There aren’t many foods more amazing, yet seemingly humble, than garlic. It truly deserves the title of super food.
Our ancestors knew of garlic’s medicinal power long before science explained the hows and whys. For centuries it has been lauded for its miraculous healing properties.
We now know it’s full of healing and health boosting compounds, including amino acids, minerals and detoxing agents, along with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents.
The most powerful of these is Allicin, which is a protein-digester. This combines with our food making it easier to digest and is also an anti-biotic. It kills bacteria by invading and breaking down the proteins inside them.
But Allicin, which gives garlic its pungent odour, is destroyed during the cooking process.
Our ancestors instinctively knew that eating raw garlic was important. Throughout Europe you can find age-old dishes that were made with raw garlic. These show us that getting the benefits of raw garlic needn’t be preceded by downing a clove and grimacing. We can serve raw garlic at our tables and make it a pleasure.
Here are 4 ways:
1 – Ferment it
Fermenting raw garlic is culinary magic; the health properties are maintained (studies show some benefits are actually increased) and the strong flavour is softened and sweetened.
Fermented garlic can be used as a condiment to accompany your meal, chopped up and stirred into salad dressings or sprinkled over the top of vegetables or even enjoyed as a health tonic just prior to eating.
It’s easy to make: You need a glass jar, salt and water. Three-quarters fill your jar with peeled cloves. Make a brine by mixing 5 grams of salt per cup of non-chlorinated water and pour this over the garlic cloves. Feel free to add spices. If you have a cabbage or lettuce leaf available, cut it to the width of the jar and place it on top of the garlic clothes to help keep them under the brine (you can also add glass weights to aid this further). Leave this to ferment for at least six weeks.
If you don’t want to do a whole jar of garlic, add single cloves to other ferments – there are countless examples of ferments such as the Polish Beet Kvass, Romanian Bors and German Sauerkraut being flavoured with additional raw garlic cloves.
2 – Fettunta
Fettunta is a simple Italian dish traditionally served at the celebration of the new olive oil harvest in November, but in practice eaten throughout the year.
Toast some good bread. Peel a garlic clove and rub it vigorously over the surface of the bread. Drizzle olive oil on top of this. That’s it – now enjoy the warm bread with its crunch, the strong garlic and the unctuous oil together in each bite.
3 – Allioli
Allioli is a garlic sauce made from raw cloves and bread crumbs. In the Catalan region it pairs with fish and meat and in France it is served with snails.
Pulverise some garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle or food processor. Add good quality olive oil slowly and mix well. Soak breadcrumbs in lemon juice or vinegar and then squeeze them out (but not completely). Add them to the garlic and combine well. Chop a generous amount of parsley and grind this into the mix.
Serve allioli with meats, spread it on roasted vegetables or use it as a dip.
4 – Chocolate-coated Garlic
I first read about this in an Oxford food symposium essay from the 1980s, where it is referred to as having Sicilian origins. Despite further searching, I’ve not been able to confirm this. But I can tell you that my husband thinks it pairs very well with coffee, so maybe there’s truth in its Italian origins!
I have made this with both raw garlic cloves and fermented garlic cloves. It really is much nicer with fermented garlic.
It’s as simple as melting some really good quality dark chocolate in a double boiler, then spearing your garlic cloves with toothpicks before dipping them into the melted chocolate. Put them aside to set, then munch away…seriously, everyone in our family likes these.
We are living through a time when staying as healthy as possible is very much in our psyches. Garlic can help us do this; it is literally a miracle food.
In case you need any more convincing, I want to leave you with instructions for a raw garlic-infused vinegar that dates back to the time of the European plague. It is a concoction that was made by thieves entering the houses of the dead, to rob them. It reputedly protected them from being affected by the bacteria.
Strong stuff! It’s still available to buy in France today.
Food should be about enjoyment and pleasure and I truly believe you can experience these while eating raw garlic. Use one of my four suggestions above and you can benefit from the incredible components in raw garlic without the need to down a plague-resisting vinegar!