Enjoy my first article in the series: “Newly discovered food” aka. food you need to discover!
So what is black garlic?
Black garlic is basically normal garlic (Allium sativum), heated in its whole bulbs over 3-6 weeks at a temperature of 60°C/140°F. The process going on is the good old Maillard reaction, which converts the sugar and roasts slow and gently the garlic bulbs. This reaction results in cloves of a deep black color. Quite contrary to most people’s belief (and my own!), black garlic is not obtained by fermentation, but rather a sort of caramelization because it does not have microbial involvements. The black color is caused by the formation of melanoidins. They are brown polymers that are formed through the Maillard reaction when sugar and amino acids combine under heat and low water activity. The same substance occurs in food that has undergone non-enzymatic browning such as barley malts, bread crust and coffee. When you think about it, quite a lot of foods contain these melanoidins, so black garlic isn’t a such special thing.
Where does it come from?
According to some websites, garlic has been a popular ingredient in Korea, China and India for 2600 years. The history goes even further and it is contended that garlic has been known in Egypt for more than 5000 years.
Concerning black garlic, an owner of a garlic farm explained that he developed a process for preserving garlic after finding a 4000-year-old Korean recipe for “black garlic”.
As Koreans seem to be the origin of black garlic, we can conclude that it is not something new in the food world but rather a rediscovered ingredient matching with our foodie interests.
So it’s just garlic with black color?
No! It is a whole different thing! When cold, the taste reminds me a lot of garlic, so it might be true at this point. But when you think about it, raw garlic ain’t that awesome either.
So what I’m talking about is when black garlic is processed even further, when it’s warm or even made to ice cream. The taste is sweet and syrupy, has some hints of balsamico or even tamarind. Some people also said they can taste prune-like aromas or liquorice. Chefs will refer to it as Umami, the fifth basic taste.
Through the heating process, the garlic bulbs also change their consistency. Their texture is rubbery and soft, almost sludgy.
Any good combination possibilities?
When discovering something new, I always think of the possible combinations. What can I combine this with? What texture can I reach through a special procedure?
Whilst pastry chefs such as Katy Peetz contrast black garlic and other ingredients like fennel, creating caramelized fennel and black garlic gelato, most of the chefs and amateur will add it to dishes to enhance their Umami taste. The most common matching ingredients are chicken and duck but also citrus, anchovies or parsley.
Despite of the nice color and different taste, what do I get more?
Well, the first thing garlic lovers will say is that there’s almost no bad breath after eating black garlic. In Korea, it is perceived as a health supplementary product. It is priced as rich in antioxidants and, according to scientists, even reduces tissue lead level in rats. The list of health benefits goes on with keywords such as “antidepressant”, “cures colds”, “cures piles”, “arthritis” and so on…
What do I need to know more?
Well, to start off, the popularity of black garlic has increased a lot in the United Sates after it has become a fancy ingredient used in gourmet restaurants.
A few years ago, black garlic has started to be unavoidable in Spanish cuisine. Spain has also become the greatest producer of black garlic for the whole European market.
If any of you want to get even more facts, just ask in the comments and I’ll answer ASAP.
I hope you enjoyed!
Sources for sciencing: