Yotam Ottolenghi isn't the only chef with black garlic, the “new staple” of modern cooking, in his pantry. Black garlic is now a staple ingredient in many professional and home kitchens.
F&B supplies two kinds of black garlic produced by Australian producers. The multi-clove Tolga Estate is 100% Australian premium black garlic, produced by a secret process handed down through several generations from the best, naturally-ripened garlic bulbs to ensure consistently intense and complex flavours. The single clove Bredbo black garlic is produced using hard necked garlic. Nothing is added to the garlic. It is "fermented" under strictly controlled conditions including temperature, humidity and time. The result is such that the individual garlic cloves change to a black colour - a little like a black jelly bean in appearance and texture. The flavour is no longer resembles original raw garlic but tastes more like a fusion of flavours similar to a combination of molasses, balsamic vinegar and liquorice.
All black garlic has its own distinctive characteristics, 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.
"Rarely does a truly novel ingredient come along, so when aged black garlic recently hit the scene, chefs took notice. Heads of garlic undergo a monthlong fermentation, and the fiery white cloves transform into dark, sweet nuggets with the consistency of jelly and a taste of the earth (umami comes immediately to mind). Bruce Hill of Bix Restaurant in San Francisco, who says the garlic possesses distinct notes of balsamic vinegar, incorporates it into dishes ranging from roast chicken to grilled calamari with fregola and black garlic aioli. Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., is experimenting with ways to ferment his own sweet Italian garlic." (New York Times).
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 their own 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.