Jan 26 2010

For the Love of Garlic

January 26th, 2010 at 8:42 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Fresh garlic is a wonderful thing. Did you know that if you rub a garlic clove over the bottom of your feet you will soon have garlic breath? But I prefer my garlic to not have touched feet, and instead cook with it frequently. However, we can’t always find fresh garlic, and frankly, even when we can, we’re admittedly a bit lazy when it comes to peeling garlic and mincing it each time we want to use some.

The solution we’ve come up with is to make our own jars of minced garlic, which requires extensive effort only once every six months or so.

We start with a big bag of fresh garlic – typically 5-8 pounts (2.5 to 3.5 kilograms), and then park ourselves in front of the TV with a movie while we remove all the “paper” from the garlic and separate all the cloves from each other. For our most recent “garlic night”, we rented a download of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” from iTunes, based on a comment that due to all my gadgets I was becoming more like Steve Zissou every day. We collectively agreed that the movie was a dud. But we were still peeling garlic, now removing the skin from the cloves, so we watched the latest episode of Fringe, also courtesy of iTunes.

After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves

After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves

After we had naked cloves, the next step was to remove the hard little nubs at the end of the cloves as well as any noticeable blemishes.

Once that was complete it was time to mince the garlic. Doing it all by hand would take forever, so we use mechanical processes to mince our garlic. We have used food processors in the past, but find that they puree the garlic too much, plus with the amount we typically make during our “garlic nights” we have to keep emptying the machine too often. The solution we have settled on is the grinder option of our KitchenAid – the same thing you would use to grind meat, for example.

Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic

Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic

It’s still time consuming, since you can only feed a few cloves of garlic at a time into the opening of the grinder accessory, but it produces a constant flow of minced garlic.

The KitchenAid grinding garlic

The KitchenAid grinding garlic

Once all the garlic has been ground, we liberally mix it with a neutral tasting oil, such as canola oil, and sea salt. The oil and salt act as preservatives to prevent a deterioration of flavor due to oxidation. You can use olive oil as well, but that tends to impart a strong flavor to the garlic, and could affect the flavor of foods you cook with the garlic unless those foods already include the use of olives or olive oil.

The garlic/oil/salt blend is then used to fill jars that we have collected. I will oil the jar a little bit first, then add garlic up to the last half-inch, and then pour more oil on top to create a better seal against air.

Note that over time the jarred garlic will turn brown, but that does not impact its flavor negatively at all.

The end result - jars of minced garlic

The end result - jars of minced garlic

The amount of garlic pictured above will last us about 6-9 months of regular cooking.

One additional tip – take a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and blend it with a cup of mayonnaise to create a quick and dirty garlic aioli.


Nov 2 2009

Home Made Mayonnaise

November 2nd, 2009 at 8:07 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Julia Child was a huge fan of butter, and I wholeheartedly agree that butter is a foodie staple. However, in that same vein, I’m also a devotee of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an excellent condiment – just ask my Dutch friends who eat it liberally with “frites” (french fries), a habit I have now adopted as well.

Of the store bought varieties, I find Kraft and Hellman’s regular mayonnaise to be the best, while at the same time, I believe that low-fat mayonnaise is an abomination as it has the wrong flavor and consistency (and it has carbs to compensate for the reduction in fat).

However, my absolute favorite mayonnaise is home made. The only implement you need is a good blender. Personally, I’m a fan of Vita-Mix blenders.

The basic ingredients for a good home-made mayonnaise are egg yolks, salt, mustard, lemon juice, and oil. You can use olive oil, but unless I want a strongly flavored mayonnaise (tasting like olive oil), I tend to use nut oils like peanut or sunflower oil. As a general principle I stay away from corn oil and generic vegetable oils.

Place three or four egg yolks in the blender, along with a pinch of salt (sea salt preferred over iodized table salt), a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard (although any mustard will do), and another teaspoon of lemon juice. On very low speed, blend those things together quickly (keep the lid on the blender because you will get spattering).

Once those four items have been blended together, with the blender still on, slowly dribble in the oil. Feel free to increase the blender speed a bit as you do this. As you continue dribbling in the oil, you’ll find that the mixture will start to thicken. Keep adding oil until you get the consistency you want for your mayonnaise. You don’t want to add too much oil, as the mixture will become too thick. However, if that does happen, you can stir in a little bit of water to thin out the mayonnaise.

Voila! You have mayonnaise!

But here’s the really cool thing – in the early stages, after you’ve added some oil but your mayonnaise isn’t too thick, you can also add other ingredients to flavor your mayo before aiming for the consistency you want. For example, mince up a clove or two of garlic and add it to the blender to make a garlic aoili. Or add curry powder to make a curry mayo. Or chipotle peppers to make a nice spicy Mexican chipotle mayonnaise. The possibilities are endless. In any event, after you’ve added and blended in the extra ingredients, resume with the oil dribble to get the consistency you want.

Also, if you stop adding oil, you can blend your mayonnaise for extended periods of time without impacting its texture or flavor. That’s a great way to make sure your extra ingredients are well minced and distributed by the blender.

Once you try making your own mayonnaise you’ll be hard-pressed to go back to the store-bought stuff.

One final tip and trick – that blender will be a bit greasy after you’ve extracted all the mayo you can with your spatula. A great way to clean such a blender container is to rinse it out, and then fill it half-way with warm or hot water and a bit of dish detergent, and then, with the lid on, blend away on high for a minute or so. You’ll find that your blender container, once you get all the bubbles rinsed out, is clean and no longer greasy feeling (or at least less so than before).