So you dug up your garlic, cured it, and realized you have so much fresh garlic you cannot possibly use it before it all starts to sprout. Yup, been there. Done that.
This conundrum is particularly problematic with the hardneck varieties that I prefer to grow. While hardneck’s have a more attractive form factor and (I think) a better flavor profile, they are not known for their cured-storage longevity. I grow Music – a particularly long-storing hardneck – which helps, but still find myself needing to diversify my garlic preservation.
Luckily, garlic is adaptable. You can dry it, freeze it, pickle it or ferment it. You’d expect such flexibility from a survivor vegetable originally from the high, cold steppes of central Asia, wouldn’t you?
Today, let’s focus on freezing this wonderfully pungent bulb. Here’s what you need to know:
You can freeze garlic as:
- Whole, peeled raw cloves
- Roasted garlic cloves
- Chopped raw garlic in oil
- Raw garlic paste
- Roasted garlic paste
Frozen garlic is ideal to use in situations where the garlic texture is not critical. The taste of frozen garlic is not dramatically different from fresh, but the texture does change. Garlic that has been frozen will have a softer, mushier texture than fresh garlic.
Use frozen garlic in:
- Pasta sauces
- Braises (40 clove chicken, anyone?)
- Creamy salad dressings, such as Ceasar
- Smooth dips, such as hummus
I prefer to freeze my garlic chopped, in olive oil. Typically, situations where I’d be using chopped garlic – such as a base for a sauce, soup or saute – benefit from oil, anyway. I also find that chopped garlic “loses less” texturally than whole cloves when frozen.
Frozen Garlic In Oil, Step-by-Step
Peel Your Garlic Cloves
Let me be clear: these tricks don’t work well with truly fresh garlic. Go ahead and try if you must, but know that fresh garlic does not jettison it’s skin as thoughtlessly as the months-old stuff from the store featured in these videos.
It’s a lot like those tricks to peeling hard boiled eggs. They mean very little when your eggs are fresh out’da butt of your friendly backyard chicken. But I digress.
Chop Your Garlic
If you prefer, you can, of course, chop your garlic the old fashioned way, with a sharp knife and long patience.
Add Olive Oil
I typically only keep one liquid oil on hand – olive oil – so that’s what I use. If you prefer another type of oil, like canola or whatnot – that’s fine.
Add enough oil that the garlic pieces are fully coated in the oil, but not so much that the garlic pieces begin to sink to the bottom of the oil. I’d estimate that I use about a one-to-one ratio of garlic-to-olive-oil by volume. It’s totally ok to eyeball this.
Find A Suitable Container
I used these Ball Herb Freezer Tray things, and I gotta say, they’re awesome for this kind of thing.
But, you can use standard ice cube trays, silicone baking molds, or old (thoroughly washed and dried) plastic egg cartons. You can even use a parchment-lined baking dish if you are willing to hack the resultant rectangle of garlic into more bite-size chunks.
Freeze Those Cubes
Fill your container of choice with the garlic-oil mixture. Make sure you seal your container tightly. If your container doesn’t come with a tight-fitting lid, wrap the container with plastic wrap. If you don’t lid that garlic up, everything in your fridge and freezer will turn vaguely garlicky.
I will not be held responsible for garlic-suffused Chunky Monkey.
Transfer To A Freezer Bag For Long Term Storage
When the garlic cubes are fully frozen, pop them out of the freezer tray and transfer them to a heavy duty freezer bag or a wide mouthed, freezer safe jar for long term storage.
Silicone trays, like these Ball herb trays, make it easy to pop the individual cubes out, but they aren’t necessary.
Garlic in oil cubes like these will last in the freezer for 6 to 12 months, easy – long enough to bridge the gap between one year’s fresh garlic harvest and the next.
This is a tutorial for freezing garlic in oil. There’s a reason for that. Items that are grown in contact with dirt (like garlic) are excellent hosts for C. botulinum spores. By surrounding the garlic with oil, we create a low acid, oxygen free environment.
When C. botulinum spores find themselves in a low acid, moderate temperature, oxygen free environment, they happily “reanimate” into the active form that can cause the botulism toxin.
So, garlic in olive oil is a botulism risk. Botulism is no freaking joke, and several botulism outbreaks have been linked to garlic infused oils left at room temperature. (Source)
Do yourself and your ability to breathe a favor, ok? Keep this stuff frozen until you are ready to use it, and don’t leave it sitting out at room temperature for hours on end. A frozen cube of minced garlic in oil thaws rapidly, or you can take a cube directly from freezer to saute pan.
“But what about refrigeration!?” you ask? An excellent questions! Here’re the facts:
There is at least one known strain of botulism toxin* (Type E, thanks for asking) that can grow in normal fridge temps as low as 38ºF. Not really surprisingly, this strain is found primarily in sediment of oceans and lakes (they’re cold!), and the highest risk foods for contamination by this strain are seafoods. (Source)
The strains of botulism toxin more associated with soil-borne spores – Types A and B – require a temperature of 50-122ºF for optimum growth. (Source)
Safety guidelines for fresh, non-acidified garlic-in-oil preparations allow for such products to be stored at refrigerator temperatures of 40ºF or below for 2-3 days. (Source)
This is all very interesting from a theoretical perspective if you are a food safety nerd like me, but what does it mean?!
It means, to be absolutely safe you should keep your garlic-in-olive-oil mixtures frozen until use. I don’t want anyone to run around panicking here; you will not get botulism by allowing these oil cubes to sit out for ten minutes to thaw. But, don’t be foolhearty, either. If you leave a garlic-in-oil preparation at room temperature for more than 2 hours, discard it.