Black garlic is the latest star of the culinary world, a must try ingredient for many a cook seeking a challenge. Encased in a dirty white papery skin, the garlic appears rotten or burned even, but it has merely been subjected to a period of fermentation.
Various foodstuffs have been fermented in Japan and China for thousands of years and garlic is no exception. Originally, they would have been stored in earthenware containers and left in cool places such as caves for a few months. But five years ago a new method was developed in Korea which involves placing whole heads of fresh garlic into clay containers and heating them. They are then aged for around a month whereby they produce a chemical compound known as melanoidin which results in the dark coloring.
The complex flavor derived from the fermentation period can be described as sweet meets savory. It is rich and tangy, some say it tastes of molasses or balsamic vinegar even but with an underlying garlic flavor. It has a tender, melt in the mouth texture and this, together with the caramelized qualities offered by black garlic, means it can be eaten raw, snacked on even like candy. As black garlic is packed with twice as many antioxidants as regular garlic and contains no additives or preservatives it also offers added health benefits.
Its potential in the kitchen is enormous. Unlike ordinary garlic that usually appears as a hint in the background, black garlic needs to be the main flavor of the dish. Any recipe calling for garlic to be used must be recreated with care when replacing it with black garlic because of the added sweetness. A new twist on aioli or black garlic bread perhaps. But in utilizing this sweetness novel pairings could also be considered, black garlic ice cream even.
Another added benefit of this fermented garlic is that it doesn’t leave behind the familiar ‘garlic breath’ associated with regular garlic. But on the downside to this, it won’t be much use for keeping any vampires at bay either.
Photos courtesy of flickr - ihanah, J.labrado. earthydelights