Black garlic, a new staple of modern cooking, is produced by heating fresh garlic bulbs in particular conditions, over weeks, until caramelised or “browned”. The slow, moist, heating process slowly softens and blackens the garlic, producing a lingering sweetness as well as a distinct umami flavour – think liquorice, porcini mushroom or aged balsamic vinegar.
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Who invented this way of processing and preserving garlic? Many attribute the creation of the technique to South Koreans though the Friend & Burrell team wonders if it might’ve been employed in various ancient communities across the world. The health benefits of black garlic seem timeless – loads of antioxidants, vitamins and other good things. Then there’s the flavour.
Some adventurous chefs in kitchens visited by Friend & Burrell are having a go at producing black garlic – with dehydrators or other slow-heating equipment. Not every attempt is successful! The trick is in maintaining a certain hydration level with consequent flavour and texture balance (not too bitter, not too sweet, not too chewy). Their efforts may reflect the curiosity of young chefs, the availability of newer technologies as well as a wish to enjoy excellent local garlic throughout the year (from Gippsland in Victoria for example).
What’s clear is that black garlic is now an ingredient prioritised by chefs, cooks and eaters across the globe. Described by the New York Times in 2008 as the “new staple” of modern cooking, black garlic is now found in many professional and home kitchens. Browsing menus of eateries across the world indicates the extensive appreciation of black garlic – including at Movida, IDES, Syracuse, Amaru, Movida and Anada in Melbourne.
Appreciation of the versatility of black garlic is growing: it can be used in many ways – add it to marinades, slice thinly (as you would black truffles) over salads or seafood, include in any pasta dish, add to bruschetta or roast chicken, and even in desserts.