Monday, December 31, 2012

Canning and planting garlic

On this, the last day of 2012, I thought I'd offer up one more canning post. This time, garlic.

Way back in early October, Younger Daughter and I harvested the garlic.

It was late in the season to do so -- as you can see by the one remaining pear leaf -- but we'd been busy and hadn't had time before this.

We gathered our tools and got busy.

We were late harvesting the garlic by about two weeks -- as you can see, some of the garlic was forming new roots as well as new greenery. Garlic is planted in the fall, so the un-harvested garlic was starting its new year's growth.

New growth notwithstanding, it was absolutely beautiful.

We found lots and lots of worms, big and small, twined among the bulbs and roots. No problem by me, this meant the soil was healthy.

We dug and dug and dug, trying not to miss anything...

...and ended up with a full five-gallon bucket, and a three-gallon bucket half-full.

And then, for the next several weeks, there it sat. In buckets. In the house. Mostly unpeeled.

Thankfully garlic is a very forgiving thing, because I just didn't have time to process it all. I peeled a few cloves here and there -- that was kinda fun, and I looked forward to a few minutes of sitting and peeling whenever I could snatch the time -- but what was boring as anything was washing the garlic. So I put it off. And put it off.

Meanwhile, before re-planting the garlic for the year, I wanted to add a nice fresh layer of composted manure to the garlic bed. This was in mid-November.

However the wheelbarrow tire went flat under the weight... Don pumped it up with the compressor.

Then I started trundling the manure over to the garlic bed, which is unfortunately quite a distance away. (One of my future goals is to re-locate the compost pile right next to the garden.)

The chickens thought it was very obliging of me to dig up worms for them.

And of course Smoky, taking advantage of her priveleged position as my favorite hen, hopped right into the wheelbarrow to look for goodies.

Spoiled, that's what she is.

Soon the garlic bed was covered with a nice rich layer of composted manure, ready for planting.

And still I put off cleaning the garlic. This was getting embarrassing.

Finally after Thanksgiving, a full six weeks or so after we harvested, I decided it had to get done. So I roped in the girls and we got to work.

As with last year, I had HUGE cloves. This garlic is a German porcelain-neck garlic. Rather than garlic with cloves that get smaller and smaller toward the center, this type of garlic has five or six large cloves around a stiff (or "porcelain") center stem. It has a bite to it. Younger Daughter, who snacks on hot peppers like they're popcorn, took a bite of raw garlic and nearly spit it out, it was so strong. Yeah! My kind of garlic!

After the garlic had been peeled, it needed to be washed. This was the part I hated. Boring, boring, boring!

That's because each clove had to be individually scrubbed. Each clove. Hundreds -- over a thousand? -- cloves. Boring! (But necessary.)

There's got to be an easier way to clean garlic. Thoughts, anyone?

While most of the cloves were still sound after their time in limbo, some rot had set in. My fault entirely for putting it off for so long.

So the girls and I sat down to trim the garlic -- not just cutting off the tips (with roots) but also any bad or rotten parts. Older Daughter told me I had all the instincts of a Depression-era survivor (which I took as the highest compliment). Younger Daughter observed how we'll never be attacked by vampires.

By the end of a solid hour, everything was done. All the garlic was washed and trimmed. The bad parts were ready for the compost pile.

I set aside 135 smallish cloves (cloves don't have to be big to grow into a nice big plant) for planting, concentrating on those which already had some new roots and green stems forming.

This left me with about four gallons of clean garlic. Four gallons! Sheesh, what am I going to do with four gallons of garlic cloves?

Can it, of course. It's the most obvious solution for those of us who don't have cellars for storage of root crops.

The garlic weighed in at about ten pounds.

First thing I did was mince it.

I had so much garlic that I minced only half at a time.

Next step, parboil it. I added boiling water to the minced garlic.

I didn't "cook" the garlic (there's no heat under the pot), but instead just let it stew for a few minutes in the boiling water.

Then I started filling clean jars.

