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Pre-peeled versus fresh garlic? Answered

In what dishes can you tell the difference between pre-peeled and fresh garlic. How about Chinese versus Californian pre-peeled garlic?

If you can tell the difference, how can you be sure?

I love garlic, and use a lot of it. I'll toss a handful of chopped cloves into almost any savory dish that involves a sauteing step. Using so much and being pressed for time, I primarily buy Californian pre-peeled garlic, and chop it right before I use it. I'm curious if you judge pre-peeled garlic to be less flavorful, and if so, can that flavor be returned by an increase in total garlic or if there are fleeting compounds that escape as soon as the garlic is peeled.

Another thing I've noticed is that I need to be careful when I make dishes where I food-process the garlic to mince it. I've ruined a curry or two by using food-processed fresh turmeric, fresh peppers, and pre-peeled garlic that smelled fine but had probably spent a week in the fridge. In the finished dish, the garlic contributed a pretty nasty "raw vegetal" taste. Similarly, Christy once food-processed and sauteed some onions and older pre-peeled garlic only to have the whole mixture turn blue and taste horrible.

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/bluegarlic.htm

The discoloration is due to pigments that form between sulfur compounds in garlic and amino acids. When the garlic tissue is disrupted, as happens in processing, an enzyme is liberated and reacts with it to form thiosulfinates compounds that then react with the natural amino acids in the garlic to form blue pigments. The age of garlic determines how much isoalliin there is in the first place, and the nature of the processing determines how much enzyme is liberated.

The blue color apparently shouldn't harm the taste, so it would be neat to develop a dish that naturally turned blue using this reaction while still tasting great.

18 Replies

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Doctor What (author)2009-01-07

But peeling is fun! SMACK! Then just lift away.

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mysterygirl154 (author)2009-01-07

umm at our house we store our garlic in a clay pot in the pantry Im not sure if that helps with freshess or not, just mentioning.

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westfw (author)2009-01-07

Garlic tends to have a lot of "different" flavors depending on how you cook it. Raw garlic is much different than roasted garlic (as in roasted whole heads for smearing on bread, or in "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.) I haven't actually used the pre-peeled garlic; I haven't felt like I could use that much before it went bad. But I'm a big fan of dried powdered garlic (yet another sort of flavor, but it tends to work better on grilled or broiled meats.) (mind you, I had to overcome some prejudices about the importance of "fresh" in order to admit my fondness for dried garlic...) I've never had the "blue garlic" problem, but I assure you that a head of garlic that has sit too long in the garlic keeper will no longer smell good!

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ewilhelm (author)westfw2009-01-07

Garlic is definitely a complicated spice. From Cook's Illustrated July 2008:

It turns out that the compound that gives garlic its potent taste, allicin, does not form until the cloves are chopped. But allicin is fleeting. If the chopped garlic is stored, even in the freezer, the allicin will lose strength. If you want garlic at its maximum potency, you should wait until the last minute to chop it.

And, from September 2000:

After some research, we discovered that what is behind these flavor differences is allicin, an enzyme that is released when garlic is cut. The ntensity of garlic flavor in your dish depends on how finely you have chopped, minced, or pureed the garlic. If you want a bold garlic flavor, you should puree or mince your garlic, but if you want a more subtle essence, try slivering the clove. If you’re not a true fan of garlic’s bold flavors, you may want to roast or toast your garlic--the heat breaks down the allicin.

So when the sweetness of roasted garlic is a result of the allicin being destroyed, leaving you to taste the remaining flavors. I wonder what happens when you dry garlic? What's left behind then?

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westfw (author)ewilhelm2009-01-07

Huh. In a way, I dislike this sort of "wishy-washy science." How exactly does one define "measurable" quantities like "potency" and "boldness." I wonder if people even agree on what constitutes "garlic flavor" ? OTOH, perhaps it's better than no science at all. I think dried garlic is relatively close to roasted garlic; it lacks the sharpness of freshly chopped garlic almost entirely, but it's not quite as smokey/mellow as the long oven-roasted garlic...

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Goodhart (author)2009-01-06

I haven't personally had the opportunity to try the different garlics you mention, but I always prefer fresh (depending on the dish) either coarsely chopped or mashed as Caitlinsdad wrote. I love garlic too, but don't get to use it as much as I like.

