Instructables

Fermented Garlic (Black Garlic)

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Picture of Fermented Garlic (Black Garlic)
I was introduced to "Black Gold" a few years back while I was cooking in Aspen Colorado.  It was brought into me by a vendor as a free sample and a new product.  Since that day, I have been determined to re-create the process for making black garlic. It took about 6 months of trial and error, but the final results were better than I hoped for.  The purpose of this Instructable is to give a very clear and clean cut process to making black garlic, this process was on my mind and there were tiny bits of information on the internet that dabbled in the process but none of them gave me clear directions.
 
 
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Step 1: The Magic Fermenting Box

Picture of The Magic Fermenting Box
The most important piece of equipment that you will need is a fermenting box.  This little, or large, box will allow the garlic to sit at a consistent temperature for the allotted time.  I found that a wine cooler works the best because it is insulated, therefore it will hold the heat very well.  For the fan, I actually had an old hood unit from my stove that I replaced, so I kept the housing that the fan sat in and just cut the metal down to fit it into the wine cooler.  I also kept the switches in-tact to be used to control the fan speed and whether I want the light on or not.  
I now have a fan and two switches to control the two elements that will regulate and circulate my heat.  The last item that is need is a thermostat, these will run anywhere from $80-$120, all depending on what type you get.  The thermostat that I used came from Johnson Controls and they can be purchased here, this device will turn the power on and off to the box based on temperature.
Now go find yourself a vessel to make the garlic in, a device to heat the box with, a thermostat, and based on the size of the box, you will need a fan.
Nedalice28 days ago

Do you think if I put it under the aquarium hood would work?

Hi, Are you using a humidifier or a mister to the box, and how does it works? waiting for further information..
akulinary (author)  black garlic1 year ago
No humidifier in this box, I let the garlic create its own humidity when wrapped up in the baking pan. The humidity should stay pretty high until you need to dry the garlic so a bowl of water would work fine if you do not have a humidifier.
thanks for your reply, I have already made it.
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ratman20110 months ago
Hey I know it's been like a year and a half since any active comments, but I wanted to point people in the direction of the Nordic Food Lab's article on black garlic. http://nordicfoodlab.org/blog/2013/2/black-garlic

The process does not require air, or moisture circulation. Heat denatures alliinase, by itself.

So for a much cheaper and less labor intensive setup get a cheap dehydrator ($60-70), set it to 140F and stick garlic in it in a sealed container (sous vide bag, mason jar, etc) and let it go for 6 weeks.
akulinary (author)  ratman20110 months ago
I have read over their site numerous times, I am a fan of it to say the least. As you said, you do need to keep it in something that will control the moisture such as a mason jar or a sous vide bag, if you do not you will dehydrate the product before it has full transformed. I am just starting to play with sealing them in vacuum bags. My experiments with mason jars on the other hand did not work as well as my later experiments.
VORTREKER1 year ago
How does the thermostat that you linked to that only goes up to 100F control a box at 140F?
akulinary (author)  VORTREKER1 year ago
You are right here is an updated link to another thermostat that will work.
http://www.zorotools.com/g/00055040/k-G0988303?&gcsct=0ChMI6I3lrZemtQIVSonnCh2pHAAAEAA
Jagstah2 years ago
Hi, I have been following your DIY blog since April and I thank you for publishing your process. My wife pointed out that there might be a health risk when using plastic wrap as the shell for the fermentation process. Do you think that moisture dripping down from the plastic wrap in a box heated to 140 degrees will pose a cancer risk? Perhaps it would be better/safer to use glass containers instead? Best Regards!
MsJan Jagstah2 years ago
Glass is always the safest way to go. Always stay away from plastics. They do cause cancer. I wish these companies would start making things that are safer for humans.
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
Thank you for the comment, I have looked into the plastic issue and commercial plastic wrap has a different makeup than the plastic wrap you would get at the grocery store. I am currently looking into an alternative and actually adding a humidifier or a mister to the box so I do not need to wrap it. I will be starting that project after I finish my meat curing cabinet.
Hey,
Just cut a piece of glass to size over your fermentation tray. OR put a bowl of water on your element.
akulinary (author)  timbit19852 years ago
Great idea! I have started another project and will give it a try as soon as I am done.
All of my research from the past 7 months has led me to the now obvious conclusion that what is needed to make aged black garlic is a typical baker's fermentation cabinet. In German we call this a "Gärschrank" and this machine allows operators to individually adjust temperature and humidity. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to patent a new machine and process for making black garlic when millions of existing bread machines can already do it. Hats off to you though, for making your own and publishing your results!!
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
Never new that these machines existed! Thanks for the info, I will look into getting one or figuring out how to make my own. I am certainly not trying to re-invent the wheel here, I am just cheap, my box uses very little electricity and is very efficient at what it does, and in all of my research on black garlic no machine ever came up. I think the guy who is monopolizing on black garlic did patent his machine or the process, not sure though.
For sure, those "Gärschränke" (<-- link to google pics) cost a lot of money new so it is probably worthwhile to DIY if not trying to sell the stuff commercially.

