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Choosing and Storing Garlic

There is no trick to choosing garlic, but you should know how to store it properly

Choosing garlic at a gourmet store is a bit different from grabbing up a few bulbs from the produce section in a regular grocery. The larger chains will typically carry the "softneck" varieties. If you are looking for richer flavor, however, you may want to locate the "hardneck" garlic.

The reason you probably won't find the latter in general is because it does not last as long. Those who purchase garlic, but use it rarely, will probably have better luck with the softnecks.

Those wonderful white bulbs can be tossed into a garlic cellar or put any place that allows for air circulation. Stick them in the pantry and they'll always be handy to collect a few cloves from. Your pantry temperature should not rise above 70 degrees and the humidity should be about 60%.

If you purchase a garlic braid, be sure to mount it in an area away from sunlight.

Never put garlic in the refrigerator as it will quickly lose flavor and begin to sprout. You can, however, freeze garlic. If the center of a clove has already begun to sprout, don't worry - just remove and use the remainder.

To release the strongest flavor from garlic, it should be crushed before adding to recipes. You can do this with garlic presses or by simply giving the cloves a whack with a knife handle. Remove the paper and continue pressing.

You can chop, puree, or crush garlic and then freeze it. This is especially recommended if you are planning ahead or need a large quantity of garlic. If you want to create a ready-made pesto, just add 2 parts oil or wine to 1 part garlic and then freeze or refrigerate. Never leave any mix at room temperature. This is a direct and fast invitation to bacteria.

You can also purchase minced or powdered garlic, which have their uses in the kitchen as well. These products will not have the intense flavor of fresh garlic. Because of garlic's longevity, it's well worth it to buy it fresh and store it in the proper environment.


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