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caitlinsdad (author)Goodhart2009-01-06
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Goodhart (author)caitlinsdad2009-01-07

Ok, it arrived ;-) and is replied to

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caitlinsdad (author)Goodhart2009-01-07

Still no snail PM yet...I guess you sorted out the meaning to the other topic.

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Goodhart (author)caitlinsdad2009-01-07

I was going to ******** out what I thought was holding up that pm when you sent it, so the return wouldn't take so long.....and I forgot .... :-)

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jessyratfink (author)2009-01-07

I always use fresh. I've found the prepeeled stuff is really hit-and-miss. Plus, it can pick up flavors in the fridge, which never ends well. And it goes bad very quickly. I used to buy it at a local place because it was super cheap, but it would lose its aroma and most of its flavor before I could finish most of it. It just goes back so quickly, and it's harder to tell without the skin. You can save a lot of time with fresh garlic by smashing the wrapped cloves with the side of your knife. They'll peel extraordinarily easy, and be smushed enough to help with mincing. :D

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caitlinsdad (author)2009-01-06

Hmmm, do you just need to improve your technique of using garlic? 1. Never throw raw garlic in a processor. You should just bash and mince/slice with a good knife. Actually easier than a garlic press and no cleanup. The heat on the processor blade might contribute to the off taste/smell, kind of like why people don't really grind coffee in a food processor which ruins the essential oils. 2. Heat up oil first in the pot/pan and then throw in the garlic to sautee. The oil will steep out the flavor. You can brown it a bit but never burn it. Throw in the rest of the ingredients afterward otherwise you are just steaming or boiling the garlic amongst the other food. I think Chinese garlic is less flavorful than Californian garlic. That variety seems to have more of that "bitterness/sharpness" akin to shallots or a sharp flavored raw onion. The cloves are smaller. California garlic has a more mellow rounded flavor. On pizza, Italian dishes, meats, etc, California garlic seems to be smoother going down and better "when it talks back to you" afterwards. It's kind of like comparing an Asian hot-sauce to Tabasco sauce. One has a "rawer" flavor and the other is "refined". Everyone has a preference. I've shied away from pre-minced garlic since there was the botulism scare with oil-filled jars. They just plain pack whole raw garlic in the refridgerated section though. I do keep granulated California garlic on hand when I am too lazy to use the real thing. So to answer your question, the pre-peeled garlic is as good as fresh. It is hard to tell the difference, you just have to use it right in getting the flavor out. You can always add more if you like garlic bits for texture.

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ewilhelm (author)caitlinsdad2009-01-07

I'm skeptical about the heat of the processing blade having much to do with it. The blade never feels warm to me when I'm done, and I only run it for 10-15 seconds. Thinking it might be oxidation of some sort, I've recently been processing garlic for curries in the food processor with a bit of oil to coat all surfaces. However, I'm still not certain that's the issue. I haven't had the opportunity to do a full set of experiments. Also, when I say pre-peeled garlic, I mean whole refrigerated cloves, not minced and packed in oil.

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stretch mark (author)caitlinsdad2009-01-07

I always use fresh garlic and chopped or pureed to order as you say. I tend to add the garlic towards the end of a saute as to prevent it from browning. Roasting a bunch of garlic and throwing it on or in anything edible is very wonderful. I recently winged a radish and roasted garlic soup with some subtle Indian spices and a touch of nutmeg. I think I used a little thyme and maybe some other savories. I had just seen the movie "Ratatouille" (again) and was inspired. I smelled every ingredient before I added it, which now I do routinely. I had several different kinds of radish including daikon, celery, carrot, and potato but no onion for some reason. No added broth either. Slightly mashed up the whole starchy bothy goodness and served. It was quite wonderful and everyone was very quiet for awhile. Radish soup?

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gmjhowe (author)2009-01-07

Either way, i suggest a nice tin of mints for the following day.

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LinuxH4x0r (author)2009-01-06

We had a jar of blue garlic once. I prefer fresh (slightly dried, sitting out in a copper pot), but then again I suppose it might not matter is some foods. For spices we only dry our own mint

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