What is black garlic?

This text is part of the special Plaisirs booklet

Originally from Asia, black garlic is actually white garlic that has been aged to create this candied black clove with a particularly sweet taste and umami scent that deliciously enhances dishes. Discovered in 1999 in Japan, this luxury product only had its heyday in 2006, when some Japanese studies praised its anti-cancer properties and good taste.

Tempted to search online search engines for “how to make black garlic” to make it yourself at home? You will come across several recipes in five or six easy steps to make in a pressure cooker. But make no mistake, it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. So complicated, in fact, that producers are reluctant to disclose, once found, tested and approved, their method of aging.

Stéphanie Grenier, from the Quebec company Ail en noir et blanc from Saint-Pie in Montérégie, which produces black garlic in cloves as well as a black garlic cream, nevertheless agreed to answer our questions.

How do you turn white garlic into black garlic?

It is quite secret as a recipe and as a method. You should know that it does not happen overnight, create your recipe for black garlic. It’s a lot of trial and error.

Some people use a seawater method, where the garlic is candied in water for several weeks, but I found this process made the garlic taste salty.

We prepare our black garlic by an aging process that caramelizes the sugars in white garlic. This is the Maillard reaction, when cooking a food causes it to change color and produce new smells and flavors. Factors to watch out for are heat, humidity and aging time. It can be as quick as 30 days, but it is often more.

Moreover, we still sometimes make mistakes with our recipe. It is a long and complex chemical process and it is possible that a recipe is spoiled once in a while. New garlic harvested in summer is crunchy and waterlogged, while garlic harvested in January has a lower moisture content. We must adapt our method accordingly.

What does it taste like?

Black garlic is like a wine: its taste is described by notes. We are not going to taste the garlic first, since this taste evaporates during the aging process. A good black garlic tastes like balsamic vinegar, caramel, soy sauce, roasted coffee, stewed fruits.

Ours has the texture of a candied prune, a texture that looks a bit like a jujube. Some are softer and wetter, others are firmer. No one has the same recipe, hence the variations.

How do you eat it?

Our favorite is to serve black garlic with local cheeses, on a plank, with cold cuts, fruits, nuts. Better yet: a grilled-cheese with Quebec cheeses spread with black garlic cream. A pure delight. For the sweet tooth, the marriage of dark chocolate and black garlic in truffles, for example, is divine.

How do we store it?

The best way to store it is under vacuum. It can then be stored for 18 to 24 months. Otherwise, we present it unpeeled in glass jars. It’s more ecological. It will keep for about a year like this.

Plant the bulbs for next year

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