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Pickled Garlic

December 10, 2010

Since I posted lately (here and here) about my desire that my fermented veggies contain a hint of garlic, I thought it might be fitting to make pickled garlic the next experiment in my Urban Fermentation Project. Boy, am I ever glad I did!!

By far, this is the most delicious (and perhaps the most versatile) fermented goodie I have made to date.

This jar was full, originally...

It really is that yummy. And I have a few ideas for future brews, too.

It all started with a dozen heads of garlic. I used organic garlic, so the project wasn’t cheap to set up (at least not in comparison to cabbage for sauerkraut!!). 12 heads of organic garlic ran me $14 where I am. Guess who’s planning to grow some next year in planters on the patio?

I mixed the garlic with sea salt, whey and oregano, and left it on the counter for three days. The recipe in Nourishing Traditions suggested placing the heads of garlic in the oven until they popped open, to make removing the skins easier. It did make that process easier, and it also imparted a lovely roasted taste and creamy texture to the finished product. Next time I will try leaving the cloves completely raw, just to experiment with the different possible tastes, but I’m very pleased by the way this brew turned out. I may also try different spices next time. I am imagining that a hot-pepper garlic brew would be incredibly delicious too.

Word to the wise: don’t use powdered oregano. I didn’t even know that powdered oregano existed, but it does, and when I added it accidentally to my salt/whey mixture, I knew immediately that it would be best to start over. Who wants their picked garlic sitting in a liquid that looks like green slime? Not me. The flecks of regular dried oregano are quite pleasant-looking in the jar, and the visuals of this project are important to me. Maybe when I’m less of a newbie it will be all about taste, and I won’t care how the jar looks, but for now the fact that it looks appetizing matters too :) I promised I’d be honest, right??

Now on to the official review!!

Experiment Wrap-Up:

Rating: Two Thumbs-Up!!!

Simplicity: 2.5 (It’s a lot of garlic. It didn’t take too long to get it all ready, but it wasn’t as simple as, say, the marmalade in terms of set-up).

(1 being “a monkey could do it”; 5 being challenging)

Notes on Taste: Yum. Taste and texture are very pleasing. So far, we have mashed this and whipped it into a fresh salad dressing (of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper), and eaten it on the side of hard-boiled eggs, but I feel that the possibilities are endless here as a garlic lover. Here are a few ideas bouncing around in my head: whipped at the last minute into slightly cooled mashed potatoes, as a component in fresh homemade salsa or guacamole, whipped into butter for an herb garlic butter, in a homemade caesar salad dressing, in an aioli for dipping raw vegetables, in pesto, and as a vampire deterrent. That last one wasn’t my idea. In a previous post, I mentioned the help of a nicely muscled friend in setting up my kraut. That friend happens to be my husband, who seems to have endless ideas for the possible uses of this brew. He also notes rather emphatically that this garlic is great for eating just as it is, right out of the jar, when you’re walking by the fridge :)

Questions/Hesitations: None, really! If you haven’t fermented anything before, I would even go so far as to recommend that you start with this. It is easier to set up than sauerkraut, and its deliciousness makes it so versatile. If I had to come up with one hesitation, I would say that maybe, just maybe, your office colleagues might not appreciate all the garlic you might start consuming in your lunches if you make this…consider yourself warned :)

Anyone have any other ideas for this potent brew? Any fellow garlic lovers interested in giving this a try?

This post is submitted to Fight Back Friday, Monday Mania, and Real Food Wednesday!

30 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2010 8:35 am

    I so want to try this! I love garlic and am juuuuuust starting to ferment. Well, I am not fermenting myself, I am fermenting foods. This does seem like a good newbie one to try. What does it taste like? Just like garlic or something more?

    • December 10, 2010 8:43 am

      Hahaha! :) It just tastes like strong roasted garlic. I’m not sure how long I left the heads in the oven to get the roasted garlic flavour, but I do remember that we could smell the aroma of roasting garlic before we took them out. The oregano maybe imparts a slight flavour, but very mild, and it’s nice. I highly recommend trying this as one of your first brews. I found it really easy to set up, and also easy because the water line stayed put, so I had no worries about making sure the garlic stayed submerged in the liquid (some cloves did float and that was not a problem). Hope you enjoy, and be sure to stop by and leave a comment if you do make it, so we can hear your review too!!

  2. Barbara Grant permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:38 am

    I have fermented garlic a couple of times, but I only used salt brine. I probably let it sit on the counter about three week. I just kept checking to taste until it was as sour as I wanted it. Sometimes I had to skim off the kahm yeast that formed on top. The garlic kept for at least a year in the fridge. The brine is good in salad dressings.

