Preserving Garlic: what happens when you freeze whole bulbs

whole garlic cloves in oilWay back in the late spring of ’13 I got my hands on a ton of locally grown garlic.  Remember that?  I pureed a lot of it and mixed it with olive oil and froze it.  Then I decided to try something new.  I put whole peeled garlic bulbs in olive oil and froze them.  The idea is that I could defrost them and add them to pans of vegetables for roasting.  I love roasting garlic with sweet potatoes and tofu.  My concern was that freezing whole bulbs might result in a mushy bulb that doesn’t roast well.  I figured that if it didn’t work I could remove the bulbs from the oil and I’d have a great garlic flavored olive oil to use for sauteing and for dressings.  So a month or two ago I removed the first jar of whole bulbs out of the freezer like a scientist meeting his first test-tube baby – full of hopes and dreams for a life of laboratory purpose and circus exhibi-

Letting it defrost in the fridge was my first mistake.  Things don’t defrost in my fridge very quickly because I think I keep it too cold.  So after a week of waiting for the oil to liquify I set it on the counter.  Ah!  Hopes and dreams revived, I practically lived in the kitchen watching the oil turn slick and – and – then I saw the bulbs.  They were weirdly translucent.  Weird enough that I didn’t feel like trying to eat them.  If they were translucent then they were probably mushy as well.  Stands to reason.  A good scientist always goes through to the end of the experiment but I lost my nerve.  This may be why I’m a writer instead of a scientist.

defrosted garlic bulbsI couldn’t bear to throw the jar away but I couldn’t quite convince myself I wouldn’t seriously regret eating them either.  They were slightly discolored as well as  translucent.  Sitting on the counter for over a month did not increase their allure.  In the image above you can see how darkened the bulbs became.  They look like agates in a pool of viscous piss.  (Everyone’s gourmet dream!)  I continued to not throw them away because I knew I must photograph them first and share them here.

I finally did it.  By now I can’t at all be certain the garlic wasn’t teeming with botulism but there’s no reason I couldn’t satiate my curiosity to see what would happen if I pan roasted these guys.  First thing I discovered on taking these bulbs out and handling them is that they didn’t lose textural integrity.  Freezing them didn’t turn them mushy.  Here’s what happened:

what happens to garlicThey became opaque again and pretty.  If I didn’t feel so uneasy about the possibility of botulism I would want to eat those!

garlic in panSo here’s what I’m going to do: pull out another jar of bulbs to defrost on the counter but as soon as they’re defrosted I will add them to a pan of vegetables and roast them and eat them and report my findings because I refuse to let fear of weirdness prevent you from knowing if freezing garlic bulbs is worth doing.  Who knows, this information could prove to be vital in an apocalyptic situation.

5 thoughts on “Preserving Garlic: what happens when you freeze whole bulbs

  1. Jeff

    I often freeze garlic for the soul purpose of getting them to turn translucent because they then turn to jerky when dried

  2. angelina Post author

    I didn’t! I’m scared to discover I’ve wasted all that garlic. Which is dumb since if I just leave them in the freezer they will be wasted anyway.

  3. angelina Post author

    That’s totally interesting! I am not a jerky fan but am intrigued that you do this. Very cool.

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