Black Garlic may not look especially pretty, but it has a unique umami flavor that can give big lift to your dishes.
When garlic bulbs are gently heated to about 140°F / 60°c for weeks, in a very humid environment, the enzymes that lend fresh garlic its sharpness begin to break down. The browning effect is a result of a Maillard reaction, where amino acids, and reducing sugars, chemically react in a way that produces melanoidin during fermentation, an intensification, and fermentation of the sugars in the garlic, without caramelization.
Black garlic is then cooled on racks and allowed to air dry for another week. The resulting obsidian garlic obsidian clove may visually, I understand, resemble something far less appetizing, but, as any good Asian, especially Korean, chef can tell you, the flavor is out of this world!
Black garlic is significantly sweeter, a more mellow, savory flavor that is umami, and sweet. Imagine the taste of a rich balsamic vinegar with a little umami-sour edge, and perhaps a dash of soy sauce. It has the savory flavor of tamarind dipped in molasses, with a bit more garlic edge.
The texture is thick, and squishy, comparable to a date, or a gummy candy that’s been left in a hot car.
It has a much more muted “garlic” flavor, so, if you’re seeking a more intense garlic experience, it may need to be combined with fresh, but, since that’s like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, WHY?
Black garlic is a staple of Korean cuisine, but is also found pretty commonly throughout Asia. It is less common in North America, and Europe, but since it became trendy with top pro chefs, around 2008, it increases in popularity in the Northern hemisphere.
There are a lot of stories about Black Garlic. Its history goes back thousands of years, or less than twenty to some guy who claims to have patented the process. We can find both culinary, and medicinal evidence of it, from Korea, and parts of China, and religious and spiritual uses, along with culinary, in Thailand, in the hundreds of years. We’ll leave it to the British patent courts to sort the fact from fiction out.
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