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Black garlic

"And the taste? Out of this world. Sweet, earthy, minus the allium’s characteristic heat—think of it as garlic’s umami-packed shadow. " Bon Appétit

First of all what is it? It's not a different variety of garlic, it's just garlic that has been dried in low heat and high humidity for a long time - 2-3 weeks says the recipe in The Spruce Eats. They recommend doing it in a rice or slow cooker. Just scrub your garlic bulbs (not a wet scrub) place in your cooker and leave on warm for 2 or 3 weeks - until soft and black. Yes leave it on all that time because:

"Those conditions also facilitate the Maillard reaction, the chemical process that produces wild new flavor compounds responsible for the deep taste of seared meat and fried onions." Bon Appétit

Think of the electricity you would use, and think of the fact that you could not use said implement for all that time. And on top of all of that:

"Even though the garlic isn't cooking, there will be a strong garlic odor throughout the process. It's especially pungent during the first few days and then diminishes significantly. If possible, set up the slow cooker in a ventilated area, such as the garage, to avoid overwhelming your home with the smell of garlic." The Spruce Eats

No it's not going to happen in this house. Although when you start to search for it you might change your mind when you see how much it costs. I'm sure I saw it in Coles once - I think it came from New Zealand, but it was expensive - I can't remember how expensive - so I didn't bother to buy. But it is no longer on their online shop - which may not mean it's not in the store. And I'm also guessing that it's the sort of thing that Aldi might have every now and then. Woolworths doesn't have it either. You can however, get it at the Queen Vic Market, where one bulb will set you back $8.00. That Garlicious jar - a mere 50g - costs $20.00. Perhaps someone will give me a present of some one day.

In Coles you can get this Bare Bones classic gravy with black garlic which is cheaper - $6.00 for 200g and they do say in their blurb

"Made from simple ingredients you can pronounce, Bare Bones Classic Gravy with Black Garlic is a superb finishing touch for your meals."

Which meets one of Michael Pollan's criteria of what constitutes Food, however there is quite a long list of ingredients, which is not a good sign. And surely none of us buy gravy in a jar, or a packet?

So why should I buy some? Well in the Guardian series on chef's 'secret ingredients' Ottolenghi chose black garlic as his. He has several recipes here and there that use it - e.g. Barbecue beef short ribs with black garlic and urfa chilli (another one of his things that you can't find) and Olive oil flatbreads with three-garlic butter and he does say that if you are using it it should be the star ingredient, which sort of implies that you can't really substitute something else.

So what does it taste like? You would think, from its colour and the length of the fermentation process that it would be a strong flavour but apparently not. Here are three people's idea of the taste:

"Soft, jelly-like and chewy in texture, it is so odourless and mellow that some people pop a whole clove or two into their mouth, as if eating a balsamic vinegar-flavoured wine gum with a touch of liquorice." Ottolenghi

What does it taste like? Aged balsamic, prune, licorice, molasses, caramel, tamarind.

Ted Cavanaugh/Bon Appétit

“We like to think of black garlic as the truffle of the garlic industry,” John Bye/ Bredbo Black Garlic

Well I do have that jar of Tumami that I really should use sometime soon.

Where does it come from? Well there are apparently two opposing stories. The first is a British garlic farmer called Mark Botwright who had a surplus of garlic, found a 4,000 year old Korean recipe and adapted it for modern times. He is now one of Britain's prime suppliers of this gourmet product. The second is a Korean called Scott Kim who invented it in 2004. He has the patents to prove it he says. I did see some people saying that it was an ancient South-East Asian thing, but then there a whole lot of others who think it is new. It's definitely a very trendy ingredient anyway.

Why am I talking about black garlic? Well I have been browsing my cookbooks in an attempt to find something new and wonderful for Sunday's family feast. I began with Indian food, then the internet and ended up with Ottolenghi and his team and everywhere I looked black garlic cropped up. Also we are going out for a posh meal tonight with our daughter-in-law's parents and there on today's menu for Mercer's cook at home option was black garlic - stuffed into a chicken breast. Needless to say there will be no black garlic in anything I cook on Sunday.

This might be one thing though - for the vegetarians amongst us: Cheesy baked polenta in tomato sauce - Ottolenghi again of course. I'm still pondering on the meat option(s). Looks pretty easy and tasty.


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