A few weeks ago, when we were walking around Borough Market in London, I stopped at a stall to sample a few lovely olives. The gentleman manning the stall was chatty and friendly and insisted that I try one of the marinated garlic cloves as well. They were whole garlic cloves, smooth and white as a pearl, in a marinade of chilli flakes and other tasty bits. I think that many of you know about my well-documented love of all things garlic, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be walking around London all day with the type of breath one acquires after eating a whole clove of garlic. However, the nice man assured me that the marinated garlic was mild… and so it was.
The garlic cloves still had a slight crunch, but they were yielding and mellow, sweeter than I expected. They were full of flavour from the marinade and I could already think of a dozen uses for them. I asked him how they were made and he gave me a detailed answer, including the amount of time needed to blanch them, various marinade ingredients that could be used, etc. He was most encouraging when I said that I would like to try to make this type of garlic at home.
Well, true to form, I promptly went home and forgot all about my goal of making marinated garlic. Until… we went to our local farmers market a several weekends ago. I saw another stall selling very similar garlic cloves. They were not available for tasting, but I mentioned to the stall-holder that I was thinking of trying to make these marinated garlic cloves myself. He was selling stacks of garlic, so I thought I might buy the needed garlic for my experiment from him.
But, oh no. When I announced that I wanted to try making marinated garlic, he looked at me like I was fully crazy. He said, “Oh, you can’t make this yourself. It’s too hard and really complicated. You can’t do this at home.”
Well, my friends… he said the magic words. No one tells me that I “can’t” cook something. I promptly went and bought a ton of garlic (not from him!), some vinegar and spices and set to work. I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten around to marinating my own garlic if it wasn’t for that cranky man, but he spurred me to action and really, I must thank him.
The marinated garlic was simple. Really easy. And it looks so impressive on salads or on cheese platters. I encourage you to try it. And if you think you can’t handle it… you’re probably right. Don’t even bother.
Marinated garlic cloves
You will need a clean, sterilised glass jar for this project. To sterilise your jar, wash it in hot soapy water, then put it in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove and dry thoroughly with a clean towel or paper towels.
This recipe doesn’t have a lot of specific measurements. Basically, I don’t know what size jar you’ll use or how big your garlic cloves will be or how you want to flavour your marinade. Don’t let the lack of specifics deter you. Just use this a guide and make these to your own tastes.
2-3 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled but left whole
1 packet of Pickling Spices, or mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds
2 birds eye chillis or other small chillis
white wine vinegar
mild tasting olive oil
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. In batches, par-boil the garlic cloves for 30 sec to a minute. Remove from the water and drain thoroughly on paper towel as you do the next batch. Once all are par-boiled allow to cool and dry.
Place the spices and salt to the bottom of your jar. Put the garlic cloves into the jar, tightly packed. Add the chillis on the sides. Once you have all of these ingredients in the jar, pour in the vinegar- enough to fill the jar to 1/4 full. Then add olive oil to fill the rest of the way.
Seal the jar tightly and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 week, but more is better. These should keep for several weeks.