Fermented garlic is super easy to make, using just two ingredients, and it produces a powerful remedy with a long shelf life that also tastes delicious! What’s not to love?
I had a good garlic crop this year. Fermented garlic is one of my staple ways of preserving my harvest. I also dry slices or chopped garlic, freeze logs of garlic butter and pesto, hang some in a well ventilated place for eating and planting next year, and pickle some.
If you don’t have homegrown garlic, use the best garlic you can find for this if you want it to make a good medicine – preferably Australian rather than imported, irradiated garlic. The only other ingredient you need is honey. Use your own or a local honey.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is peeling the garlic. If you are saving some garlic to plant, make sure you save the biggest, fattest bulbs and eat all the skinny ones so that your garlic heads get bigger every year. Bigger cloves will grow bigger and more numerous bulbs. Some of my garlic had 15 cloves to a head this season.
To make the garlic peeling go faster, invite a friend over for a cuppa, pop on a podcast or even balance a book on your knees like I did. You can make any amount you like. Just peel garlic and fill up a jar with clean cloves. Try not to bruise the garlic as you remove the papery skin, or it might turn blue as it ferments. This looks weird but it’s just the sulphur compounds reacting with the acid level of the fermenting honey – it happens sometimes in pickled garlic and is totally safe to eat.
If there’s any trace of mould in the bulbs as you peel them, give the peeled cloves a good wash before putting them into the jar. Set aside any badly affected cloves to cut and use for other recipes. I don’t sterilise the jars for this recipe, just use a clean jar. Every year I make a larger size batch. Choose a jar roughly the same volume as your quantity of cleaned garlic.
When the jar is full to a few centimetres from the top, spoon honey onto the garlic and let it slowly settle and fill up the gaps. You’ll probably need to spoon some over, let it flow down for five minutes then spoon some more in. Do this until the garlic is covered with honey with no big air gaps. Bubbles of air are fine.
The honey will draw liquid out of the garlic cloves and partially dehydrate them, shrinking them a little. This extra liquid dilutes the honey and allows it to ferment (like mead). The fermenting process produces gas and the jar needs to be burped daily, or even several times a day for the first few days. Be warned that the burps from this jar will smell very strongly of garlic!
After a day or two, you should see lots of little bubbles on the garlic cloves. The honey will probably bubble over the edge of the jar, even if it’s closed. Set it on a plate to catch the overflow (stand it somewhere ant-proof if you need to). Leave it out at room temperature. You don’t need to refrigerate this ferment.
The garlic cloves will rise to the top at the beginning of the fermentation process. With any ferment, you want the vegetables to stay submerged so they don’t go mouldy. So at least once a day, invert the jar to coat the top layer of garlic cloves with the liquid.
The fermentation will slow down after a few days. Once the cloves have sunk to the bottom, it’s ready to use. This might take a few weeks, depending on your climate. Then you can clean any honey off the outside of the jar and store it in the cupboard. The garlic will be darker and slightly smaller, and the honey runnier than when you started. The darker garlic in this photo is last year’s batch.
I use this honey garlic whenever I need an immune boost, like if there’s a cold or flu going around. I eat one clove a day or drizzle the honey over a savoury meal. It’s pretty tasty. If you find it too strong, try spooning out one clove and chopping it into smaller pieces to stir through a meal. I never cook the garlic or honey, as I want the microbial benefits of the fermentation. I add it to my meal when I’m ready to eat.
I’ve also used it for infections, like a boil that wouldn’t go away, with the same dosage of eating one clove per day. It completely cleared it up. Garlic and honey are both antimicrobial.
This ferment stores really well in the cupboard. I still have some of last year’s batch and it hasn’t changed in taste or appearance. The garlic and acid level (naturally present in the honey) should prevent most moulds. You might need to keep an eye on a metal lid rusting into the brew if you store it longer than a year. If I discover this starting, I just add a layer of greaseproof paper underneath the lid. You could also use a jar with a plastic lid, as it doesn’t need to be heat-sealed at the start.
It takes a few weeks to be ready and garlic is in season in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s a great time to start a batch of this now. Then you’ll be ready for whatever 2022 brings!