As I buried my wet face in the towel, I became shockingly aware that it had been hanging to dry in the same room where the garlic had been processing in the Excalibur Food Dehydrator. So, Rule #1 for dehydrating garlic: don’t hang your swimming pool towel in the same room. Even the mild mix of chlorine water from my backyard pool combined with the warm smell of garlic was unsettling. I have dehydrated plenty of other foods in there without this phenomena, but garlic permeated nearly everything. On the bright side, I haven’t seen any mosquitoes for quite a while.
But it did remind me that I needed to check on the garlic. This first time around, I had chopped off the ends and peeled the cloves. The garlic had only been dug a couple of days prior and it was not easy to peel. The skins were still too moist even for very good results with the rubber tube garlic peeler. I had to use my finger nails quite a bit and they became raw preparing enough garlic for 4 trays in the dehydrator. Thus, Rule #2: Give the garlic skin a few days to dry if you want it to be easy to peel. It will still be very potent.
My husband had sat on the couch and painstakingly diced the cloves into pieces with a regular knife that fateful night. It took FOREVER. Rule #3: Use a Pampered Chef Chopper. It not only chops quickly, but it self-rotates while it does it. I find using both hands to apply the chopping force helps me to avoid stressing my wrists. Having the top of the chopper positioned no higher than your waist gives the best leverage, too. When I used the chopper for the next batch, I was done chopping inside of half an hour, as opposed to poor hubby’s 3 hours on the couch.
I hadn’t gotten this far into being hands on with garlic without realizing how sticky it can be. When I saw all those fun piles of chopped up garlic on my cutting board, I knew that using my hands to pick them up and spread them was going to be challenging. There had to be a better way. Rule #4: A cooking spatula is much faster and less messy way to transfer the juicy garlic to the dehydrator trays. I chose to use a hard plastic one, because I wanted to use it for spreading, too. I figured the plastic would have less chance of tearing or puncturing my dehydrator sheets.
All this stickiness also leads to Rule #5: Take the time to rinse the garlic off of everything right away, especially the chopper. You will thank yourself later.
I followed all of the above rules when I worked on my second batch of garlic for the dehydrator. I did it all by myself in less time than it took 2 of us previously. Other things that I did that might be useful:
- I completed each step for all the cloves before proceeding to the next
- I broke apart the bulbs without worrying about the dirt. There was no reasonable way to keep the skins dry and avoid the dirt at this stage.
- I frequently rolled (to peel) more than one clove of garlic at a time, but it worked best if they were about the same diameter and not more than 3 of them.
- I also did not worry about dirt while peeling the garlic, but put them all in a colander for rinsing once they were peeled.
Both of my main resources for dehydrating only said dry until crisp, with no other guidelines for how long it might take. The book that comes with the machine did recommend a temperature of 105°F.
I have already tested cooking with some of the fully dehydrated garlic from the first batch. It ground up easily with a mortar and pesto for a powder. This was sprinkled over salmon and blended perfectly. The pieces that I left whole to saute with zucchini in butter cooked up very tender in the same amount of time it took to cook the zucchini.
It is so rewarding to be able to save my garden produce this way and I already have a habit of using dried, minced garlic in my cooking, so this is definitely a great result for me. Now, to decide if I want to process any for Christmas gifts. I like growing it and dehydrating it, but will others like using it?