This summer I had a bumper crop of garlic in my garden. I hang and dry most of it for later use throughout the fall and winter, but I always have smaller heads, or compromised cloves that need to be used or processed immediately.
The best way to preserve garlic for convenience and safety is to “confit” it. The term “Confit” comes from the French word confire, which means “to preserve.” Foods are slowly cooked in fat for long periods to preserve them. Duck confit is the most common French food that this technique is used for since ducks contain a great deal of fat. This preservation technique of cooking duck legs in their own fat yields not only a food product that keeps for long periods of time but it is also delicious. We can use a similar technique for garlic.
The process of preserving garlic is very simple. Peel the garlic cloves, removing all of the outer skin and the root end of the clove. Place the cloves in a small sauce pot and cover with oil. I like to use olive oil for this, but any oil will work. Place the pot on a very slow burner (I often use a diffuser for this) and gently simmer for an hour. The goal is to cook the garlic until soft, but not to brown it. The finished product is similar to roasted garlic in flavor, but is much simpler to produce and use. Cool the confit and pour the garlic and oil into a jar to keep in the refrigerator.
Storage: the garlic confit will keep a few weeks in the refrigerator, but for longer storage it should be kept in the freezer. Remember that oil does not freeze solid, so it is best to store it in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
Garlic and Botulism: Moisture, warm temperature, lack of oxygen, and low-acid conditions all favor the growth of botulinum spores, which garlic is a potent carrier of. In an anaerobic environment (such as oil) garlic can produce botulism quickly. For sous vide cooking, it is best to only use cooked garlic (250-degrees F. kills the spores) and I have found that this method is the most efficient way to prepare and keep garlic.
Uses: Garlic confit can be used anywhere you would use fresh garlic like pasta dishes, dips such as hummus, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, etc. Another great use for it is compound butters. Above is an example of a compound butter where ingredients such as garlic and herbs are added to soft unsalted butter to create a last minute sauce or to enhance a dish or sauce at the end. See my blog about compound butters.
When you make garlic confit you not only end up with the confit garlic cloves, but the by-product is an amazing garlic flavored oil that can be used as a dip for bread, spread on garlic bread, or in dressings and vinaigrettes.
Garlic ConfitDifficulty: Easy
2 heads of fresh garlic
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Separate, peel and remove the root end of the garlic cloves.
- Place the garlic in a small sauce pot and cover with the oil.
- Place on a very slow burner and gently simmer for 1 hour. It may be necessary to use a diffuser or to move the pot mostly off the burner to maintain a slow simmer. You want to slowly and gently cook the garlic without browning it too much.
- Remove the pot from the stove and cool. Store the confit garlic in a glass jar with the oil for up to 2 weeks. Can be frozen for extended storage life.