It's taken a long time for garlic to become accepted in the English
speaking world. Mrs Beeton in her famous Victorian cookbook said:
"the smell of this plant is generally considered offensive, and
it is the most acrimonious in its taste." Things have certainly
changed for the better since then.
Buying Garlic for Cooking
When buying garlic for cooking, avoid being tempted by the very large
elephant garlic. Although this looks wonderful the taste is not at all
the same and it is no substitute for ordinary garlic.
Always look for heads that are firm with plenty of dry, papery covering.
Heads that are showing signs of sprouting are past their prime and were
probably not dried properly. Garlic that is very old will crumble under
a gentle pressure from the fingers.
As with all ingredients for cooking, buy the best garlic you can afford.
I always recommend organic garlic
if at all possible.
I've added a separate page on storing garlic. Please read
the warnings page.
Remember that a single bulb of garlic usually contains between ten
and twenty individual cloves of garlic. Individual cloves are
covered with a fine pinkish/purple skin. The head of cloves is then covered with white papery
outer skin. Don't confuse cloves and bulbs! Neither the inner nor outer skins should
To prepare garlic, first strip off some of the papery covering from the
bulb. Now ease out as many cloves as required. Garlic cloves come in a wide
variety of sizes, so the numbers given in a recipe should be treated as
a rough guide only. Once you get used to cooking with garlic you will
probably find yourself using more than the recipe states.
You can buy a variety of garlic presses and other gadgets
to help crush the cloves. If you'd rather avoid gadgets then it's easy to
crush garlic with only
a knife and a little salt.
In general with garlic, the finer the chop the stronger the taste.
Crushed garlic has the strongest taste of all and if used raw is only
for the real aficionado. When cooked whole garlic has a much milder,
rather sweet taste. There is a famous recipe "chicken with forty cloves
of garlic". It should go without saying that these are whole garlic cloves not
Garlic also mellows the longer it is cooked. Garlic added at the end of
cooking will give a stronger taste than garlic prepared the same way but added
earlier. You can also buy ready prepared black garlic which has a
distinctive sweet taste and dark, sticky cloves.
Garlic is, of course, known for causing unpleasant smelling breath.
Chewing fresh raw parsley is reputed to help assist this condition and this may be the reason why so many garlic
recipes include a little chopped parsley.