    • December 13, 2010 12:59 pm

      Thanks Barbara – I didn’t even begin to think about uses for the brine itself! Yum.

    • Christina permalink
      December 14, 2010 1:16 am

      Barbara… may I ask what ratios you used for your salt-only brine? I don’t typically have whey and like to do things with just salt. I make my kraut w/o whey also. I have been wanting to pickle garlic for a long time. I have access to an Asian market that sells already-peeled cloves in the produce section in packages that weigh several pounds! It would be so easy for me!

  3. December 13, 2010 12:55 pm

    If you soak the garlic cloves in warm water for a few minutes, it makes it a lot easier to get the skin off.

    • December 13, 2010 12:58 pm

      Thanks, Alix! If I try the recipe with raw cloves next time, I’ll be sure to use that tip! :)


  4. Adrienne permalink
    December 13, 2010 1:04 pm

    This sounds yummy! I’m new to fermenting foods (I actually FINALLY took a class last week…so I’m extra pumped about it!…and just made Piima!). I love garlic and use lots of it! I’ll have to give this a try!

    And a note on growing it…I’m not sure where you live, but here in Wisconsin, we have to plant it in the fall to harvest it the next summer. But, maybe if you buy a few plants already started at a local garden center, they will have already done that for you! :)

    • December 13, 2010 1:09 pm

      Hi Adrienne,

      Very cool! How do you like the Piima?

      You’re right – I missed the boat for fall planting, so we’ll have to transplant from nursery stock in the Spring. I think it will still be more cost effective (and fun!). Hopefully the following year I can be more organized!!

      If you do make this, be sure to stop by and let us know how it worked out for you! :)


      • Adrienne permalink
        December 13, 2010 1:26 pm

        I love the Piima. To me, it tastes a lot like sour cream….just a little bit thicker, and a tiny bit more on the sour side. I love that it’s easy to make, and can be endless! I am going to try to turn it into butter (as the instructor of the class told me I could…I do make my own butter, but it’s not cultured). I’m excited to see how that tastes!

        I did have a hard time getting over the mental hump of leaving the cream out on the counter for 24 hours…that was not easy to do! But, I didn’t die! haha! :)

  5. December 13, 2010 2:24 pm

    Wow, that will be some amazing butter!!

    Haha – yes, I remember the first time I left dairy on the counter overnight – I was sure I had gone nuts :)

  6. joyce permalink
    December 13, 2010 11:22 pm

    I have made pickled garlic in the past with vinegar to be used for medicinal purposes; if you have a cold or flu, just eat about dozen or so cloves and it really helps shorten the length of the illness. I am new to all this; have made beet kvass, pickled turnips and few other lactofermented foods, but still don’t really understand the difference between lacto-fermentation and using raw apple cider vinegar. Can someone please explain? thanks, Joyce

    • Emilee permalink
      December 14, 2010 2:06 am

      Joyce I believe using vinegar is considered pickling, it just keeps the product safe from deteriorating. But lacto fermenting creates probiotics (cultures) it’s “living” food. I could be wrong but that’s my take.

      • December 14, 2010 6:06 am

        Hi Emilee,

        That’s my understanding too. I was under the impression that fermentation is a method of “pickling” but maybe that’s not correct. In any case, we call these things “pickled” here at home, mostly out of habit, I guess! I love that these easy methods create “living” foods!!

        Thanks for stopping by,

    • December 14, 2010 5:56 am

      Hi Joyce,

      I’m no expert (self-professed newbie all the way!), and I’ve never done any preservation with raw vinegar, BUT here is something I found in Nourishing Traditions:

      “Of all the organic acids, lactic acid is the one that best inhibits the proliferation of bacteria that cause putrefaction, but it does not bring about in the body the over-acidifying action of certain other acids…While other products of the fermentation process, like alcohol and acetic acid, must be decomposed and eliminated, lactic acid can in large part be used by the body[emphasis added].”

      A full article on the benefits of fermentation by way of lactic acid can be found here. I also found a bit of a discussion on the topic here. Hoping this helps a bit!

      Perhaps someone else will chime in with some wisdom here…. :)


  7. Christina permalink
    December 14, 2010 1:17 am

    Thanks for the article! I’ll share it on Facebook. Been wanting to try this forever! I’m trying hard to incorporate fermented foods back into my life!

    • December 14, 2010 5:59 am

      Hi Christina,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing!! I’m happy to have company on this fermentation journey :) Access to already-peeled cloves, eh? I might need to make my way to an Asian grocer in my area and look into that too!!


  8. joyce permalink
    December 14, 2010 6:34 pm

    Hi Shannon, thanks, very interesting. Vinegar is actually acetic acid–I know that from analyzing ingredients in cleaning products! Nourishing Traditions is such a big book; I am slowing “wading” through it, LOL!