In order to more efficiently scoop up the garlic, I drained it, making sure to keep the cook water.

I added cook water to the jars to top them off.

Once the first half of the minced garlic was jarred, I minced the second half...

...poured in the remaining hot cook water...

...and added some fresh boiling water as well. Then I let it parboil for a few minutes.

Drain, then filled more jars. I ended up with eighteen -- eighteen! -- pints of garlic.

Last year when I canned garlic, I added citric acid (which is all I had on hand) in order to (cough) preserve the color. Unfortunately it reacted to the garlic and turned it green. Didn't affect the taste in the slightest, but it looked kinda funny. This year I purchased some ascorbic acid and gave that a try.

I added 1/4 teaspoon per pint jar.

Scalding the Tattler lids and gaskets.

Capping the jars.

Garlic is low-acid, so of course it should be pressure canned. My canner holds nine pints per layer, so I was able to fit all 18 jars in one batch.

Before putting the lid on the canner, I checked the seal. It was dry. All American canners have a metal-to-metal seal (no rubber gasket), and about every six or seven uses, I need to add a thin layer of Vaseline so the lid doesn't stick to the body of the canner. I keep this container of Vaseline in the canner when not in use, so I always have it handy.

I canned the pints for 25 minutes at about 12 to 13 lbs. of pressure (for our elevation).

Out of the canner. The ascorbic acid turned the garlic a bit brown, which is certainly more appetizing than green!

Last year's garlic harvest only gave me five pints, which lasted just about the entire year. This year with eighteen pints, I have a lot more garlic than I can possibly use. I've been handing out jars of garlic left and right to friends and neighbors.

But I still needed to plant the garlic. It was late in the season -- I planted it November 26 -- but the earlier snow had melted off and I knew it was now or never. The dirt in the garlic boat was a bit frozen, but nothing I couldn't work around.

The cloves I had put aside for planting were already growing. They wouldn't have been good for canning but they were ideal for planting.

I laid the cloves out first, to make sure they were evenly spaced.

Then I levered the dirt aside and slipped the cloves into the frosty soil. Fortunately garlic is very forgiving about adverse planting conditions. I anticipate these will grow fine.

Next step: bed the garlic boat down with straw. So I raided the barn and got some old stuff I'd been using as bedding for Matilda. The light was fading and I wanted to get the garlic buttoned up before it got dark.

I got the bed covered up just as the sun went down.

This virtually ensures a garlic crop for next year.


  1. I love, love, love garlic. I put in 300 plants last year and 300 again this fall. I make a lot of garlic powder out of it, but canned garlic would be healthier. I also can all of the scapes-they're delicious. This fall, Lord willing, I'm plowing up some more land and putting in at least 1/4 acres of garlic. So many people get garlic from us now that I need to expand. I think this is my favorite crop. I like reading about others who love garlic, too.

  2. Very cool!! I will be starting out the New Year doing a bit of canning myself. We bought a big box of oranges from our local FFA chapter and then several people gave us fruit baskets for Christmas. We have eaten oranges nearly every day and still have not made a dent in them. Rather than let them spoil and go to the chickens, I am going to try my hand at making orange marmalade using my brand new Tattler lids!!

  3. Interesting! Thank you for this post. I also have a boat (that IS a boat your garlic is planted in isn't it?). I'll put a short season crop in the boat in 2013 - and try planting garlic in the fall.

    Meanwhile, one of our wholesale stores that sells to restaurants, sells peeled garlic by the bag, must be 5 lbs in the small bags and a "mite" more in the big bags. I've been afraid to buy even a 5 lb. bag in case it goes bad before I can use it up. But canning it - that's a whole different ball game. I'll use smaller jars than your pints, as my family is smaller.

    Thank you for the inspiration to buy a case of the Tattler lids - I'm now canning more than ever, knowing I don't ever have to buy lids again.

