Garlic growing in my driveway

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Just to show our level of rain in the Pacific Northwest, I must have misplaced a couple of garlic cloves when I was braiding my garlic last summer since I noticed 4 garlic plants growing in the gravel next to my driveway.

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Even with the less than ideal “soil” they were growing in they have some decent looking root structure.  Provided my garden has a no plant left behind policy I dug up each of these garlic plants and found a place for them next to the garlic cloves I intentionally planted in my garden last fall.

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How to braid garlic (for guys)

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I normally hang my garlic off my bike to allow it to cure and store to use over the winter, but given the large amount of garlic I have grown and I have gotten into better shape and am actually using my bike, I decided to attempt to create a pretty garlic braid.  After spending a 10-15 minutes checking on the internet on the various knots and techniques to braid garlic.

Lacking some basic knowledge and first hand experience braiding, I eventually got confused, gave up, and  just winged it and discovered a technique I call “Braiding Garlic For Guys” knowing if I handed the bulbs to my two daughters they would have made a perfect braid with them in just a few minutes.  And yes, my wife does not trust me to do our daughters hair…

Step 1: Dry your bulbs

Lay them out into the sun to dry for one hot day.  You will be letting the garlic dry longer though this is primarily to get the dirt dry on the bulbs to make Step 3 (Clean up your bulbs) a little easier.

Step 2: Select the right bulbs

If you are lucky enough to only grow large perfectly formed bulbs with no imperfections you can skip this step, but if you are like me you should have at least a few bulbs with small cloves or some that are split open.  Set these bulbs aside and use right away in your cooking or do like I did and use them to make some garlic powder.

Step 3: Clean up your bulbs (optional)

Though creating a garlic braid is a good compact way to store your garlic it also looks pretty cool when done right.  To make sure it looks its best give each of the bulbs a little haircut by trimming their roots to about 1/4 inch using scissors or shears  Follow this with a quick cleaning by a little brushing of your hand and/or a quick brush with an unused toothbrush.  Given I am just hanging my garlic in my garage I was a little lazy on the clean up.

Step 4: Start your garlic braid

Begin by taking your 3 largest bulbs and laying them side by side in front of you.  Take the stems of the bulbs on the left and right and cross them over the one in the center.

Now take whatever stem (right or left) that is on the bottom and bend it over the stem in the center (which now becomes the new center)

Here is an illustration but easier if you don’t think about it too much:

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Step 5: Repeat yourself

Give the right and left side a little tug to make everything is tight and lay a new bulb on the middle of your garlic braid (center) then bend over the stem from the other side over the center (which now becomes the new center) and repeat this step until run out of garlic bulbs.

Step 6: Finish things off

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Repeat what you have been doing in Step 5 three or four times obviously skipping the add a garlic bulb to help secure the last few bulbs in place.  Finish by tightly tying a piece of twine or string at the top of the braid to keep things from unraveling and giving you something to hang your beautiful braid in a dry location to have garlic which will keep for about 6 months.

Tip: When you need some garlic just cut or pull off bulbs as you need them.  I personally save the largest bulbs to replant in the fall to harvest the following year.

Making your own garlic powder

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I like to use garlic powder for making my own BBQ rubs and in cooking where I am too lazy to cut up some fresh garlic.  Whenever I go to buy garlic powder at the grocery store I normally end up convincing myself to get 11 ounces of garlic salt at $3.99 versus the $7.49 for a 9 ounce container of garlic powder.  Though this not what I really wanted, the cheapness in me always wins.  Given I picked up a fancy food dehydrator recently, this year I have opted to make my own.

When creating my garlic braid I found many imperfect bulbs as well as some small bulbs which I set aside to be the victims into making garlic powder.

Step #1: Peel the and clean the cloves

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The title pretty much sums it up but you need to get the cloves and peel off the outer layer of all the cloves.  I normally following this up with a quick rinse to help get rid of the various loose pieces and make them a little less sticky (and smelly)

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Step #2 Slice the garlic

The size is not that important, though the general idea is all of the slices should be about the same general size.  This way they all should complete drying at the same time.  Obviously the smaller you slice the quicker they will dry which may not be a good thing which I will explain later.

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Step #3 Dry the garlic

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Place the garlic in your food dehydrator with no pieces touching at 125-130F (or as close as yours can get) and if you sliced thin they could be ready in about 12 hours or if they were huge hunks like mine more like 3-4 days.  The easy way to tell if they are done is by picking the largest clove chunk you can find and break it in half with your fingers.  If it brittle and breaks cleanly they are ready, if it is soft and bends some check again in about 8-12 hours.

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Step #4 Grind the garlic

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Here is where you have a couple options, you can grind all of the cloves using a spice/coffee grinder and store in an airtight container or simply store the chunks in an airtight container and grind into powder as needed.

If you smell the chunks you may be surprised that there is not a strong garlic smell, that is because the outside has become oxidized.  Though if you break one in half and take a smell or pop it in your mouth (if you are daring) you will see there is plenty of flavor inside.  If you grind the garlic chunks they will start to oxidize reducing their effectiveness and given the new much larger surface area of the small particles it will not take long for your garlic to lose the great aroma it previous had.

You can preserve this potency longer by keeping the garlic as chunks and grinding it into powder right before using.  Though bringing out and cleaning a spice grinder each time you cook with garlic can be a pain, so I would recommend grinding as much as you expect to use for a couple months and save the garlic chunks in an air tight contain and grind when needed so you always have fresh garlic powder ready to use.

As with any spices once opened they are good for about 6 months ground or 12 month whole when stored in an airtight container and twice those numbers if vacuum packed.  So the garlic chunks are useable for one year with about half that for ground variety.  You can also store garlic powder or garlic chunks in an airtight container in your freezer to gain a few extra months.

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