Garlic is one of those herbs that everyone loves. It can become very frustrating when the garlic you bought, or grew, becomes stale and hard, even virtually unusable.
Because garlic can only be grown in certain seasons, many people like to store it so it can last throughout the year or beyond. This is the process we will discuss in this article.
We have covered many ways to store fresh garlic, including tips for storing it at room temperature, storing it in the refrigerator and freezer, dehydrating it, storing it in oil, roasting the garlic prior to fridge or freezer storage, and even pickling it with vinegar so it can last indefinitely.
Storing Fresh Garlic
There are many, many ways to store fresh garlic. Here we will discuss just a few of those options—options that will allow you to enjoy this delicious herb with all your recipes throughout the year and beyond.
Storing Garlic at Room Temperature
When you buy fresh produce like garlic, you want to make extra sure that it can last as long as possible. After all, nobody likes throwing money down the drain. When shopping for garlic specifically, you should definitely try to avoid buying any bulbs that appear soft or damaged. These are already starting to turn bad. You should especially avoid those bulbs that have already started to sprout.
Once you get your fresh garlic home to your kitchen, the easiest and fastest way to store it at room temperature is to keep it in a mesh bag or a loosely woven basket, something that will allow for maximum airflow. Garlic keeps longest when it is stored at about 60 degrees F to 65 degrees F and in moderate humidity. Unfortunately, these conditions are what presents such a challenge during the winter months. During the winter most homes are heated, and this artificial heating tends to make the conditions very dry—so dry that the garlic cloves can actually shrivel up and turn very hard inside their papery skins after just a month or so. When this happens, it is best to simply throw the garlic out (and waste money), or you can use it in a vegetable stock. If you choose the latter plan, be sure to throw the garlic into the pot with the skin still on. This way you will get the full flavor of the garlic without exposing the stock to the hard garlic within.
Another trick for storing garlic at room temperature is to keep it under an unglazed clay flower pot in your cupboard. This will create a make-shift humidor that will help your fresh garlic last longer during the winter months when the house is kept so dry. Be sure to use an “unglazed” flower pot. This is crucial, because a glazed pot can cut off the air circulation to the garlic and cause it to rot.
Finally, another room temperature storage trick is to dehydrate the garlic first—before you store it in an airtight container.
It is fairly simple to make your own dehydrated garlic, provided you own a dehydrator appliance. To begin this process, peel your garlic completely, and then cut it into very thin slices. This step can also be accomplished with some food processors if you have the necessary attachments. Once peeled and sliced, arrange the slices of garlic on the tray of your dehydrator and set them to a temperature of about 115 degrees. Once the garlic slices are crisp to the touch, you can then store them in an airtight container—just as they are—or chop them using a blender to make minced garlic. You can then place the minced, dried garlic into an airtight container. Garlic stored in this way—at room temperature—will keep for several months, provided no air whatsoever can get into your container.
Storing Garlic in the Refrigerator
If your garlic is still whole, you can store that garlic in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. By storing it in the crisper drawer you can solve the humidity problem that we discussed above. Be aware, though, that once that garlic is removed from the fridge and exposed to room temperature it will typically sprout in a couple of days, making it virtually unusable. Instead, keep the garlic in your crisper drawer until you are ready to use it, and take just enough out for the dish you are creating.
Garlic cloves that have been completely peeled, as well as chopped garlic, can be kept in the fridge as well, provided you place them in a tightly sealed container. In this manner, the garlic will probably keep for a couple of weeks. This is not, however, a long-term storage option for garlic in this form. Minced garlic, the type you buy at the store, can often last for months in the fridge, but that is because it has been previously acidified by the manufacturer to keep it safe and usable for that amount of time. In other words, after a week or two, fresh garlic in the fridge should be tossed if it has already been peeled and chopped.
Storing Garlic in the Freezer
Fresh, whole garlic can be frozen in the freezer, but the truth is that this storage method will cause the garlic to lose its taste somewhat, causing it to taste a bit off. There is another way to prepare garlic for the freezer, however—a method that will help the garlic retain its great-tasting flavor. To utilize this method, simply peel your garlic cloves and put the peeled remnants into a blender with a little water and mince it until it is very fine. Once the garlic is minced, place it in a sealed, vacuumed freezer bag until you are ready to use it. You can even use the blender to create a type of pureed garlic. If you choose this method, merely pour the pureed garlic into ice cube trays and freeze it. Once you have done this, simply put the garlic cubes into an airtight container and you will have ready-made cubes of garlic to use with your various recipes.
Store Garlic in Flavored Oil
Using the dehydration steps we discussed in the section “Storing Garlic at Room Temperature,” you can also make a great-tasting garlic flavored oil. Simply place the dehydrated/dried garlic slices into a small jar and cover them with olive oil. From there, you can use the oil—and/or the flavored, juicy slices—to make salad dressings or to use with some of your recipes.
We recommend that you do not use “undried” garlic to make these flavored oils. This can lead to botulism food poisoning, which is really unpleasant to say the least.
Roast the Garlic before Freezing
Roasted garlic is absolutely delicious and easy to prepare, and once it is roasted it can last in the freezer almost indefinitely. This is a great storage method to use when you have a lot of garlic on your hands, say 10 or more bulbs, because with this method you don’t even have to peel the garlic. Easy, right? Simple arrange the whole garlic on a large cookie sheet that is lightly greased with olive oil (other oils can be used but olive oil is our recommended choice based on its flavor). Roast the garlic at about 350 degrees until the bulbs are very soft and squishy. This typically takes about 45 minutes depending on the oven you use. After the garlic has cooled some, snip the tips off the bulbs and cloves and squeeze out the incredibly tasty, and now soft, flesh of the garlic clove. You can freeze this delicious, soft garlic in an airtight freezer container for as long as you wish. You can even put into the refrigerator, where it will usually last about a week, but we recommend the freezer for this storage method. This is because the high oil content of the garlic means it will never freeze hard, allowing you to scoop the clove contents out with a spoon as you need it when cooking or sautéing.
Pickle the Garlic in Vinegar
Last but not least, the final method for storing your fresh garlic is to pickle it in vinegar. The pickling process tends to mellow the taste of garlic, so if you prefer the sharp taste this storage method may not be for you. However, this is a great way to store it if you like to use whole cloves in your salads—cloves that can be eaten in the same manner you would nibble on an olive or carrot. To pickle garlic, simply place it into an airtight jar with vinegar and salt, set in the back of your refrigerator and forget about it. Pickling garlic ensures that it will last indefinitely, so this is another great storage strategy when you have a lot of garlic on hand that needs to be stored.