Storing the feast

So much garlic, so little time

I’ve found the hardest part of learning to garden has been knowing what to do with the food. This is a big learning curve for me.

I admit it. As a kid my parents didn’t preserve food (unless you count eating leftovers from the fridge all week as ‘preserving’.) Then when I first moved out of my own I overbought food all the time, did nothing with it except forget to use it, let it spoil, and toss it. (Gulp. That’s a hard confession for me now since food stability is so close to my heart. Well, we all have to learn some time!)

When I became an adult a grownup older and wiser started trying harder, I began buying fresh food regularly in small amounts. This really cut down our food waist, but didn’t force me to learn to can, freeze, pickle or dry. Now that I’m stay-at-homesteading though things are different. I’m staggering my planting, but that only buys me a slightly larger winder harvest window. I still end up with huge amounts of one food coming in at one time. For example, this week I harvested about two dozen garlic heads – so, hello preservation!

First on my list…Garlic.


I picked my lovely garlic a couple days ago when the stems were about 1/3 brown. This was a ‘when to pick’ tip I found on the web and indeed, my garlic was ready to be picked. I probably should have picked some of them a bit sooner, but most heads were still good for eating.

Garlic fresh from the garden

Next year I’ll do small harvests as things are ready instead of waiting and doing them all at once. If you wait too long to pick garlic it begins to crack and loose flavor. This happened to a couple of mine. My heads that cracked are being broken up though and planted for next year. The rest will be preserved.


Garlic lasts for different periods of time when stored differently:

  • 3-5 months stored in a cool dry place
  • Almost indefinitely when dried in the oven (though I couldn’t find an exact time frame)
  • 10-12 months Frozen in oil
  • A couple weeks Refrigerated in oil
  • Almost indefinitely (though I’d not use after a year) when pickled and stored in the fridge

Freezing – To get maximum garlic coverage ’till next spring, I’m preserving in several different ways. I’m putting about 5 heads in the freezer following this recipe.

Pickling – I’m pickling about 6 heads following this recipe and this one and this one too.

I like the idea of pickled garlic with wine like in this recipe from Ball Canning Comp.:

Pickled Garlic 


  • 12 large heads garlic, about 1 3/4 lb (838 g)
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) pickling salt
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) dried oregano
  • 5 dried whole chili peppers
  1. Place 5 clean 250 or 236 ml mason jars in a boiling water canner; fill with water, bring to a rolling boil. Boil SNAP Lids 5 minutes–not longer–to soften sealing compound.
  2. Separate garlic bulbs into cloves. To soften and loosen skins, blanch garlic cloves in rapidly boiling water 30 seconds; immediately immerse in cold water, drain and peel cloves.
  3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, wine, pickling salt, sugar, and oregano. Bring to a boil; boil gently 1 minute; remove from heat. Add peeled garlic cloves to hot vinegar mixture. Stir constantly 1 minute.
  4. Pack garlic and 1 dried whole chili pepper into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top rim. Add hot liquid to cover garlic to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Center SNAP Lid on jar; apply screw band securely until fingertip tight. Do not overtighten. Place jar in canner. Repeat for remaining garlic and liquid.
  5. Cover canner; return water to a boil. Process –boil filled jars – 10 minutes.* Remove jars. Cool undisturbed 24 hours. Check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store in a cool, dark place.

Notes: Makes about 5 – 250 or 236 ml jars. This recipe was specially formulated to allow home canners to preserve a low acid food – garlic – in commonly available boiling water canners. Do not deviate from the recipe ingredients, quantities, jar size and processing method and time. Any change could affect the safety of the end product. Note, 250ml. jars are half pints.

Braiding – I’m storing the rest in a cool dry place. I started with braiding my garlic, then hung it where it would have a cool and constant temperature.

Here’s some ‘how to’ links I liked about braiding garlic:

Here’s how I braided my garlic:

  • After washing my garlic and cutting off the roots, I arranged three garlic heads like this (see photo from here below) – 
  • Then (just like braiding) I crossed the right garlic stem to the center, then the left garlic stem to the center.
  • I then added a new garlic to the bunch being sure the new stem was in the center bunch of stems. I then crossed the right stem to the center.
  • Then I added a new stem to the center bunch and then crossed the left stem to the center.
  • I repeated this pattern (adding one stem to the center and crossing only one side of the braid, then adding one stem and crossing the other side of the braid) until I had about a dozen garlic heads in the braid.
  • I tied of the braid as you would a hair braid using a piece of string to hold all the stems together.

Things I found helpful I learned through trial and error:

  • Have your twine there are ready for you to tie off your braid before you start. (I had to wonder around the house looking for my garden twine while tightly griping my braid and hoping it wouldn’t fall apart.)
  • Always add the new garlic stem to the center, but alternate the places you set the garlic heads from side, to center, to side. (This is discussed in the video, but I didn’t see that until after I’d fumbled through some missteps where my stems and heads went to side to side. If you keep the new stems in the middle it all comes out neat and organized when braiding.)

Garlic breath is a good thing

The freezing is easy, but I’m still learning to pickle, so I’ll let you all know how the that turns out. I’m intimated, but I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize. Garlic is yummy. I cook with garlic almost every day. Garlic is great for your health! So pickling here I come!

In the mean time, I’m pausing on garlic and going to bake cookies :).

Peace and preserving friends!

– Claire


About onaclaireday

I am a wife, a mother, a social worker, a writer, a crafter, and a seeker who is trying to blend all of my passions into one balanced life. Usually my path feels cloudy, but occasionally, on a clear day, 'getting it right' feels so close I can smell it. Here I'll write about that journey sharing about whatever strikes my fancy from good books I'm reading to interior design. Thanks for reading and sharing your journey too. - Claire
This entry was posted in buying local, food, health, homesteading, life, Sustainable/Eco and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Storing the feast

  1. Erin says:

    That garlic braid is so beautiful! I made some refrigerator dill pickles this week that I’m terribly excited about. They won’t be ready until the last week in July, which is perfect timing for us to try them in the mountains… 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s