There are things about getting older and how it changes your relationship with food that are awesome. Some things I didn’t like as a child, I have acquired a love for, like brussels sprouts and beans and yogurt. Some things I loved as a child I no longer crave, like endless spoonfuls of sugar on my cereal and frozen chicken pot pies. These are just a natural progression of your tastes changing, and usually it is for the better. As we get older, we are open to expanding our palates in ways we are not when we are young.
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But some of our food connections change as we get older for physical reasons. As we age, it’s possible for our bodies to change to develop intolerances for certain foods. This can be a legitimate adult-onset food allergy, or it can just be that suddenly foods which never seemed to affect you can now cause upset stomach, bloating, or other discomfort. And for me, it’s garlic. Which is a serious buzzkill for a cook.
Two decades ago I could practically mainline the stuff. Greek skordalia with so much raw garlic it burned the tongue was a favorite appetizer. Garlic bread, pesto, chopped garlic in my vinaigrettes, thin slices in my sautéed spinach—I couldn’t get enough of it.
But now, with 50 in my sights, garlic is no longer my friend. More than a little bit in any cooked recipe or any amount of raw garlic sends me into gastric distress that can last for anywhere from a couple of hours to nearly a full day.
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Through trial and error, I have figured out what I can tolerate. Long-simmered sauces and stews are better than quick sautés. Roasted or confit garlic is OK. Black garlic is fine. And dehydrated products like granulated, powdered and dried garlic are also pretty easy to tolerate. But there are some recipes that just need real garlic to make them work. And for those, my new best friend is frozen grated garlic.
I first tried using the jarred chopped stuff, but the flavor of that is off, due to the preservatives and processing. But then I spotted in my grocery freezer section a frozen product that looked interesting. Simply fresh grated garlic, mixed with a little bit of water, canola oil and salt, it came in a package of little pop-out cubes that were each equal to one clove of fresh garlic. I decided to give it a try.
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While this stuff will never give you the spicy punch of freshly grated raw garlic, it does a terrific job of imparting true and unadulterated garlic flavor in any dish. The best part is that it doesn’t upset my stomach. I’m not a scientist, but I think it might have to do with how the cells in the garlic break down in the freezing process. Frankly, I don’t care why it works, because frozen garlic has brought true garlic flavor back to my cooking without any ill effects. And the bonus is that I also do not ever have to try and get garlic smell off my hands or cutting boards or clean out the little holes of a grater or press!
If your grocery store doesn’t carry frozen garlic (Dorot is my preferred brand), it’s a pretty easy to make. Peel the cloves from two heads of garlic. Put the cloves in your food processor with one tablespoon of water and one of canola oil and a healthy pinch of salt. The water will help the garlic process and freeze, and the salt and oil will help prevent oxidation. Process until you have a smooth paste. Using a teaspoon, place small dollops of the paste about the size of a large clove of garlic about one inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan and place the pan in the freezer for two hours or until frozen solid. Then put the frozen garlic cubes in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer for easy use. One cube is equal to one clove of garlic in a recipe. The cubes take only minutes at room temperature to thaw and can be used as-is for raw applications like pesto or salad dressing or cooked.
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Whether you too have found that garlic isn’t your stomach’s best pal anymore, or if you are cooking for people who need gentler seasoning, or just want to have a freezer back-up in case you find yourself out of the raw stuff, frozen garlic is one cook’s trick that you’ll be happy to know.
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