  4. I bet those tattler lids will be 'designated' for savory use next time :) Amazing crop.

  5. Won't be bothered by vampires. Good one Younger Daughter.

  6. Another garlic lover here. Here is a garlic soup recipe that I enjoy.

    There is room to adjust this recipe. I usually add a few more cloves of garlic.

  7. Great blog Patrice. You were certainly blessed with a bumper garlic crop. God is good.


  8. This is a wonderful post. So much I didn't know about how to store garlic.
    Thank you!
    Have a blessed New Year!

  9. I'm a beginner level beginner...I planted cloves from six bulbs this past October. Little shoots are already shooting up (I had to say that). I'm about to start battling the gopher colony that lives here, so we'll see how many I get to harvest next fall. Planting in a boat would certainly fix the gopher problem, hmnn.

    How wonderful that you were able to can 18 pints!!! Those will make nice gifts, indeed.

    1. I had raised beds when we lived in Oregon, and gophers kept getting my garlic too. I ended up excavating the entire garlic bed, lining with hardware cloth mesh, and re-filling it. Never had a problem with gophers again. Go figure.

      - Patrice

  10. How about garlic soup? Great antibiotic properties - excellent if you're recovering from flu or a bad cold and don't fancy much to eat. Or chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic - mmmm.

  11. First time garlic planter here too. Mine's planted in containers, so hopefully gophers won't be an issue....buried the containers in straw just before the snow hit, and now the whole pile is a giant snow mound. So hopefully its all well insulated. Based on the sprouts I was seeing before I buried it all I'm going to have more garlic than I know what to do with.....guess my job for the summer will be to make sure the pressure canner I was given works!

  12. I bought garlic for planting this year for the first time. The people at Potato Garden (yes, I bought my seed potatoes from them, too), said to make sure the soil is well drained with not too much manure. Manure makes the soil hold water and garlic do not like "wet feet" (that is the term they used). I planted three, 4'x4' beds with garlic, each one with its own hard neck variety. Two German varieties and one Russian. I look forward the harvest, Lord willing.

  13. Patrice, what a lovely bumper crop of garlic. Congratulations!

    Next year, if you are not up for cleaning and pressure canning of all the garlic, be sure to harvest it when the leaves are dead half way up the stalk. That way the cloves will be formed but the bulb will still, as a whole, be covered with a layer of paper so you don't have dirt getting between the cloves. Then you can just brush the dirt off and hang all the bulbs/heads in a dark, dry, airy corner of the basement or wherever, and just bring them in and clean and use them as needed. I am always grateful to get some help from mother nature and her self-storing food items.

    this may have been your original intention, had you harvested earlier, but even with the cloves split out, it should still work. Of course, I have only ever had a pound or two of garlic, never enough room for your bumper crop, in order to test this.

    --Midwestern Mama Bear

  14. Check out The Deliberate Agrarian. He made homemade garlic powder and turned a nice profit doing so. Love his blog too!

  15. I mince and dry my garlic. Do NOT dehydrate garlic and onions in the house!! Everything will smell like gym socks for weeks. LOL

    Tell younger daughter it's garlic FLOWERS that repel vampires, or gilly flowers as they called them in ancient times. They wore garlands of flowers that included gillys and angel flowers to ward off evil things in the night.

  16. Once the garlic is peeled you could put it in mesh bags and throw it in the washing machine. Give it a short soak cycle then a short agitation checking it periodically until it is clean. Remove the garlic bags from the washer, dump the garlic into a colander, give it a quick rinse in fresh water and you are done.

  17. Anonymous 7:08,

    You reminded me of when I had a bumper crop of greens (turnip, spinach, collard, mustard) and needed to get them clean before canning.

    I came up with the bright idea of using the mesh bag in the washing machine. Even on the delicate cycle, I ended up with green slime in my washing machine! After cleaning it all out by hand, I had to run bleach through about 3 cycles to remove the pretty green color from the drum of the washing machine!

