Black garlic is one of the ingredients that are the talk of the town. If you’ve never heard of it then keep on reading. The name is kind of gross and you won’t think that it is an edible ingredient but many people who have actually tried it swear that it is indeed an incredible ingredient that brings a unique taste to any dish.
Black garlic is not another variety of garlic but it is made from the same garlic that we use in our food. The intense flavor and black color of this garlic comes after it has been fermented for a period of time. The regular cloves of garlic contain amino acids and sugars which are fermented and produce the black color. In fact, it would be accurate to say that amino acids and sugars produce melanoidins in the late stages of fermentation and are responsible for the black color.
There are many possible stories of its origin. Some stories say that black garlic was first made by the Koreans about 4000 years ago. While others say that it was discovered more recently in the early 20th century. In 2004, a Korean inventor also patented a device to make black garlic. According to him, black garlic is not an ancient food from Korea and he created it with his device and holds three patents for the device as well. Some Japanese families also claim that they have been producing and using black garlic for centuries. It is possible that black garlic was rediscovered again throughout history and all of these stories are credible.
Black garlic retains the health benefits of garlic but acquires added benefits from the fermentation process as well. Black garlic is more calorie-rich and 35g serving will have about 70 calories, 8g of sugar, no sodium and zero fat. It is low in minerals and vitamins as regular garlic. Some of the minerals and vitamins are destroyed during the fermentation process, so black garlic has even reduced amounts of them. Yet, the ingredient does have many useful health benefits.
- Black garlic is rich in antioxidants than fresh garlic. Some researchers believe that the amount of antioxidants is doubled during the fermentation procedure. So, it offers protection against free radicals which is the cause of cancer among other diseases. It has been used to reduce the rates of stomach and colorectal cancers.
- It helps lower LDL cholesterol levels.
- It is believed to aid the liver in the removal of heavy metals and thus cleanses the body.
- The enzymes and probiotic organisms within the garlic help in digestive problems.
- The ingredient boosts the immune system and has ingredients like Vitamin C, B6, and manganese.
- Black garlic also contains allicin which is well-known for its anti-fungal and anti-biotic properties.
How to produce it?
The fermentation process of black garlic is quite easy. All you need is fresh garlic and a rice cooker for at-home production of black garlic. Simply put the unpeeled garlic cloves into the rice cooker and set it to warm. Let it run for 3-4 weeks. After it has been fermented, dry the cloves in the sun and store the product in an airtight container.
The commercial procedure of making black garlic involves the controlled application of heat and humidity for a period of 4-6 weeks. Sometimes the garlic is aged for a period of a few months as well. The fresh cloves are kept at a temperature ranging from 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit. No preservatives and additives are added in the process.
Some researchers have identified endophytes in garlic cloves that are responsible for its fermentation. They are resistant to high temperatures and turn the white cloves into black.
The Taste of the Fermented Garlic?
Regular garlic has a strong and pungent taste while the black variant has a completely different taste. Many people say that it has a syrupy and sweet taste. The fermentation process softens the flavor of the plant. The taste is similar to a sweet tamarind or an acidic caramel candy, while others compare it to chocolate or the flavor of molasses. The sweet taste comes from the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars. Thus, garlic gets a caramelized and savory rich flavor that you go out to restaurants to enjoy. Black garlic isn’t very attractive in terms of looks but it definitely has a pleasant flavor as compared to its fresh counterpart.
The taste also depends on the duration of the fermentation process and of course the quality of the main ingredient- fresh garlic. Garlic with high carbohydrate content will produce more sugars and thus have a sweeter flavor. So, don’t be surprised when you see people enjoying it on its own. This ingredient is also used in a variety of dishes like pizza, pasta, and potatoes. Sometimes it is even used in ice creams. It is also a wonderful ingredient for making Asian sauces.
Where to buy?
It is not as easy to get at your ordinary grocery store. It is a seasonal item and is not available year-round. A more appropriate place to find black garlic will be a specialty spice store or better yet look for it online. You can easily find it on online sites like Amazon. It is available in different forms like whole heads, peeled cloves or even in powdered form.
The cloves can be used in various dishes. You can eat it on its own as a snack or like a savory Wine Gum. There are other creative ways to incorporate it into your recipes as well. You can use it to whip up some Asian sauces that will bring out its distinctive flavor in your dishes. An amazing recipe for a sauce can be made by combining equal parts of soy sauce, orange juice. A little chili sauce and freshly grated ginger and don’t forget your secret ingredient- black garlic cloves. This makes for an amazing sauce for stir-fried noodles or can be used to marinate fish or meat. This can also be used as a dip for tempuras or dumplings.