How to Make Black Garlic in a Crockpot

Black garlic is all the rage. It’s often called “fermented” but the process isn’t actually fermenting. Instead, it’s simply a matter of low slow cooking over a long time. At least 2 weeks, actually. If you like garlic, you owe it to yourself to try this at least once.

Does it taste like roasted garlic, but just take longer? No, no it does not. It almost doesn’t taste like garlic at all, honestly. It’s actually pretty hard to describe. The word “umami” gets thrown around a lot when people talk about black garlic.

Time needed: 14 days and 30 minutes.

How to Make Black Garlic

  1. Get some heads of garlic

    You can use garlic from the grocery store or cooler varieties from farmer’s markets or home-grown. Leave the heads intact. For my large crockpot, I was able to comfortably arrange 9 foil-wrapped heads of garlic in a single layer. You can do multiple layers but it becomes a fussier rotation process if you do.

  2. Wrap each head loosely in foil

    Not so loosely that all the moisture will escape, but not skin-tight either.

  3. Add a slightly crumpled layer of foil to the bottom of the crockpot

    This is just to give the garlic some space so it’s not right against the heat.

  4. Turn the crockpot on to the “Keep Warm” setting

    Turn on the crockpot, and put the lid on.

  5. Wait

    Wait at least 2 weeks. To check the progress without cutting open a head of garlic, you could unwrap one and press gently on the side. If it’s soft and springy, then I would say cut it open and check. Or, wait another few days for good measure.

That’s all there is to it. Once your garlic is pitch-black, you can store the heads of garlic in a paper bag somewhere relatively cool and dry. They last up to 6 months, from what I’ve read. And now that you have this fine dining ingredient, here are some ways to use black garlic in your cooking.

You might read that the process of making black garlic will make your house smell strongly of garlic the whole two weeks, but that was not my experience. The first couple days, the smell was notable, but as time went on, it lessened significantly. If you’re worrying about smelling up your house with garlic, a) don’t and b) maybe you don’t love garlic enough to be worthy of undertaking this procedure!

Ultimately I made a mistake (aka an experiment) with my supply of black garlic, attempting to make garlic powder out of it. I chopped it up and dehydrated it for days. When it was as dry as it was going to get, I threw it in a spice grinder to create my very own black garlic cement. The maillard reaction that produces that deep color and mellow flavor also adds a stickiness, and that makes it difficult to properly powder by itself. Kind of like when a bag of brown sugar gets hardened.

I’ve bought black garlic salt from a local farmer’s market that’s less clumpy, so I may be able to salvage my bricks of black garlic powder by cutting it with salt and regrinding. I just don’t know if I feel like putting in the effort. I think I’d rather try turning some of my excess seed garlic into black garlic and see what the stronger flavors of those varieties do under these conditions.

Baker Man… is Baking Bread

Bread has been the next skill to tackle on my list for about a month. I was originally scheduled to meet up with a couple friends so the three of us could all learn to make bread together. Unfortunately, that fell through. But I’d waited too long, and I was determined to get going on this. I always feel like, with doing anything, the first time is always the hardest.

So I got to work. I first watched a video from the Back 2 Basics Living Summit about bread-making. Then I looked it up in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Just to have a couple approaches in mind.

I had to Google to find out how much “a packet” of yeast is, since it seems like half the recipes on the internet assume you’re going to have one of those individual packets of yeast. Even though the same company sells jars of the stuff. The equivalency is about 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast per packet, but don’t go looking on the side of the jar for that information, because it’s not there.

I wasn’t long into the kneading process before I realized I was not going to have enough flour. So, picture this sticky ball of dough sitting there by itself as I bolted out the door to the market for more. We live pretty close to the grocery store, but I was still gone a good 20 – 30 minutes. However while I was there, I grabbed a box of ground flax, thinking it’d be good to add to the mix.

I immediately put the ground flax into a recycled glass jar. When you’re a homesteader… it’s what you do.

When I got back, the bread had definitely risen, but I just crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t ruin the final product too much by kneading it again at this point, and got to work. I added in about ¼ cup of ground flax, and more flour. Then I let it rise in peace for a while.

After it had had time to grow again, I split the dough into 2 loaves, plopped them into their pans, and threw them in the oven.

They came out very nicely! I figure probably the unexpected interruption in the process led to a denser bread, but it was still lovely, and looked on par with many artisan breads I’ve purchased before. And it tasted delicious. Also, made the kitchen smell great.

I’m not entirely sure how long a freshly-baked loaf of bread is supposed to last, but mine was still doing fine about a week later. Now that the initial stepping through the process is done, I’m looking forward to round 2.

Punctuated Equilibrium

Back in school, I learned about the concept of punctuated equilibrium in evolution. Evolution doesn’t happen in a smooth, metered progression. There’s a status quo for a long time, and then when things change, it’s a sudden and pronounced change.

This Thanksgiving weekend I’ve been feeling unexpectedly frustrated. The idea of spending money with black Friday abandon makes me feel nauseous. I just sent in the semi-annual property tax bill for our home, and because of that I won’t able to put away more money toward our homestead property search this month. But what does it matter? There’s suddenly nothing on the market to consider anyway.

It wasn’t until I vented about all of these things in a conversation with my husband that I realized why I’m feeling the way I am right now. It’s because my forward progress has been halted. No gardening or foraging either, of course, since we’re well into frosty nights. What all does a homesteader DO in the winter?

Today, I did the one homesteading thing I could still do; I cooked. Oh, boy did I cook. It started out as plans to make a huge batch of meatballs and freeze them. Then I figured, why not make mashed potatoes too? Those freeze well and the meatballs would be in the oven, so why not use the stove top, too? And then I started browsing around a bit on the internet for big batch freezer meals. That led me to an Alton Brown recipe for Christmas soup which was basically the sausage kale soup I used to make all the time. That, and a Guinness beef stew recipe completed my shopping list.

Meatballs on deck waiting for their turn in the oven as potatoes get skinned.

I think that was around 10am. I cooked non-stop clear to 5pm. I’m beat. My feet hurt, but at the same time, I feel GREAT. Doing something broke me out of the funk I was in. Not only that, all those meals in the freezer make me feel more at ease, more prepared. The end results were:

  • 4 meatball dinners
  • 4 family servings of mashed potatoes
  • 2 Guinness beef stew
  • 2 Sausage kale soup

So for less than $100, 8 dinners plus mashed potatoes that could be a side for the chicken I already have in the freezer, or used to make a shepherd’s pie. Not bad. I didn’t even go out of my way to save money, or go to Costco, and that was a LOT of meat.

Chuck roast and Guinness ready to become an amazing stew. So what if Guinness DOES come in 4-packs. What are you insinuating?

At the end of the day (literally), all this reminded me of that idea of punctuated equilibrium, and how forward progress isn’t necessarily a constant thing. Sometimes there will be no progress. Sometimes there may even be setbacks on the path to the homesteading dream. And that’s OK.