golden, stirring from time to time. It should take about 2 hours; any quicker and your heat is too high. At this point you’ve created confit garlic. Leave to cool, then remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and puree into a paste with enough of the oil to make it spreadable. Pour into a sterilised jar, cover with a 1cm layer of uncooked oil and store in the fridge. This wonderful paste will keep for a few months as long as it’s kept covered with oil.
It is the perfect thing to spread on toast as bruschetta, sauteed along with leeks and onion in risottos and soups, or sauteed with clams and mussels, diced tomato and white wine for a basic spaghetti partner. The leftover oil, and there will be a decent amount, is great drizzled over a thick barbecue steak or chunks of pan-fried meaty fish like hapuka or salmon steaks. It is great in dressings, used to make aioli. Or drizzle the oil over a chunky chickpea and pumpkin soup, along with a dollop of yogurt and some fresh-picked mint, come winter. Keep it in a sealed bottle in the fridge; the lack of light in a refrigerator (except when the door is opened) will also help keep it longer than if it is left on your bench.
You can also slice whole heads thinly (avoiding any papery skin and the hard base stalk) and place in sterilised jars before topping with a mixture of 75 per cent sunflower oil and the remainder extra virgin olive oil.
You mention that there can be a reaction between the garlic and the oil — as to what this might be I don’t know, but so long as the oil is fresh, the jar sterilised and the garlic free of any dirt or insects, you should be fine. I’ve never had a problem. Stored like this you’ll have garlic at hand for a good six months after the season has ended, but do keep it in the fridge. And when it’s all gone, and you’re feeling sad, just think — in a few months’ time there will be fresh garlic all over again.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you’re stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.