Black Garlic is a product of the Maillard Reaction (when sugars and amino acids are exposed to sustained high heat) and is an exciting addition to year’s pantry. The process is very simple. The garlic is wrapped to retain its moisture then held at 135- 170 degrees F for 30-60 days. The long slow heat gives it a distinct black color and deep flavor, while concentrating the sugars.
Wrap the garlic.
There are a couple ways to do this. The above picture shows a vacuum sealer but it also works just as well to wrap the garlic in a couple layers of plastic wrap, or to pop it into a jar or tupperware container. The goal is that it doesn’t lose its moisture while on the extended warm journey.
While not usually a huge fan of speciality equipment, the vacuum sealer has become a handy tool in the journey to preserve food, especially when not another jar could fit on the shelf. They are commonly sold at big stores these days.
The garlic will need consistent heat for anywhere from 30- 60 days. A dehydrator is the best way I’ve found to do this. Depending on how the garlic is wrapped the garlicy odor can be powerful. The first time I did this I used the cheapest dehydrator I could find, wrapped my garlic in plastic wrap, and placed everything outside against the house in a nest of blankets and tarps. It was November and notes of roasted garlic wafted through the neighborhood all month long.
With a couple upgrades, such as the vacuum sealer, no smell is present and the dehydrator can be hidden away in some corner easily indoors.
Temperature and Time
There is some play possible in how you chose to proceed with time and temperature. Temperature may be determined by the limitations of your heating method. Intuitively we know that lower temperatures will take longer and higher temperatures will take a shorter amount of time. Holding the garlic at 135- 140 degree F can take upwards of 60+ days to achieve the desired color development, while 195 degrees F can take maybe 20 days. Sometimes it’s helpful to know there’s more than one route to get there.
A very helpful study done by a group of researchers has noted that garlic held at 160 degrees F for about 40 days scored highest in their sensory evaluation. Check it out here.