Gaaahlic, my daaahlings. Such deliciousness, all wrapped up in tiny little fortresses of skin. SoupAddict loves da garlic. SoupAddict needs da garlic. SoupAddict must have da garlic. [Slap!]
SoupAddict apologizes. She gets carried away when discussing any member of the Allium family. She wants everyone to love the Allium family as much as she, but realizes that garlic isn’t the easiest nut to crack. Jarred garlic is convenient, but expensive, and drowned in oil. Yuck. Never fear; SoupAddict is here.
This was part of SoupAddict’s 2009 garlic crop, freshly harvested and getting ready for curing. (“Curing” is the two to three week period where garlic is set aside in a cool area to dry and form its outer skin.)
There are two primary types of garlic: hard neck (above, left) and soft neck (above, right). Soft necks are what you’ll find most commonly at the grocery. Hard necks are often more flavorful with larger cloves, and come with the bonus of providing Spring scapes, the edible, utterly delicious flower stalks that are prized purchases at the farmers’ markets. All varieties can follow the same process for peeling and slicing.
BTW, a whole garlic is called a “head” or a “bulb.” A “clove” is one piece broken off from the head. Looks kinda like a small Brazil nut.
Garlic skin is a force to be reckoned with. If only they could harness that strength for things like automobile shields, so that SoupAddict’s little Cougar would stop accumulating dings and scrapes from parking-challenged SUV owners. To free a clove, use a knife (or your fingernails) to slit the outer papery skin (yes, there’s also an inner skin, and it ain’t so papery) on either side of one clove. (You’ll be able to identify each clove by its round bulge. (SoupAddict will wait while you get your mind out of the gutter.))
Use the pressure of both of your thumbs along one of the slits to break the head apart. Sometimes this will free just one clove; sometimes the entire head splits apart.
Since SoupAddict is demonstrating with a hard neck garlic, just one clove was freed. Hard neck cloves are held very firmly in place by the central stalk that runs the entire length of the plant, root to tip (visible two photos down).
This hard neck garlic is a gorgeous Italian Purple Rocambole (notice the reddish skin). Very flavorful with huge, juicy cloves. The first clove was partially skinned during the breaking (love when that happens); the second clove’s skin stayed put when removed from the head. SoupAddict will use the second completely, maddeningly intact clove to show you how to peel it.
The skin that surrounds each clove is a marvel of impenetrability—you can claw at it all day long and make no headway. It takes the discipline of steel to give it the what-for. Lie the clove flat on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a wide knife, cover the clove and press down very firmly with your palm. When you hear a sound like cracking bones, you know you’ve done the job.
Once breached the skin will practically fall all over itself falling off. Just remember the cracking bones sound.
Cut off the root end and discard.
Slice very thinly.
If you just need slices, you’re good to go.
To mince, run your chef’s knife through the slices a few times. Then, to extract some of the juicy garlic goodness, place the flat side of your knife blade over the minces and …
… THWACK! …
Mmmm, minced garlic goodness.
SoupAddict does not at all mind handling garlic with her hands, but, when she has to prep a lot of garlic, she also likes to use a press. A press produces a different result than mincing by hand: it’s usually juicier and, well, meltier. If you have a metal press, you don’t even need to peel the clove ahead of time. (SoupAddict has a press with a plastic casing, which will probably break apart sooner or later if the bone-crackin’ skins are left on.)
SoupAddict’s extremely uncoordinated left hand is nonetheless freakishly strong, and handles the squeezing action with no problem.
Remember Play Doh Hair?
One thing SoupAddict doesn’t like about presses is that there is always something that doesn’t get used, so she usually adds one extra clove to the mix to make up for it.
Pressed garlic on the left. Either way, goodness is imminent.