    We still laugh about that one . . . :)

  18. You even use tires when you garden! Wow! Great minds think alike! :)

  19. So inspiring!!! Thanks for all of the info - you're the best!

  20. Hello! I just ran across your blog, and I'm loving all the information you share! Could you indulge a few questions, though? I'm a fairly new canner, and I'm still trying to figure things out. For this recipe, how long would I process half pints for? My family is small, so we would take forever to go through a pint. I have enough garlic that I'm also wanting to can whole cloves. Can I do this with the method listed above, or would I need to can them in vinegar? And would I trim the ends off of the whole cloves, or just leave them alone? Any advice you have would be amazing! Thank you so much! ~Caroline

    1. I would process half-pints for the same amount of time as pints, namely 25 minutes at 10 lbs pressure (adjusted for your elevation).

      For canning whole cloves, it would be best to use vinegar. I found an excellent blog post on this. See:

      Happy canning!

      - Patrice

  21. Hi Patrice,

    We just dug and cured a bumper crop of garlic and I was delighted to find you had instruction for canning minced garlic...but I am confused. In the direction you said to pressure can for 45 min, but in this last reply you said you would process half-pint the same amount of time as pints, namely 25 min. So should minced garlic be pressure canned for 25 or 45 min if its in half-pint or pint jars? Please advise...

    1. It should be 25 minutes, and I thank you for catching the discrepancy. I've corrected the blog post as well. Happy canning!

      - Patrice

    2. Thank You. I just read your 2011 post and it still says 45 minutes...I just happen to find this post and saw the 25 minutes. So Thank You for answering my question ! 25 minutes it is...
      FYI I plant my garlic every year on Sept 15th because the Farmers Almanac told me to !!! :} Then cover with straw after the first frost ! Or sooner if I get a hankering to ! Love Your Boat ! I use a claw foot bath tub.

  22. I'm wanting to can something I call "Steak Piccata". It's roughly 2 lbs of sirloin, sliced, 1 jalapeno, 1 hananero, 2-4 yellow jalapenos and nearly a bulb of garlic, sliced and 1 small onion, wedged. I would brown the meat, garlic, onion. Then add the peppers. Cook a while and add about 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes. This would all cook about 1 1/2 hours before canning. I normally cook this 2-3 hours on the stove.

    My question is, since everything is cooked and seasoned to taste, why would there be a problem canning it with the garlic? Or, would there?

    1. I see no problems canning your recipe listed above, as long as you follow the First Rule of Canning, which is to can the food in accordance with the ingredient requiring the longest processing time.

      Meat usually requires the longest time, 90 minutes/quarts or 75 minutes/pints, at 10 lbs. pressure adjusted for your elevation.

      Please don't think you can water-bath can the above recipe. You can't. But if you pressure-can, you should be okay.

      - Patrice

    2. No. I've never water bathed. I'm new at this but I joined a group on Facebook about three months before I began. I researched pressure canners and bought that a good 3 months before I actually had my first experience. I thoroughly research everything before I do it.

      On this particular project I got mixed reviews due to the garlic. But garlic is used in purchased, processed foods. Why not mine?

      I'm thinking garlic is OK to can once it's cooked, is that correct?

      Also, from what I read from your followers, the only real problem with canning fresh garlic is the unfavorable color and, I'm thinking the intensity of the flavor, but it's not dangerous. Is that correct?

      Thank You,

    3. Heavens, garlic is perfectly fine to use in canning, either raw or cooked. I don't know why someone would say otherwise. Sage, for instance, is safe to can, but it turns bitter during the canning process and therefore isn't recommended. But garlic? Go for it.

      - Patrice

  23. I'd bet airplanes flying overhead that day would close their ventilation system! :D Thanks for great info!

  24. Found this old post after I dug up our garlic yesterday. I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning it. Our heads were not nearly as big as yours ( I went online this morning and ordered larger garlic, lol) but I found if I let them set in a bowl of water for a little while that they were easier to peel. It was still a bugger of a job but the ones that had sat in the water longer were a little easier to clean. Hope this helps someone!
    Now off to can the harvest - yay!