15 April 2013

Ode (Odour) to an Allium - Confit Garlic

Last week felt long. Late nights at work, yo-yo weather, saying yes to too many things and way too much coffee and sugar. My body definitely wasn't happy with last week, my shoulders have the tension of an olympic weightlifter without any actual strength; no amount of dewy moisturising mist with outrageous youthful claims would put me in the 95% of the people surveyed who look "10 years younger" and thank god for YSL touche eclat for those under eye circles lest someone mistake me for Fester Adams older sister. Enter the wondrous properties of my favourite allium - garlic (and a glorious weekend sleep in). These paper skin encased, pungent bulbs have been lauded for their medicinal properties for centuries, with everyone from the ancient Egyptians and Hippocrates to modern dieticians promoting its health benefits. On top of all that, it tastes great. Good for me and tasty? Hell yes I will eat you.

So off I went to buy garlic... lots of garlic. Stockpiling for the vampire apocalypse quantities of garlic. I figured if garlic was to be my star ingredient and culinary miracle cure then garlic I should have. I wanted to make melt in the mouth confit garlic to have in jars for all my cooking. After peeling several heads I wondered at my rash purchasing of so much garlic, do I need 4 cups of confit garlic when it's best to use it in a week? AND why didn't I get it already peeled???

Confit is a preservation process which involves slowly poaching your ingredient (traditionally duck legs) in its own rendered fat in which it can then be stored. With garlic you poach it ever so slowly in olive oil until the cloves are soft and subtly golden and the oil is imbued with garlic. Confit garlic is amazing and can be used in any cooking where you would otherwise use garlic for a sweeter, richer flavour. It is so silky and creamy that it tastes divine on a piece of bread (with or without a smoosh of goats cheese) and is magic in aioli.
I don't feel bad at all for anyone who has to sit near me as exude garlic from my every pore, tough, its garlic, deal with it, you may even get some referred health benefit. I also have so very much confit garlic that I am bringing jars of it in to the girls at work so we can all smell together!
Quantities are up to you and will depend on the size of your saucepan and your desire for garlic. Essentially you need to completely cover the garlic cloves as they are poaching, so if you are only poaching 1 cup of garlic cloves but have a large saucepan you may need considerably more oil - no worries, you will just have lots of lovely garlic infused oil to cook with. Confit garlic will keep in a jar in the fridge for 2 weeks. The oil will go slightly cloudy in the fridge but this is normal.
Ingredients (adjust as necessary and only make as much as you need**):

1 cup peeled garlic cloves (there are approximately 50 garlic cloves in 1 cup measure)
bunch fresh thyme (10 - 20 grams)
10 whole black peppercorns
1 - 1 1/2 cups good olive oil (**slightly more or less depending on your saucepan)

You will also need sterilised jars with lids

**NB: I used 4 cups of garlic cloves & 3 1/2 cups of olive oil (with more thyme & peppercorns) but you really don't need such quantities unless you are giving some to friends


Place your peeled garlic, thyme and black peppercorns in a heavy based saucepan and cover with oil. All garlic cloves must be completely covered by the oil.

Place on the stove top on the smallest burner, once the oil gets hot cook for one hour (with lid on) on the lowest heat, stirring every 20 mins, until the garlic cloves are soft and golden.  You should only see very small bubbles coming up through the oil as you want the garlic to poach very very slowly. If your stove top is too hot and the oil has a rolling boil remove from the heat at regular intervals to allow it to cool slightly before continuing.

Make sure that any cloves at the bottom and sides are stirred regularly so they don't brown too quickly or they will be bitter.

Once golden and silky soft (approximately 1 hour), remove from heat and set aside to cool, skim from the top of the oil any skins that may have come off while cooking, and the woody stalks of the thyme. Transfer into prepared sterilised jars with lids (make sure the oil is again completely covering the cloves of garlic). Allow to cool and then store in the fridge for up to two weeks and use whenever you need garlic in cooking or as a spread on garlic toast.

Confit Garlic on toasted sourdough with soft goats cheese and a drizzle of balsamic

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