Black garlic is a type of caramelized[contradiction] garlic (a Maillard reaction,[contradiction] not fermentation) first used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. It is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or tamarind. Black garlic's popularity has spread to the United States as it has become a sought-after ingredient used in high-end cuisine. The ornamental plant Allium nigrum is commonly called black garlic, as also is a six-clove garlic grown in Taean and Seosan in South Korea.
There is no definitive answer as to when Black garlic was first produced. It may have been created by varying methods involving curing and fermentation in ancient times by a variety of cultures. However it is known that it was first introduced to the modern culinary market in the early 21st century. There are a handful of different Black garlic companies that produce the ingredient using conventional white garlic cured in machines dedicated to the process. Today most modern techniques involve the use of heat and humidity, drying and aging. In the past rather than machines it is believed that caves or earthenware might have been used for this process. Today Black garlic is produced in Korea, Japan, China, Europe and the United States.
The process of producing black garlic is sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation, but it does not in fact involve microbial action.
Black garlic is available year-round.
Black garlic has gained popularity in part as a result of its appearance on several American food-related television programs such as Top Chef and Iron Chef. Additionally it has been featured in modern cookbooks and by celebrity chefs as an ingredient on their menus, both of which contributed to increased demand for the unique allium in the consumer marketplace.
Black garlic has the immediate appearance of an aged, almost burnt garlic bulb, its cloves loosely held within its indented browned outer wrapper. Inside a Black garlic bulb's wrapper of aged paper-thin skin are opal black cloves with the jellied texture of fresh dried fruit. The color of Black garlic is a result of a curing process that converts the sugars and amino acids found in conventional garlic to a dark substance known as melanoidn. The individual cloves have a sweet savory taste, a pleasant molasses undertone with a subtle hint of soy sauce creating the complex flavor of umami. Unlike conventional garlic and processed garlic products, Black garlic does not leave the consumer with the well known "garlic breath" aroma after ingesting.
Black garlic is not a garlic variety; rather it is common garlic, botanically known as Allium sativum also known as aged black garlic. The garlic is produced in a curing process that some describe as a type of fermentation involving heat and humidity over a month long period. It is then cooled, dried and aged for another period. This method of aging garlic has been patented in the United States. The patent, titled "Process for preparing aged garlic", cites the use of specially designed machines and environmentally controlled temperatures to achieve the Black garlic state.
The process of aging raw garlic, at a constant temperature and humidity without additives, increases the presence of polyphenol compounds. As a result aged Black garlic exerts stronger antioxidant effect compared to raw garlic without decreasing the original effectiveness of the garlic. Its health benefits are believed to include improving arterial sclerosis, preventing heart disease and cancer, preventing Alzheimer disease and inhibiting cholesterol build up.
Black garlic is an ideal ingredient for making rich and complex purees, dressings, marinades and sauces. It can be sautéed in oil, chopped or diced and added directly to pizzas, pasta, rice and legume-based dishes. It can also be used in the preparation of innovative desserts such as ice creams and chocolate based dishes. Black garlic pairs well with eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, roasted pork, sausages, grilled white fish and shellfish, smoked meats, ginger, chocolate, chiles, herbs such as basil, parsley and cilantro, truffles, olives, brown sugar and sesame oil. To store keep sealed packages of Black garlic in a cool, dry place, once opened store in the refrigerator and use within one to two months.