Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Black Garlic Adventures

     I'm a fearless cook and I like a challenge. A few years ago I saw black garlic being sampled at the Fancy Foods Show. It was a magical ingredient that I had never seen before. The cloves were completely black, chewy and fruity with no garlic heat or pungency, at all. The ingredients on the container said only garlic! How can this be?
     I was curious about the pricing for this ingredient.  It was expensive, which was interesting since it was only garlic, right? Rather than find a source to purchase some, I decided to find out how to make it. I did some research and found that it's a bit tricky to make; a bit of a hit or miss whether you will get good results. This worried me. But I remained curious.
   Black Garlic originally comes from Korea where it has been used for hundreds of years.  There, it is aged like kimchi, in containers which are buried under the ground - using the heat of the earth to do the magic transformation.
    I'm quite lucky to have a friend who grows beautiful organic garlic on her farm in Oregon. This past summer, she sold me two large braids at a very good price. With so much garlic on hand, I decided it was time to dive into a black garlic adventure!
   I rigged up a Coleman hot/cold box, with my oven probe thermometer so I could check the temperature inside. I put 15 heads of garlic in a rubbermaid container and sealed it up and put it inside. Then, I did nothing. The hot box kept the temperature around 143F, which is just hot enough to kill bacteria and allows the garlic to transform. I checked on it at 4 weeks, but it was brown, not black. I waited two more weeks and there it was; BLACK GARLIC! 
     Last week I was reading my Saveur Magazine for January 2015, which features 100 cool ideas and items. One of the ingredients highlighted was something called Black Crack. Say what? It turns out a clever guy in New Jersey not only makes black garlic, he then dries it out and sells it in a grinder as a spice!  To me, this seemed almost like a personal challenge. Can I do THAT?  Sure, I can do THAT!

So, last weekend my oven was set at  200F for over 72 hours; delicately drying out one of my precious black garlic heads into a homemade version of Black Crack. It's now done and the results are... I'm not sure because I haven't tried the original product!  He wants $24.99 for 2 ounces! 
     We have put a few cloves of the dried black garlic into a nutmeg grinder and used it to create delicate little shavings as seasoning. It has a smokey flavor over the black garlic fruity richness, unlike any other spice.

Our first use of the homemade black crack was as a seasoning for a chicken dish.  I found a recipe on the Black Garlic Love website. Black Garlic Love has lots of tips and recipes for using this ingredient including a  recipe for one pot chicken with black garlic. I have updated the recipe to my taste, adding a few ingredients and French technique. The results are... Delicious!

Get the recipe hereEnjoy! 

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