I was going to write on a completely different subject, but when I bought several heads of young garlic planning these fantastic pickles, I thought I’d mention them once again.
The pickles are ridiculously easy, process takes no time at all, though the waiting time is long… so you must be patient! All you need is a relatively neutral vinegar, soy sauce, rice wine (e.g sake) and honey. “Normal” garlic cloves are also delicious pickled this way, but the soft-skinned spring ones are quicker and simply the best, so spring is the perfect moment to think about these surprisingly rewarding pickles.
I copy here the recipe posted seven years ago, since I haven’t changed it since then. I prepare these pickles every year and several times a year, sometimes with young garlic, sometimes with the “old” one. They are always delicious and keep infinitely once refrigerated (see below). I have even managed to test a small two-year old portion, kept for two years in the fridge, and it was still perfect!
The recipe comes from Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall’s Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, but I have stretched the pickling time, the original one being too short for my taste. After the time I advise below, garlic cloves mellow, the colour changes to very dark brown and they become irresistible.
If you wonder what you might do with this garlic (apart from eating it straight from the jar every time you open it,) you might like it chopped and served as rice or noodle topping, as a sandwich enhancer (think of a gherkin replacement here) or as one of side-dishes served with both Asian and Western meals or as a sake/wine snack. The brine can be used as a dressing for raw vegetables, a salad or a sauce for grilled meats or rice.
Sprinkling on top of this Korean-style monkfish is one of the ways these pickles can be used:
TIPS: Don’t worry if some bubbles appear during the first stage (called the “maturing” process). It is normal. The only thing you should worry about is mould (luckily I didn’t have any).
Apparently some versions of these pickles are very sweet. I must say I didn’t even need to cut down on honey because Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall’s recipe doesn’t use a lot of honey. For me the result was perfect.
I have used here low-sodium soy sauce and my pickled garlic is not particularly salty, but I have no idea how salty it will be when pickled in standard soy sauce.
Do not throw away the vinegar (after the first stage) and especially the soy-sauce brine! Both are delicious and can be added to many cold and warm dishes.
Preparation: about 3 months (with “old” garlic) or about one month if using young spring garlic
50 rather big garlic cloves, peeled
500ml/about 1 pint rice vinegar or cider/apple/white wine vinegar
500 ml soy sauce (I use and advise low-sodium soy sauce)
4 tablespoons honey (you can also use cane sugar)
2 tablespoons rice wine (I use cheap Japanese sake I buy for cooking, but Korean wine would of course be more genuine here)
Wash the garlic cloves and dry them.
Put them into a jar and cover with vinegar. Pack the garlic tightly so that the cloves are completely immersed (you might need a bit more of vinegar but leave at least 3 cm (a bit more than 1 inch) of space between the lid and the liquid). Cover tightly with plastic film or with a lid.
Close the jar and leave at room temperature for two weeks.
(You will see some bubbles on top, the garlic will change the colour to blue or green… but don’t worry, unless there is mould, everything is perfect).
After the two weeks discard the vinegar (don’t throw it away ! garlic-infused vinegar is delicious) and put back the garlic cloves into the same or another clean jar.
Combine the honey, the soy sauce and the rice wine, pour over the garlic, again making sure the garlic is immersed and leaving some space under the lid.
Leave tightly covered at room temperature for at least ten days, but I strongly recommend at least one month with young garlic and two months with normal old garlic cloves. Taste the garlic every week, you will see how the taste evolves and you will understand why two months are better. Of course, if you do this in the summer or if you leave in a hot region, pickle the garlic in the fridge (the warmest places will be best, for example the fridge door).
I can confirm these pickles stay delicious for at least two years.