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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dehydrating Garlic - make our own spices

Garlic is Awesome.  This is one thing that I use in almost all my savory dishes, and I use lots of it.  I love using fresh garlic, but sometimes I just do not have time to peel it, slice or chop it, and add it to a dish.  Sometimes it is better to have dried garlic powder, or dried minced garlic to add to dishes.  Farmer's Markets here in Michigan are overflowing with fresh garlic, and when you can buy 4 or 5 heads for a dollar, it is easy for someone like me to go a bit overboard with buying the fresh garlic.

The easiest way to deal with all this garlic is to dehydrate it.  I have also pickled it, and preserved it in oil, but dehydrated garlic can be turned into garlic salt, garlic powder and dried minced garlic; all of which can be used in any dish that calls for garlic.

I usually dehydrate garlic when I am dehydrating another food that can be combined with garlic, like potatoes, onions, or beef jerky.  Though many dehydrators say that flavors will not mix, this is not so true with garlic.  You can mix different fruits with no problem, and even most veggies, but garlic is one of those spices that can overpower other foods in a dehydrator.

I usually only do one tray of garlic at a time, because this can become a time consuming project if you were to do a whole 7 trays full.  This batch I did with the potatoes, and I started the potatoes a hour or so earlier, as garlic is much smaller and dries a bit faster.

First I peel all the cloves, rinse them off, and then slice them longways as thin as possible.  The reason I slice them longways is so they do not slip through the trays.  There are herb screens that can be purchased to eliminate this problem, and mine should be here soon, with the new dehydrator.
Fresh Garlic Slices

Once the tray is filled, I let them alone for 10 -12 hours, and then start checking to see if they are done.  The slices should be brittle, and if you bend them, they should snap in half.  Once they are all done, I decide what I need in my spice rack.  I decided to make powdered garlic, and dried minced garlic.

Dried Garlic Chips

For powdered garlic, I use my spice/coffee grinder and set it on fine.  This bowl has half the dried garlic, and you may notice that the garlic has turned a nice honey gold color.  It also smells very fragrant, because even though it is dried, the oils are still retained in the garlic.  Once it is ground down, you may notice that, due to the oils, the powder wants to "stick around" in the grinder.  I just scrape it out with a little wooden spoon from my daughter's kitchen set, and add a little pinch of kosher salt to the spice jar that I scoop it into.
Powdered Garlic - add a pinch of Kosher Salt

The minced garlic is a bit more labor intensive, but it is nice to use in many dishes.  I have a "Mezza Luna" - a moon shaped, double bladed, herb chopper - that I use for mincing the dried garlic.
Mezza Luna and Dried Minced Garlic

The Mezza Luna is great, as it decreases the chances of cutting myself.  Robert picked this up after the last set of stitches I had to get in my hand.  (I have a very bad habit of cutting my fingers).  I just put a small pile of dried garlic chips on the board, and rock the M.L back and forth, while moving in a side walking motion, until the garlic is minced to a nice size.  Again, the garlic, though brittle, will still retain some oils, and will be just a bit sticky.  Just add a pinch of salt to the jar and all will be fine.

  If you add kosher salt to dried garlic chips and use the course grind, and "pulse" the grinder, you can make a decent garlic salt.  Do keep in mind that these garlic spices will be more fragrant and more flavorful that what you buy in the store, and after you make your own spices this way, you may never want to buy the store spices again!

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