Step-by-step instructions showing you exactly how you can make black garlic (an Asian delicacy) in a food dehydrator.
We grow and eat an obscene amount of hardneck garlic. How much? Well, we’ve singlehandedly killed eleven vampires over the past year with our garlic breath.
Hardneck garlic, softneck garlic?
If you’re curious about the differences between softneck and hardneck garlic or you want to find out how to grow your own heirloom hardneck garlic using organic methods, be sure to check out our article: A love story: why and how to grow hardneck garlic.
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Mmm! Heirloom hardneck garlic is cured and ready for the kitchen. Some of these bulbs will be saved and used for seed garlic this fall. Pretty cool to know that all of these varieties came to the US via USDA scientists from the Caucasus Mountains when the USSR was collapsing. They don’t tend to store as long as softneck garlic but we love the taste and size of hardneck varieties. #heirloomgarlic #hardneckgarlic #organicgardening
We thought we’d explored pretty much every way to eat cooked and raw garlic over the years. Nope.
There’s always something new to try or create with pretty much anything you grow in your garden. We realized this, again, when we first heard about “black garlic” earlier this year.
What is black garlic?
Black garlic is garlic aged under specific temperature and moisture levels which transforms its color, taste, and chemical composition. Black garlic can be made using softneck or hardneck garlic.
While black garlic does not utilize a true, classic fermentation process (it’s a very slow Maillard reaction), our guess is that there are beneficial bacteria cultivated in/on black garlic that could classify it as a probiotic food. (If nothing else, black garlic’s fiber content would still make it a prebiotic.)
What does black garlic taste like?
If you were blindfolded and subjected to a black garlic taste test, you’d never suspect you were eating pure garlic. That’s because black garlic tastes sweet, slightly tangy, and savory with zero garlic flavor – like a combination of sweet tamarind and balsamic vinegar.
Black garlic’s lack of the characteristic harsh garlic flavor you’re accustomed to is due to the break down of allicin that takes place when making black garlic. Warning: due to this change in flavor, black garlic will NOT repel or kill vampires, so you’ll be completely defenseless.
Also, rather than the crunch of raw garlic, black garlic has a soft and gooey consistency.
Where did black garlic originate?
Black garlic is not a US invention or even a new invention, although it’s now becoming all the rage in high-end US restaurants.
Black garlic’s exact origin point and date are unknown, but it has been used for centuries in Asian countries — namely South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.
Outside of its culinary value, does black garlic have medicinal value?
Recent research studies on the medicinal benefits of black garlic show that it has the following health benefits:
- strong antioxidant activity,
- suppression of allergic response/antiallergenic,
- antidiabetic and promotion of weight loss (specifically hyperlipidermia),
- anti-inflammation, and
- anticarcinogenic effects (specifically with leukemia cells).
It’s always nice when something you love eating also has proven medicinal benefits!
How to make black garlic in a food dehydrator
Black garlic is typically made in a rice cooker or slow cooker, which is a pretty simple process… Set cooker to warm and come back in 2-3 weeks.
Our problem: we don’t have a slow cooker or rice cooker. Ugh.
However, given all the produce that we need to dry throughout the year — from acorn flour to dried tomatoes — we do have a 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator. This baby may well be our most treasured possession given the value it adds to our lives.
The next problem: we couldn’t find anything online about how to make black garlic in a food dehydrator. That meant we’d have to risk ruining our precious homegrown hardneck garlic if we wanted to have a go at it. (Better us than you, you might be thinking.)
Well, we’re happy to report that we have now successfully made black garlic in our Excalibur dehydrator!
And we’ve also learned from some of our initial mistakes…
Four things you need to know before making black garlic in your dehydrator:
1. Ideal temperature range
Yes, researchers have evaluated the best temperature ranges to make black garlic for ideal flavor and texture. Unfortunately, we found this out AFTER our first trial run making black garlic:
“… the aging period of garlic is shorter at higher temperatures . In the case of aging process at 70°C, the speed of aging is two-fold faster than that at 60°C . According to sensory evaluation, the quality of BG is better and its black color is homogeneous between 70°C and 80°C . Even though BG is produced faster at 90°C, it produces nonideal tastes, such as bitter and sour tastes . In the case of aging process at 60°C, the color of garlic was not completely black; thus, 60°C is also not an ideal condition for the aging process.”
Translation for us Fahrenheit users: the ideal temperature range to make black garlic is between 158 – 176°F.
2. Maintaining humidity/moisture levels
Whole bulbs of cured garlic (with their papery skins still on) have ideal moisture levels needed to produce good black garlic. Problem with a dehydrator is that it’s designed to dry foods out, not maintain their moisture levels.
That’s why we placed our garlic cloves into a sealed wide mouth 62 ounce/half gallon canning jar. This allowed the garlic to heat up inside the jar while also trapping moisture inside.
If at any point while making black garlic you have standing water in the bottom of your jar, you’ll want to empty the water out. (This is likely to happen as the garlic begins to transform and release water.)
3. Size and space needed
If you have a smaller dehydrator (ours is a tall 9-rack Excalibur dehydrator) simply use smaller jars than the 1/2 gallon jars we used.
4. Avoiding garlic smell in your house
VERY IMPORTANT: Unless you want your entire house and everything in it to smell like garlic, you’ll want to place your dehydrator outside in a protected spot! We started out with our dehydrator inside and were shocked by how strong the garlic smell was within a day, even though it was in a sealed jar.
We immediately moved our dehydrator into our garage. A covered front/back porch or shed will work fine too.
How to make black garlic in a dehydrator
A simple recipe to make delicious black garlic at home in a dehydrator.
- 10 bulbs fresh garlic or quantity of your choice
Remove any dirt or debris that's stuck to the outside of your garlic bulbs. Do NOT remove the papery husks/peel as this is needed to help the bulbs and cloves maintain ideal moisture levels.
Place whole unpeeled garlic bulbs inside canning jar and screw closed. Place jar(s) inside dehydrator set between 158 - 176°F (70°C and 80°C). Place dehydrator in a well-ventilated, protected outdoor spot (garage, front porch, etc) to avoid an overwhelming garlic smell in your house.
Check garlic weekly or more often as time progresses. If standing water accumulates at the bottom of the jar, pour it out. Your garlic's papery outer skin will begin to turn tan then brown after a couple of weeks. Consider the top garlic bulb in your jar your "test bulb." You can check individual cloves in your test bulb to get a sense of how the batch is progressing. Finished black garlic (3-4 weeks) should be very dark brown/black in color and taste sweet, tangy, and savory (like balsamic vinegar and tamarind).
Once done, you can store your black garlic open on the countertop at room temperature for a week or more, or in a jar in your fridge for several months.
Black turmeric? A failed experiment…
Out of curiosity, we also put a jar of homegrown orange and white turmeric into our dehydrator to see how it would transform under the same conditions that make black garlic. Would we be the first to discover a new delicacy, black turmeric?
Not exactly. As it turned out, our “black turmeric” never turned dark in color, it just faded. It smelled like a wet dog, had the consistency of a rubber tire, and a taste to match. You never know until you try something though!
How do you eat black garlic?
Pop each clove of black garlic out of its paper before eating. Black garlic is great eaten plain as a small appetizer, added to salads, used as a flavoring in dishes, or made into sauces.
Now you have yet another way to enjoy eating delicious and healthy garlic, although black garlic tastes nothing like regular garlic.
Other garlic articles to spice up your life:
- A love story: why and how to grow hardneck garlic
- Recipe: green garlic/garlic scape pesto
- Recipe: garlic aioli (garlic mayo)