Fresh gourmet garlic brings a delicious, pungent bite to any savory dish. The season in which gourmet varieties are available, however, is all too short. Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can preserve garlic, extending its storage life and allowing you to enjoy it year-round. Dehydration is one good method for preserving gourmet garlic. The process is simple, and the result is crunchy, garlicky golden chips that you can use in a variety of dishes.
Any gourmet garlic cultivar can be dehydrated, and the condition of the bulb doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, dehydration is a great way to use up any garlic seconds since you can cut away any bruised or damaged parts. The biggest task in dehydrating garlic is peeling the cloves, but there are ways to make this task easier.
Our favorite method for easy peeling is to blanch the cloves. Blanching makes the skins soft and supple, and easy to remove.
Once all your garlic is peeled, feed the cloves through a food processor to produce thin, even slices. If you don’t have a food processor, slice the cloves with a knife, approximately ⅛ to ¼ in. thick. You can cut the cloves thicker, even into halves, if you want a chunkier product. Bear in mind, however, that thinner slices will dry more quickly and evenly.
When all the cloves are sliced, spread them thinly and evenly on dehydrator racks. Use your dehydrator on a low temperature as directed, and process the pieces until they are dry and crisp. Dried garlic can be tested for doneness by picking up a chip and breaking it between your fingers. The chips should be brittle and immediately snap. If they bend, they require further drying. Keep testing the chips until they reach the desired crispness.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can dry the garlic slices in your oven. Purchase wire racks to sit on top of your oven racks. Look for wire mesh with a moderately tight weave; air needs to circulate around the slices for proper drying, but you don’t want them falling through the holes either. If your oven does not have a fan, you may need to keep the door open so that the moisture can escape. Be warned: the smell is very pungent. Heat the oven between 45°C (115°F) to 60°C (140°F) maximum. Any hotter, and the garlic will discolor, cook and become bitter.
Dried garlic can be used in practically any recipe that calls for garlic. For example, you can crumble the chips or use them whole in roasting pans, soups, or sauces. You can even put them through a coffee or spice grinder (I’d suggest a dedicated grinder!), and make your own powder.
Store garlic chips and powder in airtight containers to preserve freshness. Dehydrated garlic will retain its freshness for at least a year, but will last even longer when properly stored. Keep the container in your cupboard, away from direct light. Dried garlic can also be stored in your freezer, which will help to preserve its freshness even longer. With a little planning, you’ll never have to eat bland supermarket garlic again!