Your Guide to Preserving Garlic This Winter (Plus Our Favorite Roasted Garlic Recipe)
I love adding garlic to my cooking for its distinctive flavor (tricky breath issues aside). But because it tastes so great, it’s easy to forget its remarkable health benefits. The perks of eating garlic are numerous: garlic stimulates cells that fight viruses, it supports gut health, and it can help prevent diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes with its remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
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People have been ingesting garlic for its benefits since at least 1550 BCE, long before studies were being done or supplements were available. And research shows that home-cooked garlic holds onto the same antioxidant properties found in raw cloves, so almost any way you prepare it, garlic has the potential to boost your immunity.
Every fall, I plant more than 400 cloves of hard-neck garlic for a giant crop the following summer. What isn’t replanted the next fall, I store in several ways to use all winter. Whether you grow garlic in your own garden (or you simply buy a few heads at a time at the market), here are a few key ways to safely store it, along with my favorite way to eat it:
How to preserve garlic
Make garlic cubes. When I’m harvesting garlic and separating cloves to replant, some always get nicked or lose their protective papery skin. If you ever have a few skin-free garlic cloves on your hands, mince them, pack them into an ice-cube tray, cover with olive oil, and freeze. Once the cubes are firm, pop them free and store them in a freezer-proof bag or container. I like to add them (still frozen) to a hot pan or stockpot; the oil layer defrosts before the minced garlic burns. Garlic that’s frozen in oil keeps for months, whereas garlic in oil at room temperature or stored for more than four days in the refrigerator is at risk for botulism.
Pickle it. It’s common to throw some garlic cloves into the brine when you pickle cucumbers, but often, they end up getting thrown away. Here’s the thing: these cloves aren’t just good for adding flavor to pickles; they’re delicious in their own right. You can drop whole pickled cloves into cocktails, mince or puree them for a pasta or dip, or slice them and serve in a salad.
Cure them. This one’s for the gardeners: Once the leaves start to yellow in midsummer, I like to pull all the plants and lay them in a single layer in a warm, dry place, avoiding direct sunlight and intense heat. When the leaves become crackling dry, cut off the tops, leaving about an inch above the bulb. When the neck is completely dry, cut off the roots and brush dirt from the papery skin. Store the heads in a dry, dark space in a temperature just above freezing.
Why I love roasting whole heads of garlic
I love roasting whole heads of garlic; as they caramelize in their skins, becoming soft and golden, the cloves lose their sharp, raw bite. You can throw a head or two on the grill while you’re preparing a meal, or roast whole heads alongside other vegetables in a toaster oven. You can spread the creamy result on toast, stir into hummus, shake with a salad dressing — or, you can make this delicious, immunity-boosting soup that’s my go-to every winter:
Immunity-Boosting Garlic Soup
2 heads garlic
1 medium onion
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh or 1 t dried thyme
1/2 t salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups vegetable stock
grated cheese to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wrap each whole head of garlic in foil. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the papery skin begins to brown and the cloves are slightly soft. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then separate the cloves and unwrap or squeeze them from their skin. Set aside.
Thinly slice the onion.
In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, and then pour in the stock. Raise the heat to bring the soup to a boil, then lower it to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Using an immersion or upright blender, blend the soup to your desired texture.
Temper the eggs: In a small bowl, use a wire whisk to beat the eggs to a uniform color. Whisk three or four spoonfuls of hot soup into the eggs until the mixture is warm. Remove the soup from the heat, and add the eggs in a thin stream, stirring continually with the whisk as you pour.
Sprinkle cheese to taste and serve immediately.