In our recent article on Fermented Foods, we discussed the tremendous health benefits that the old fashioned method of preserving food by fermentation offers to us. Today’s methods of food preservation which involve canning after heating foods to very high temperatures kills off good organisms, while the process of fermentation ensures good bacteria thrive while stopping bad bacteria.
As we also pointed out in a response to a question about the safety of food preservation, a microbiologist with the USDA, Fred Breidt, has pointed out that fermenting vegetables is safer than eating them raw. The fermentation process does not allow harmful bacteria to grow that may still be on raw food that you consume. If you have not grown the food yourself, you have no idea how it has been handled before it reaches your possession, or about the soil conditions it was grown in.
Fermentation also adds nutrition to foods by increasing levels of some B vitamins and creating new compounds that have antioxidant benefits. In addition, when you eat fermented foods, you are also assisting your own gut flora – the micro-organisms that live within your digestive system – to help you ward off disease and illness. Let’s take a look at food that is already full of healthy goodness, and see how you can modify it’s taste slightly, and add even more health benefits to it!
Health Benefits of Fermented Garlic
Garlic comes with tremendous benefits for those who consume it regularly, as we’ve seen in other articles. People who eat garlic regularly are less prone to colds and other viral infections and may also have:
- Reduced risk of lung cancer
- Reduced risk of breast cancer
- Reduced risk of liver disease
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Lower fasting blood sugar levels
We’ve know for a while through another peer reviewed study that fermented garlic has its own specific benefits in addition to that when it is raw or lightly cooked. In 2004, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study wherein it was found that garlic that was “pickled” with a brine fermentation process scored higher nutritionally than raw garlic. Although the fermentation process destroyed ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), there is such a slight amount of that in garlic in the first place that it would be considered an insignificant source.
However, the fermentation process significantly increased the levels of most amino acids and other nutrients such as riboflavin (Vitamin B2), alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E), glutamic acid and arginine. This of course is in addition to the benefits that are added to foods when they are fermented as discussed in Fermented Foods Health Benefits.
How To Ferment Garlic
Now that we understand the benefits that fermenting garlic can provide you, let’s discuss how to do it. Like most other vegetable fermentation, the process is relatively simple and easy. The most time consuming part of fermenting garlic is peeling the skins from the cloves. You will of course also need as many heads of garlic that will fit in your fermentation vessel that you’ve chosen. But let’s assume your going to use a 650 ml glass jar which is a common size that you might purchase spaghetti sauce in at the grocery store.
With this size of jar, you’re likely going to need about five to ten heads of garlic. An exact amount is impossible to provide as it will depend upon the size of the cloves and the garlic heads themselves.
Ensure the glass jar and lid is sanitized before you begin. Sanitation is important (please note that you do not need to aim for “disinfected,” but sanitized). Also ensure that there is no soap residue in the glass jar or lid, so rinse them very well after you have washed them.
You’ll also need a salt brine with a ratio of 4 cups of water and 1 Tablespoon of regular salt.
Peel the garlic cloves. There is a fast way to do this: After you have separated the cloves from the head, place them in a stainless pot. Hold the lid on the pot and vigorously shake for 20 to 30 seconds. When you remove the pot lid, you will find that most of the garlic cloves have become unpeeled; you may have to give a few a little extra manual peeling but this method will save you time! If you have kids, they may enjoy participating at this step – kids seem to love banging things that make lots of noise while expending energy.
Next, simply fill the bottle to the shoulder with the cloves. Pour over the brine solution and cover the garlic cloves. Put the lid on and set aside.
Within about 24 hours (it may be a shorter period and it may take longer depending upon the temperature of your kitchen), you should begin to see activity in the form of bubbles at the top of the brine solution. This is the lacto bacteria beginning to work. You should “burp” the jar a couple of times a day after this fermentation begins to allow the CO2 gas that is being formed, to escape.
Leave on the counter for several days. You have several choices at this point – you could allow fermentation to continue for even up to a month or more, or you could stop the fermentation and place in the fridge. Experiment a little. Taste the garlic. If you’d like to let it ferment another few days, go ahead and taste it again.
My Fermented Garlic Is Turning Green or Bluish Green!
A few days or more after you start fermenting garlic, you may have a double take when looking at the bottle and seeing some of the cloves with a green or blue tint to them. Perhaps some or all of the cloves have turned completely green. You may suspect that the garlic cloves have been ruined with some type of mold, but don’t despair. This can be normal with garlic and is due to the iron or other mineral content of the garlic cloves, reacting to the fermentation process. It is perfectly fine, healthy and very good to eat! On the right, you can see an image of what this may look like.
So go ahead, eat your fermented garlic even if it has a green or bluish green tint to it! Enjoy the health benefits and the taste (which is milder than raw garlic), and find other ways to use it. If you cook with your fermented garlic, you will still reap the benefits of the nutrients it contains, but you will lose the benefits of consuming of the good bacteria. But we think you’ll enjoy fermenting foods so much, you’ll have a lot to choose from every day!
Fermented Foods – Our article outlining the health benefits and process in general as well as suggested fermentation vessels if you think you will continue with food fermentation.
“Wild Fermentation” By Sandor Katz – Available from Amazon.
“The Art Of Fermentation” By Sandor Katz – Available from Amazon.
J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Dec 1;52(24):7324-30. (PubMed).