There’s nothing like fresh garlic. No, seriously. Maybe some people and all vampires dislike the smell, but there’s something about that aroma of freshly chopped garlic that just makes you confident: This upcoming meal is going to be good and flavorful.
And we’ll admit it: Chopping garlic can be time-consuming. If you don’t have a foolproof chopping method, you could end up hopelessly hacking away at irregularly sized little garlic chunks. But even poorly chopped garlic is better than the alternative: minced garlic from a jar, or, as we like to call it, garlic in purgatory.
This garlic is expensive, oily, and seriously doesn’t know what it wants to be. As human beings, we all have identity issues, but garlic should not: Raw garlic should be sharp, bitter, and aromatic, and frankly, the jarred stuff doesn’t deliver. It may seem easier – no mincing – and it lasts longer, but it lacks flavor.
Compare minced jarred garlic to several other forms, like frozen cubes and pre-peeled cloves, the puree in a jar ranks pretty low. Why? You’ll notice a stale, subdued flavor, and if not for flavor, why else would you eat garlic? Opt for fresh: If mincing is too tricky, you can use some shortcuts along the way. We’ve got you.
A rule of thumb: Garlic tastes different depending on how you slice it. When you mince garlic or chop it into a paste, you’re releasing some very intense flavors.
When you put in the time to freshly mince your garlic, you’re loading your tomato sauce or stir fry with zesty flavor and not bland, slick stuff out of a jar.
That being said, if mincing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of recipes that require garlic in other forms. Roasting whole cloves of garlic provides a sweeter, milder flavor base for roasted chicken or shrimp. Cutting the garlic into thin slices will allow you to heat them into little golden-brown bites of flavor for a pasta dish. When you opt for the jar of pre-minced garlic, you’re limiting your options.
If you really feel nervous about mincing fresh garlic, start by smashing it. Smashing the clove with a wide-blade knife will allow you to peel the clove more easily; it will also start the process of breaking the garlic into little pieces. Once you cut off the ends and peel off the skin, you’re in business. Rock your knife gently into the clove until, quite simply, the pieces are small enough for the “minced” look you’re trying to get.
We won’t lie: that can take some labor-intensive knife work, but here’s a shortcut: if you want a fresh, quick garlic paste for a marinade or an aioli, just throw your peeled cloves into the food processor with some salt. It may feel like cheating, but it works well: since the garlic is freshly pulverized, and not packed away in a jar or tube, you retain that burst of intensity. And, your fingers will hardly get sticky. Of course, everyone has their favorite methods, and we’ll say it: it’s worth the extra effort.
“He used a razor, and he sliced it so thin that it used to liquify in the pan with just a little oil. It was a very good system.”
There’s another reason to reach for the fresh stuff and go through all this work: garlic has long been hailed for its health benefits. The ancient Egyptians who were conscripted to build the pyramids used garlic rations to boost their immune systems and physical strength. And they were absolutely right.
The American Chemical Society explains that garlic is famous for fighting off microbes, thanks to its allicin content, which may also combat blood clots and cancer. In 2008, researchers found that when chopped garlic was stored in water or oil – as is the case with many bottled garlic – the allicin stores decreased drastically, decreasing its antibacterial abilities.
When the garlic was kept in water at room temperature, the amount of allicin was halved within six days. It took less than an hour for vegetable oil to cut the allicin levels in half.
While even the degraded garlic would still potentially yield health benefits, it seems that fresher was better. Bottom line? If you’re looking to reap the benefits of allicin, nothing beats fresh garlic, not even supplements.
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