    • December 14, 2010 6:36 pm

      Hi Joyce,

      I (sort of) remember that from high school chemistry! ;) Isn’t NT enormous? You could sit down and never stop reading all the interesting side bars.

      Thanks again for stopping by,


      • December 14, 2010 10:12 pm

        Hi Joyce,

        I found a better explanation of this issue. It comes from “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz (I love his book and am using it for many of the experiments on this blog):

        “Pickling food in vinegar is not a fermentation process. In brine pickling…vegetables are preserved by lactic acid, which is produced by the action of microorganisms on the vegetables. Vinegar pickling makes use of a fermented product, vinegar, but the acidity of the vinegar prevents microorganism action. Vinegar pickles contain no live cultures. Indeed, the great advantage that vinegar pickling has over lacto-fermentation pickling is that vinegar pickles will last forever (well, almost), while brined pickles will last for weeks or months, but rarely years, and definitely not forever.”

        Very interesting. This also confirms that the lingo “pickling” is OK to apply to lacto-fermentation as we were discussing above :) (Mr. Katz would definitely know!)


  9. joyce permalink
    December 14, 2010 10:32 pm

    Thanks Shannon, I bought that book on Amazon a few days ago, but haven’t had a chance to really look at it yet. (I’m one of those people who needs to have a large stack of reading material available or else I’m afraid I’m going to run out of books to read and then I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, LOL!) Hopefully I can get a chance to read it while my kids are on winter break.


  10. December 24, 2010 9:34 am

    Sounds amazing! I have never heard of fermenting garlic, but as a fellow garlic-lover, I am on board!

  11. Naomi permalink
    January 10, 2011 7:29 am

    My first time fermenting garlic was very scary. I had some lovely ones that were super fresh and firm, and I followed NT’s recipe except for omitting the oregano. I made a quart of them. The garlic turned a beautiful shade of green! I was so afraid of eating them, but after asking about this on the Yahoo group, Discussing NT, I learned that many times the garlic can turn green, especially if they are super fresh garlic as mine were. They eventually lost their green color and returned to the normal white, but you are right, they are wonderful to have available. That was the only time I’ve fermented garlic, but I am inspired now to make them again.

  12. Brooke permalink
    March 6, 2011 8:13 pm

    Would you share the recipes amounts please?
    How many tablespoons of whey?
    How much salt?

    • March 7, 2011 8:12 pm

      Hi Brooke,

      No problem – the recipe called for 12 heads of garlic, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 tsp. sea salt, and 2 Tbsp. whey (or an extra 2 tsp. of salt if you omit the whey). Hope this helps!!

      Shannon :)

  13. Rebecca permalink
    May 14, 2012 6:27 pm

    I am super new to all this fermenting thing and tried the fermented garlic (with whey). . . it’s still in my fridge but i’m worried to try it. . the liquid it’s in is kind of slimy. . is this normal? i left on the counter for a 13 days (i forgot about it . . oops!) and then immediately stuck it in the fridge when i remembered too. it doesn’t smell super weird, just very garlicky. . just put off by the texture of the the liquid it is in.

    • May 14, 2012 7:12 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      Hmmm. I’m not sure why the liquid would be slimy. Ours was like pickle water – cloudy and briny, but not slimy – very thin and watery. I’d be turned off too! We used the brine water for things like salad dressings, too, so it was an important part of the brew for us. I’m not sure what to advise – perhaps one of the more seasoned fermentation gurus out there would have something to say – have you checked the archives of blogs like Nourished Kitchen?? I know she teaches a course on fermentation so maybe you could pose the question to readers there, or search her archives for the word ‘slimy’ and see what turns up?? Sorry I don’t have the answer. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!


  14. Amanda permalink
    May 19, 2012 10:51 am

    Hi Shannon, I make a lot of labne which is home made yogurt hung in a cloth to remove the whey and came across your blog while looking for uses for the whey. I usually just mix it with garlic and dried mint and salt. So Last night I made my first batch of fermented garlic. I used kosher salt though, read your post about iodine and panicked until I researched a little: none there: whew! I used mostly whey with maybe 2 tsp salt and filtered water. I made 2 more jars with cauliflower and garlic… how long do I wait to see if it’s working?

    • May 19, 2012 4:21 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      My understanding is that it really depends on your climate. If you are in a warm area (or just a warm kitchen) – you could check as soon as 24 hours (see if there is pressure under the lid when you take it off to check – it makes a pop, and there is some fizzing). Where I am, it definitely takes a few full days on the counter to achieve this. Once it gets to a stage where I can hear the fizzing when I take the lid off, I transfer to the fridge.

      I hope this helps! I think you really just have to play with it.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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