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Ultimate to
FREEZING GARLIC

If you don’t have the ideal space to store garlic, your garlic may

get soft, sprout, mold, dry out or spoil.   

 

Can I Freeze Garlic?

Yes!   You can freeze garlic cloves, an entire garlic bulb, roasted garlic, chopped and minced garlic.   Freezing does not destroy garlic, though freezing whole garlic cloves does change the feel and touch of these beautiful orbs;  Their texture becomes more squishy.  The good news is that freezing garlic has only a little effect on its flavor; Over time, garlic stored in a freezer becomes slightly less aromatic.  If you don’t have the ideal space to store garlic, your garlic may get soft, sprout, dry out, mold, or spoil. 

This Garlic Freezing Guide provides an overview of how to freeze garlic and what to watch out for.  

 

Freezing is an excellent way to preserve fresh garlic at home.  If you grow your own garlic crop or purchase a few pounds of garlic bulbs from a  Garlic Farm, cloves may begin sprouting in late winter - before you can use it all.    Freezing does not sterilize garlic; the extreme cold slows growth of microorganisms and slows down changes that affect quality or cause spoilage in food.   The quality of frozen garlic depends on many factors including the quality of the fresh garlic, the type of freezer used, the freezer's temperature, the type of storage vessel, and how they are handled from the time they are picked until they are ready to eat. It is important to start with high-quality garlic because freezing will not improve the product's quality.   At our garlic farm in Montana, we grow hardneck garlic.  Planted in the fall, the garlic cloves are exposed to temperatures below -30° Fahrenheit during the winter, and remain alive and full of vigour.  They sprout in early spring.

What is the Worst Way to Store Garlic?

Garlic (Allium sativum) may grow and sprout if it is stored in soil, or a refrigerator.  Hardneck garlic will very likely sprout if it is stored at cold temperatures and then brought into a warmer environment, such as on the countertop of your kitchen, next to a window.   Garlic will probably spoil or rot if it is placed in a plastic bag or air-tight container and kept in a warm, humid environment.    It will probably rot or spoil if you store it in your bathtub, or hidden in a kitchen cabinet for a year.

 

Botrytis bulb rot is a disease of both onion and garlic, as well as leek and shallot. Infection originates in the field.  Blue mold garlic may be caused by several Penicillium species. These fungi are common in the soil growing on infected animal and plant debris. Symptoms of the disease start as pale blemishes, yellow lesions, and soft spots. A blue-green mold develops on lesions.  In garlic, the pathogens survive in infected cloves. 

How Long will Garlic Last in the Freezer?

Stored at a temperature of 0° - 6°F, frozen garlic will last for many years.   At our farm, we've stored garlic in a chest freezer for over four years.  Inspect the frozen garlic every six months or so to make sure it has not spoiled.  Spoiled garlic may have tan or brown spots, and may have turned brown or yellow.  Garlic should not feel squishy, instead it should be mostly firm.  

 

We provided a friend, two pounds of Spanish Roja hardneck garlic, and they intended to plant that garlic in the fall.   That fall, she was transferred to a new job site, in a different state.  She froze her garlic, and planted the cloves the following fall - at her new home.  She claims the plants grew very well.

Is Garlic Flavor Lost when Stored at Low Temperature?

Researchers at the School of Biological Sciences, Liverpool, UK found that there was no statistically significant change in levels of alliin, the major flavour precursor, in cloves stored at 4 degrees C (39.2 F) for six months.  Garlic (Allium sativum) cloves were stored at ambient temperature and 4 degrees C for periods up to six months.  Measured by gradient High Pressure Liquid Chromatography, there was a decline in other sulphur-containing compounds, most likely to be the peptides gamma-glutamyl allylcysteine sulphoxide and gamma-glutamyl isoallylcysteine sulphoxide.  At the same time there was an increase in the flavour precursor compounds including levels of alliin, gamma glutamyl allyl cysteine sulphoxide and gamma glutamyl isoallyl cysteine sulphoxide were statistically significantly higher in outer than in inner cloves.  

SOURCE: Research Gate.    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6979438_Effect_of_Low_Storage_Temperature_on_Some_of_the_Flavour_Precursors_in_Garlic_Allium_Sativum

Begin with Fresh Garlic

It is important to begin with the freshest garlic from the garden to the freezer.      ​After harvest, allow the garlic to cure for about a month in a dry, airy spot, out of direct sunlight. Brush off any dirt and trim the roots.  Don't wash the garlic.  Ideal storage temperature is 33° to 45° degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity should be around 50%.  Garlic is easy to freeze and does not require significant preperation.  You can freeze garlic bulbs, individually peeled or unpeeled cloves, and chopped and minced garlic.  You can freeze garlic scape pesto.  You can freeze cooked and processed garlic.    You can also roast garlic or mix it in butter before freezing, as this can speed up meal preparation when you need garlic in your favorite dish.   ​Regardless of what method you select for freezing the garlic, select only garlic that is firm to the touch (not soft and squishy).  Cloves should be absent of blemishes, which include brown dimples, black spots, damage from harvesting (brown spots from a nick from a shovel or spade). Toss any garlic that appears to have green-blue mold.  Peeled cloves should have a crisp, light yellow-white color.  Avoid cloves that are overly yellow, soft, brown or just do not look or smell right.