A group of Koreans named Duck, Han and Sung filed a patent for a machine in 2010 which you can see online here. Also check out the pdf file linked on that same page, which includes a sketch of a fermentation machine which I believe to be the machine shown here.

FWIW I did not know much about the fermentation process before getting interested in black garlic and I'm no pro baker but now I believe that someone is trying to trick us into thinking that there is some magical, secret process to making this stuff when in reality it is as simple as baking cupcakes for 3 weeks.
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
Wow! great set of info here, the wording is strange but I am working on deciphering what they are saying, and yes it is an easy process, they just put blinders up for everyone to think it was magical.
It sounds like a native korean patent lawyer specializing in technical devices wrote that application, doesn't it? The patent describes "sealing the garlic in a vinyl pack" ... I wonder how healthy that is ;-)
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
I am in the process of breaking down the study, but it makes me frustrated trying to put the words together, lol. The bags are an interesting thing, I have a vacuum chamber at work I could seal garlic in and try it. The vacuum bags are a reliable tool, as they can also be used for "Sous Vide" cooking, which means they can handle temperatures up to 250 degrees. They are also PVC free so there is no risk of any health risks that I know of. The only concern I have is the garlic not being able to breath, the vinyl may allow this to happen at a slower rate, therefore it will hold the humidity in. I also do not know the botulism flourish in anaerobic environments, so the whole sealing in a bag thing scares me.
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
On the glass baking dish, I started my experiments with glass mason jars and I did not get a final product that I was happy with.  Another technique that I will try is with parchment paper.  I use that a lot when braising foods followed by foil and that will help keep moisture in.
What do you think about using some kind of pyrex dish with a lid made of the same material?
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
I used mason jars previously, and i did not get the results that I was looking for.
What kind of results did you get with the mason jars exactly?
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
Well for starters I stacked the garlic in the jars, which led to uneven heating, I also did not have the garlic on the middle shelf of my box which seemed to be a better spot to ferment at. I am willing to try the mason jars again, sitting on the middle shelf, and wrapped in foil. The only other reason that I went away from the jars was so I could produce a larger quantity.
I dig that. If you're going to be turning on the heat for so many days you ought to maximize your ROI !!

Here is a recent blog about a cook who claims he makes his black garlic in a consumer-grade dehydrator. What do you think about that (nonsense)? A dehydrator normally sucks the moisture out of food but does not ferment it. But maybe this person has a special trick?

After reading that blog I thought about using a dehydrator too but to get the required humidity for fermentation I would have to place moist garlic bulbs in mason jars or plastic-wrapped baking pans like you did in previous experiments.

But to do that I would need a larger dehydrator, such as the Excalibur or the new Sedona from Tribest.


akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
With the amount of garlic that is being used (a full dehydrators worth), it might create enough humidity to prevent it from getting too dry. plastic or a trash bag around the outside wouldn't be a bad idea to keep the humidity in, and after reading the previous study that you linked there are certain levels of humidity that they obtain for different periods of time. My process keeps a high humidity the whole 40 days, then I dehydrate. The study shows dehydration in steps while the fermentation is occurring over the 40 days.

I also think the wrapping the baking pan with foil first then with plastic might reduce any concerns that arise from using plastic, I just know that you wouldn't want to use plastic that contains PVC, which I think is excluded from most commercial plastic wraps.
Hey, thanks for the info and tips! Now I have to decide which dehydrator to get. My wife likes the Sedona. Have you seen it yet? I think for all practical purposes a dehydrator which can also ferment garlic in "sealed" containers is the way for us. A used "Gärschrank" costs at least twice as much and would take up much more space as well.

I'll let you know how my first batch comes out, at least 40 days from now !!
akulinary (author)  Jagstah2 years ago
Have not looked into dehydrators recently, I always drooled over excalibur, but mostly because it was the most reputable and expensive brand. I look forward to hearing about your progress and final product!
timbit19852 years ago
Flat matte white has a better heat and light reflection than tin foil. The wrinkles in the foil deflect the light too much!
akulinary (author)  timbit19852 years ago
That's true! I think I will glue it over the foil and see how that works.
becava2 years ago
Hi, I have a question..... you said it will take 40 days at 140F... somewhere in Internet I read that if you use 150F it will take 20 days.... if use 176F it will take 10 days... and if use 194F it will only take 5 days.... did you try other temps? are the black garlic result is different in other temperatures?... Thanks
akulinary (author)  becava2 years ago
I have not tried other temperatures yet, I like the slow process, I feel it is more controlled and I feel that the slower process further develops the unique flavor that you get from the black garlic. Too hot and you end up with roasted garlic, but it is something that I am willing to try.
scoochmaroo2 years ago
Do you have any of this on hand currently? You should definitely enter the Robot Chef Challenge this week! It would be an awesome addition.
akulinary (author)  scoochmaroo2 years ago
I do!! I actually have around 5# in my fridge, street value is $150, lol! I will look into the challenge this week, thank you.
Mongpoovian2 years ago
What a great project! Thanks for sharing!
scoochmaroo2 years ago
I can't wait to try this!
akulinary (author)  scoochmaroo2 years ago
It is so much fun to make and the smells of the garlic during the fermenting process are amazing!