It was past time to harvest my garlic.
Can you see how dry and brittle the stems are?
This is the garlic, if you remember, that I planted in the snow late last year. Of the 100 cloves I planted in the half-frozen ground, about 40 made it. Not bad considering the adverse circumstances under which they started.
I began digging the ripe garlic with a trowel, but soon switched to a shovel.
And oh my gosh. It. Was. Gorgeous.
I mean seriously, it seemed each head was more beautiful than the last.
I believe it was reader Janet in Massachusetts who suggested I snip the heads (scapes) off the stems to encourage better growth, so I'll take this moment to thank her for the advice. It sure worked!
I ended up with a full bucket of garlic.
My preference in garlic is porcelain-neck garlic. Rather than having cloves that get smaller and smaller as they come toward the center, porcelain-neck garlic has between four and eight large cloves which snap off easily from the brittle ("porcelain") center stem.
First step was to remove all the cloves from the stems.
Here's all the leftover stuff, which went in the compost pile.
Then I pulled aside 120 of the smaller cloves for planting. Cloves don't have to be big to produce a nice plant.
Most of the remaining cloves were huge! For purposes of comparison, I put an egg next to some of the largest cloves.
Next I peeled the garlic. I know you can peel garlic easily by whacking a clove with the flat side of a knife, but frankly these cloves were too big. Besides there wasn't all that much of it, so I just peeled it by hand. Nipped off the tip with a knife, peeled the papery skin off.
I ended up with a nice bowl of beautiful pungent peeled garlic.
Then I cleaned the cloves, gently using a green scratch pad to remove the dirt. (Blurry photo, sorry.)
I ended up with three pounds of garlic.
What to do now? There are a number of ways to preserve garlic, but I wanted to can it minced. I seldom use fresh garlic, but instead buy minced garlic. As always, I think to myself, "If they can do it [meaning, canning minced garlic] then I can do it."
Trouble was, I could find no reference to canned garlic in any of my canning books, so I wasn't sure how long to process it. Garlic is low-acid and so it would need to be pressured canned -- that much I knew -- but for how long?
I turned to an expert named David Blackburn with a website called CanningUSA.com. Mr. Blackburn suggested I process garlic the same as processing onions: 10 lbs pressure (12 lbs for our elevation) for 45 minutes for pints.
So I minced the garlic.
Then, following the directions for how to can onions, I put the minced garlic in a pot (without heat)...
...boiled some water...
...and added the boiling water to the garlic.
I didn't "cook" the garlic -- I just let it parboil in the water for about five minutes.
After that I filled my jars. Three pounds of garlic yielded just a bit less than five pints of minced. I topped off the jars with the garlic-y water in which the minced garlic had parboiled.
Mr. Blackburn suggested I add a Vitamin C tablet (ascorbic acid) to each jar as a preservative. We didn't have any Vit. C in the house, so I bought some... but mistakenly purchased the orange-flavored chewable type. Figuring that wouldn't work so well with garlic, instead I added a quarter-teaspoon of citric acid, which I keep on hand for cheesemaking.
Scalding my Tattler lids.
Into the canner... five lonely little pint jars in a canner that holds eighteen.
I held the pressure at 12 to 13 lbs for 45 minutes.
The garlic came out beautifully, though oddly it turned greenish in color. Perhaps it was the citric acid? I haven't opened a jar yet so I cannot attest to the taste, but I have no worries. I anticipate it will have a nice fresh sharp bite.
I haven't yet planted the 120 cloves I held back -- I hope to do so this week -- but at the moment I'm quite pleased with my experiment in canning garlic.