Garlic is a member of the lily family, though you don't usually associate it with flowers after that first, pungent whiff of its distinctive scent. Known affectionately as the stinking rose, garlic can be harsh enough to ward off the undead or sweet enough to spread on a hot, crusty bialy. What garlic should never be is bitter. Understand the basics of how to choose, cook and store garlic, so that sneaky bitter taste will never come back to bite you.
Choose the freshest possible whole heads of garlic. The color should be clean and white with no visible dark spots or mold. The papery outer coating of the garlic should be tight and crisp, so that the garlic looks like a well-wrapped gift.
Cook with chopped, minced, smashed or pressed garlic immediately rather than letting it sit. Garlic gets its flavor from diallyl disulfide, which is a natural oil that turns bitter when exposed to the air. The finer the pieces of garlic, the more oil is released, so a whole clove can sit for longer than pressed garlic before turning bitter.
Saute garlic slowly over low heat to release the flavor. When garlic is overcooked, it turns bitter. When cooking garlic with other ingredients – such as celery and onions – do not add the garlic until the other vegetables have softened.
Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Humidity can encourage mold, and even the refrigerator can be too moist an environment. Garlic does well when placed in a clay plant pot and set into a pantry or cupboard that is away from the heat of the oven and the steam from a coffee maker.
- Slice green shoots off of garlic cloves rather than discarding the whole head or individual clove, because the presence of a shoot does not mean that the garlic has turned bitter.
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images