UPDATE 9/3/12: I just updated this recipe for true anaerobic fermentation. You can find the newly updated recipe here.
UPDATE 7/26/12: I no longer use whey as a starter for my ferments (learn why here). I also no longer use Mason jars for my ferments (learn why here). I use Fidos and Pickl-Its exclusively and the improvement in the taste and texture of my ferments is unbelievable! I encourage everyone to take a look at the information regarding Mason jar ferments and come to a decision that best fits their family. I will be releasing updated versions of these recipes soon, as it applies to the Fido and Pickl-It jars.
Welcome to the very first edition of 2012′s 52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria! This week, we’re enjoying pickled garlic. I love garlic and eat as much as I possibly can, but I’ve never had it pickled. I’m really excited to try it on some crusty buttered bread or in homemade ranch dressing for an extra probiotic kick. Since the fermentation process helps mellow the flavor of the garlic, it will be easy to eat alone, though I’m sure people around me would prefer I didn’t.
This garlic is full of enzymes and probiotics after its fermentation. The primary bacteria in lacto-fermented foods is lactobacilli, which helps increase digestibility and nutrient absorption. The byproduct of the fermentation process is lactic acid, which help act as a preservative of the food, as well as helps the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the gut.
A Look at Garlic’s Nutrition
Garlic is an amazing food. It has all sorts of health benefits and should be a regular addition to any diet. It is in the same family as onions and works best if you let it sit after prepping it. To obtain the most from your garlic, after you chop or crush it, let it sit for a little while before cooking or adding it to other ingredients. This allows the alliinase enzymes to activate and be more available for absorption. Garlic, like most foods, is best if consumed as a food, rather than a supplement for the biggest nutritional bang. One of the most valuable compounds of garlic is called allicin and it only stays good at room temperature for less than 16 hours after being extracted, however, if it’s left in its whole food state, then it stays viable for much longer.
Research has shown that garlic can help improve your iron metabolism because of the diallyl sulfides that help increase production of a protein called ferroportin. Ferroportin is a protein that runs across the cell membrane, and forms a passageway that allows stored iron to leave the cells and become available when it is needed.
Garlic is also high in selenium, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and tryptophan. The sulphur compounds in garlic help with cardiovascular health by helping our blood vessels expand and keep our blood pressure in a safe range. Studies have shown that garlic extracts cannot be used by our red blood cells the same way that whole garlic can. Just another example that our medicine should come from our food. In addition to all of the goodness above, garlic also has antiviral properties.
If you want to use garlic for medicinal purposes, it is recommended to eat at least 1/2 clove with your food portion. If you are going to cook with it, then you need to add 2-3 cloves and you should add that at the end of the cooking process so the nutrients are retained.
Probiotic Tip of the Week
Depending on the current state of your gut’s flora, you may want to gradually introduce fermented/cultured products to your diet. Introducing too many new bacteria too quickly can cause intestinal discomfort as the bad bacteria die off and the good bacteria take up residence. Because of this change, you might experience some gas, bloating, and sometimes diarrhea if you “overdose” with good bacteria. That said, most people don’t experience any issues, so just do what you feel is best for your body. If you do notice some discomfort, just reduce your “dosage” and slowly ramp it up again over a few days time.
Pickled Garlic Recipe
based on Nourishing Tradition’s recipe, pg. 96
5-6 large heads of garlic
1 tbsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. whey
Place the whole garlic heads on a sheet pan and roast the garlic in the oven at as low of a heat as you can go. My oven’s lowest heat is about 175-200 degrees. Roast for 45-60 minutes. The skins should be peel right off, but the garlic should still be firm. You don’t want to cook the garlic, in order to preserve as many of the nutritional compounds as possible.
NOTE: The only reason you heat the cloves is to get the skins to loosen up so they’re easier to peel. I would recommend bypassing the heat and try this trick. It really works, and it keeps the garlic raw, preserving the nutrients.
Remove from the oven and let the cloves cool for 10-15 minutes. The next part is a bit tedious. You have to peel each clove of garlic. I grabbed a bowl, my quart mason jar, and the garlic and took them to the living room and watched an episode of Burn Notice while I peeled them. Even with the skins slipping off, it still took me about 45 minutes to peel 6 heads of garlic. If there’s an easier way, I’d love to know about it!
Once you have the garlic peeled, place all of the cloves in a clean quart mason jar. In a separate cup, dissolve the salt into 2 cups of filtered water. Add the whey, as long as the water is room temperature and not hot (otherwise it will kill the bacteria). Pour this mixture over the garlic cloves. If the mixture doesn’t cover the cloves by about an inch, just add more water until it does. You want the garlic to be about an inch below the liquid and you want the liquid to be about an inch below the top of the jar. Shake everything around to mix and cover tightly with a lid. Leave at room temperature for 8-10 days (I stored mine on the bookshelf I have in the kitchen). After the 10 days, move to cold storage. During the fermentation process, I didn’t open the jar until day 7. At that point, I was excited to see what it smelled like. It smelled like wonderfully fragrant garlic. No “pickled” smell, just a pleasant fresh garlic smell. I decided to leave it out for 3 more days before I moved it to cold storage.
Pickled garlic will keep for at 6 months to a year, if not longer. Want to know what you can do with your garlic now? Check out this post.
Note: If your garlic turns blue or green, don’t be alarmed! The color change happens when the anthocyanins and/or the sulfur compounds react with the acidity or minerals in the water. Many times, it’s the reaction of the garlic to copper in the water. It is still totally edible and won’t hurt you.
Stay tuned for next week’s fermented food. Remember, I’ll be featuring a different fermented or cultured food every single week in 2012! I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments, ideas, etc. If you’re not already, make sure you sign up for email updates so you never miss a new post. Also, sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive even more info! If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, join me there!
Delicious Obsessions was founded by Jessica Espinoza in 2010. Jessica is passionate about real and traditional foods, nutrition, health, wellness, food politics, natural living, yoga, and more. She creates fast and easy real food recipes, and helps people see how to eat nourishing food, without breaking the bank. Her motto is “baby steps” — making small, lasting changes, one at a time, is the best way to ensure long-term success.
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