Testing the Flavour of Garlic Varieties
Henry and I love testing new garlics to discover what their basic characteristics
are and then to see what dishes do best with which garlic varieties.
Our all time favourite quick meal is spaghetti with garlic and oil.
It is a natural for seeing how a garlic tastes cooked. We don’t
much enjoy eating garlic straight and so I developed the dipping sauce
for comparing raw garlics.
In testing new varieties of garlic we like to try them raw and cooked.
The following two recipes are suitable for testing garlic varieties
because they highlight the garlic flavour and don't confuse the palate
with too many other flavours.
Testing Raw Garlic
Garlic Dipping Sauce
When we are having a tasting session I make a generous amount of one of the
basic sauces. Then the only differences in flavour are from the differences
in the varieties of garlic. The proportions of yogurt and mayonnaise or cream cheese
may be varied. In basic sauce 1 cut back the vinegar if more yogurt is used.
Basic sauce 1
For basic sauce 1 combine:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Basic sauce 2
For the basic sauce 2 combine:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup soft cream cheese
Divide the base into as many dishes as you have garlic varieties you
want to compare. To each dish add enough crushed garlic of one variety
to get a good but not overpowering garlic taste and label the dish with
the variety name.
Dip raw or steamed veggies in the sauces. Tender crisp steamed broccoli
is especially delicious served this way.
Testing Cooked Garlic
Pasta with Garlic and Oil
This is one of the easiest and tastiest dishes imaginable and a wonderful
way to experience the pure flavour of a new garlic variety. If you are
comparing several varieties of garlic, cook each variety separately
and toss with a portion of the pasta.
Slice garlic into thin, even slices - about three large cloves per
person. Add enough good olive oil to almost cover the garlic. Sauté
over medium heat until they begin to colour. Pour over freshly cooked
spaghetti or noodles, toss and serve.
Variations to try once you have made your initial assessment of the
- Add dried chilies to the oil along with the garlic.
- Add a handful of fresh chopped herbs to the pasta and garlic as
you toss it.
How much garlic?
Most recipes call for a certain number of cloves of garlic. This is
not really helpful because:
- cloves vary in size by more than a factor of ten
- garlic varieties vary greatly in strength
- people’s taste for garlic varies as much as the cloves do
|Tip - Why the Flavour
of Garlic Changes with Time - Allicin and the Chemistry of Garlic
Allicin is the potent antimicrobial (substance that kills bacteria
and other pathogens) that is formed when you crush garlic. Allicin
is also responsible for the fresh clean smell of newly crushed garlic.
Garlic does not contain allicin. It contains the precursor, alliin
and the enzyme allinase in different cells. When garlic is crushed
the two come together in a moist environment to form allicin. Allicin
in turn breaks down over a period of days.
Cooked or Raw?
Raw garlic can pack a punch, and that is what many garlic lovers are
looking for. It is used extensively in dips and dressings for raw and
cooked vegetables, and in specialty dishes like pesto, hummus and gazpacho.
If you are preparing food for people who may not be garlic lovers, go
gently with the raw garlic.
Cooking quiets garlic down. Boiling garlic turns the lion into a lamb.
Frying garlic transforms the flavour exquisitely, and transfers it to
the oil. How much garlic to use is the cook’s aesthetic choice.
So you use your judgment and experiment. With raw garlic start cautiously
and add more to taste. Cooked garlic is more forgiving and so you can
start with a little or a lot.
|Tip - Choosing a
Most of the common cooking oils - canola, soybean and corn - have
a very high probability of containing genetically modified ingredients.
Olive trees and sunflowers have not yet been tampered with and so
olive oil and sunflower seed oil are good choices. I use olive oil
when I want to enjoy its flavour and sunflower seed oil when I do
not want the flavour of the oil to intrude on the other flavours.
Here is a classic recipe for a garlic salad dressing that goes well
with a wide variety of salads.
1/4 cup pure apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
one or more cloves of garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced
Shake the first four ingredients together and taste. There should be
a nice balance with no one ingredient dominating. Adjust if necessary,
and then add the garlic.
Choose a garlic that you like the taste of raw. Spanish Roja is one
of my favourites; it is milder and more subtle than many of the others.
For some people the hotter the better. For them I might choose Leningrad,
which is very pungent. When I have time to let the dressing sit for
an hour or so I slice the garlic thinly and let it marinate. The flavour
of this dressing changes over time and so I prefer to make it up fresh
When I was testing the recipe for exact quantities I used extra virgin
olive oil. I used my garlic press for instant flavour and squished in
one large clove of Puslinch. The vinaigrette was so delicious that my
husband and I sat down and demolished a plain bowl of iceberg lettuce
with this dressing.