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At first glance, you might think that black garlic is simply a variety that’s black when harvested, but it’s actually fermented garlic. When a bulb of garlic is fermented, the sugars and amino acids combine to produce melanoidin, which gives the garlic its black color. Black garlic is popular in the culinary world because of its caramel-like sweetness and the twist of color it can add to a final dish.
It is possible to make black garlic at home, but it’s a lengthy process. Phil Greif, owner of PD Farms and Greif’s Gourmet Garlic in Elgin, Ore., uses a ceramic slow cooker with a glass lid to speed the process. For the best flavor, Greif suggests using Romanian Red or German Red garlic. Pack the crock about three-quarters full with fresh, whole garlic bulbs and cover with a damp towel or cheesecloth. Cover the crock with the lid. Set the cooker on low and use a meat thermometer resting in the garlic’s center to maintain a temperature of 140 to 150 degrees F. After 15 days, start checking the garlic.
“What you want to achieve is a black, semi-soft clove that is somewhat gummy in texture,” Greif says. For him, this usually takes about 20 to 25 days. Store unused cloves in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 90 days.
Black garlic is delicious spread on bread or as a garnish for pasta dishes. It can be blended into spreads and dips, such as tapenade or pesto. You can also make black garlic olive oil or butter by blending two to three cloves with 1/4 cup oil or butter in a small food processor.