I tend to buy a lot of garlic because we cook with it every day, if not multiple times a day. With my warehouse store membership, I purchase a lot of things in bulk, including produce.
Storing garlic properly helps to preserve the taste, and prolongs shelf life
Surprisingly, garlic is considered by some to be an herb, even though it closely resembles an onion. Onions and garlic are both considered alliums, a family of plants that also includes chives and leeks. Garlic can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen, as well as medicinally. Some people grow their own, which is something I would like to look into since we do use so much of it.
If you do plant and harvest a patch, the fruits of your labor need to be dried before storing. This allows for the flavor to become further concentrated, and gives it a longer shelf life.
Always wash freshly harvested plants, and then allow them to dry out in a cool, dry place for at least a week. You can also hang them from their stalks in order to facilitate the drying process.
Selection Is Critical – You Want Unrefrigerated, Hard And Dry
When purchasing this herb, make sure you are selecting bulbs that are the freshest available, so they will last the longest. Look for examples that are firm with papery white skin.
Softer ones are over ripened and will not store well for long periods. Make sure there are no visible sprouts from the center. Do not purchase examples that appear shriveled.
Also, avoid purchasing ones that are stored in the refrigerated section of your market.
Cool And Dry Is Key To Resisting Mold And Decay
Garlic is best stored in a cool, dry area in your kitchen. A kitchen cupboard, pantry, or shady corners on your countertop are good suggestions.
Many people make the mistake of refrigerating their bulbs. Refrigeration will cause them to deteriorate, and the added moisture may cause them to become moldy.
Bulbs should be stored in a wire or mesh container, to allow for air flow. But the absolute best way to store garlic is to use a purpose built crock called a garlic keeper, as shown above and below.
Le Creuset Stoneware Garlic Keeper available from Amazon
Do not use plastic containers or plastic bags for storage. Doing so will contribute to mold growth and sprouting.
Keep Whole For Longest Shelf Life
Intact bulbs can be stored for up to 8 weeks when stored properly. Once you have opened the bulb, use the cloves quickly.
Breaking a garlic bulb open to remove cloves will significantly shorten its shelf life. Broken cloves will stay fresh anywhere from three days to a week. If a bulb begins to feel soft or any sprouting occurs, then it is time to throw it out.
Leftover minced or chopped fresh garlic can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, or zipper lock bag. This refrigerated product will stay fresh for a short amount of time, so be sure to use it as soon as possible.
Throw out any extra after a week’s time.
Freeze As a Last Resort
Although freezing is not recommended since it can change the flavor and texture, this option may be appropriate for those who use garlic infrequently.
Freeze whole cloves by wrapping them individually, in foil or plastic wrap. Store them in a freezer bag and defrost them as needed.
If you have chopped, minced, or diced cloves that you want to store for a longer period of time, place them in a thin layer in a freezer bag so you can break off pieces as needed.
When storing in the freezer, be sure to make sure your bag is sealed tightly so that it will not allow the odor to escape. Think about double or even triple bagging it, just to be sure.
Another storage method involves freezing your herbs inside of ice cubes.
Freeze in Olive Oil
Simply puree 1 part garlic to 2 parts oil in a food processor. This ratio will prevent the mixture from freezing solidly, allowing you to scoop out the amount you need for cooking. Never thaw or allow it to sit at room temperature before using.
Instead, transfer this oil mixture directly from the freezer to your recipe as it cooks.
Store peeled cloves by pickling them in vinegar or wine. They will last for about four months.
Here’s how: Fill a glass jar with the peeled cloves. Pour in your choice of wine or vinegar to fill the jar. You may add extra flavor by adding herbs or salt to the jar.
Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator. Discard the contents of the jar immediately if you see any mold starting to form.
Roasted garlic can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer for quite some time. It can be used in the same manner as you would use fresh, plus it is delicious spread on crusty bread.
To make it, lightly grease a baking pan or casserole dish with olive oil and add as many bulbs as you would like to roast.
Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the bulbs become soft and pliable.
Cut the tip off and squeeze out the buttery flesh. These roasted bulbs will not freeze into solid lumps, making it easy for you to scoop out the contents as needed.
Using a food dehydrator or your oven, you can choose to dry out your garlic for storage.
First, peel the cloves and cut them lengthwise.
If using an oven, place the cloves in a baking dish and bake in a preheated 140°F oven for about two hours. Turn the heat down to 130°F and bake until the cloves have dried completely. They will appear brittle and crisp.
To make your own homemade garlic salt, add three tablespoons of sea salt for every one tablespoon of garlic.
Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark kitchen cabinet or on the pantry shelf.
About Jennifer Swartvagher
Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.