Did you know garlic has a season? Well, you do if you frequent the country’s markets, where massive stalks of purple-green garlic are out in all their glory. ‘Tis the season for garlic, the time to stock up for an entire year.
China is the world’s largest garlic producer, with 77% of global production, and you can get Chinese garlic year round. The heads are small and white, invariably the same size, and come in neat stacks of four inside little mesh bags. Garlic is not supposed to be clean and white, people. When it’s fresh it’s covered in a lovely purple peel, which dries to an earthy brown.
So we flock to the shook for the crates and crates of baladi garlic — the Arabic adjective slapped on anything that’s local, loved and maybe even unique to the region. We look for the largest bulbs, since they shrink as they dry. Vendors hang fat, unelegant braids outside their stands — nothing like the tidy, compact plaits you’ll find in Italy, for instance. Here, the garlic stems are thick and heavy, but let’s make this clear — when you’re paying 5 shekels a kilo for garlic, the leaves will be removed only after the garlic is weighed. If you don’t want the weight of the leaves included in the price, you’ll be paying 20 shekels a kilo, not 5.
I now have 40 garlic stalks piled on my kitchen floor, warding off vampires and hopefully enough to last me a year. Most of it will be trimmed and kept in the fridge — last year I had some fungus issues with garlic that was left hanging from the wall — but a few of the heads are being pickled. My pickled garlic is mild, sweet and snackable. If you’ve ever had the desire to eat an entire head of garlic in one sitting, this is the way to go.
For about a cup of garlic cloves:
- 100 grams garlic (2 heads)
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
Prep: 10 minutes Total: 4 days
Peel the garlic. If you’re using fresh garlic, the cloves will be covered in several layers of thick skins. You can choose to leave them intact, in which case the layers will give your pickled garlic the texture of pickled onions.
Mix the marinade — the water, the vinegar, the sugar and the salt. Add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil for 15 seconds. This will leave you with garlic that’s a little spicy and a little crunchy. If you boil it longer, say, a minute, it will be less sharp and more soft.
Cool and refrigerate for 3-4 days. The garlic mellows out with time and absorbs more of the vinegar.
Serve as nibble food, like olives.