How Long Will Garlic Last if it is Not in a FREEZER?

Each garlic variety appears to have a different shelf life  Some hardneck varieties might dry out, sprout, or go soft within 3 to 4 months.  Other varieties can last 6 to 8 months.  Storing hardneck varieties around 32 F (right at freezing temperature) allows them to last much longer.  Hardneck garlic, if handled gently, and stored in a cool location, away from sunlight, should last 7-8 months.  Keep in mind that if garlic is stored right at freezing temperatures, it may sprout after it is brought into a warmer environment.  If you want to have garlic available throughout the year, prepare the rest of your year’s garlic harvest for freezing. 

In terms of Storage Management, control diseases and insects in the field to prevent entry of "storage rot organisms".  Avoid bruising and other mechanical injury when bulbs are being harvested or transported.  Should you treat bulbs with fungicide? This is only recommended in some cases.  Cure garlic with dry conditions, away from sunlight and with circulating air. A healthy garlic with a well cured neck is rarely infected with neck rot during storage.  Inspect garlic and onion before storing and discard all symptomatic bulbs.   If you grow your own garlic, avoid Nitrogen fertilization late in the season. Plant at proper spacing.   Store bulbs under ideal conditions: 32-44°F with 60-75% relative humidity.

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Freeze Whole Garlic 

There are no absolute perfect ways to freeze garlic, though If you are freezing garlic for long-term storage, ideally, do not process the garlic, and freeze whole garlic.  Whole garlic includes unpeeled cloves or entire bulbs.  "Don't cut, don't crush, don't roast, don't smash".  In other words, freeze entire garlic bulbs, or the individual peeled or unpeeled garlic cloves.  Why? Crushing or chopping garlic releases an enzyme, alliinase, that catalyzes the formation of allicin, which then breaks down to form a variety of healthful organosulfur compounds.  The half-life of crushed garlic at 23°C is 2.5 days. Published in the Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry paper in May 2014,  the half-life of allicin was calculated to be about a year at (39.2 F) 4 C.

Anecdotal Evidence:  "We've observed that peeled garlic cloves have a much shorter shelf life as compared to whole, unpeeled bulbs. It is possible the covering protecting the clove may also help prevent the clove from drying out?" - Jere Folgert, GroEat Farm.  Wrapping the peeled cloves first with plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil, and then placed in an airtight container helps the cloves retain moisture, and shriveling of the cloves is minimized.  You don't need to wrap each clove individually, instead, gently wrap a 6 or so, just enough for your future meal that calls for garlic.  We follow this same dual-wrapping procedure (first plastic wrap followed by foil) to make black garlic.

 

By keeping the garlic whole, the sulfuric compounds are not disturbed.  In the wild, these compounds act as a defense toward away animals. In our kitchens, the same sulfur compounds transform our food into aromatic, mouthwatering dishes.   When garlic cloves are cut or smashed, the formation of thiosulfinates is very rapid and has been found to be complete within 10 to 60 seconds of crushing garlic, according to research completed at Oregon State University.  And, Allicin breaks down in vitro to form a variety of fat-soluble organosulfur compounds. 

 

If possible, freeze whole garlic, and crush the garlic after it thaws. 

It's time for you to experiment here.  If you need to have immediate access to roasted garlic or crushed garlic from the freezer, go ahead and process the garlic before freezing.  Again, there are no perfect ways to freeze garlic.  Garlic freezes well and you need to decide on what works best for you!  If you need to process the garlic before freezing (roasting, or integrating with other flavors), that is fine too.

Freezer Tip – If you are using plastic freezer bags, double or triple the bag layers to help prevent freezer burn and to help prevent the garlic odor from escaping. 

Use a Chest Freezer 

When it comes to upright freezers vs chest freezers, chest freezers are considered the best for long-term food storage.  Virtually all chest freezers do not have a self-defrost system which causes freezer burn in most upright freezers.  Air doesn't circulate as much in a chest freezer, which helps prevent freezer burn.  Chest (horizontal) freezers use less energy than upright freezers.   The temperature in a chest freezer stays consistent.  Most upright freezers have an automatic defroster which robs foods of water and results in nasty freezer burn over time.  And if you lose electricity or have a blackout, the chest freezer will keep your food frozen longer than an upright.  

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chest freezer

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Set the Freezer Temperature below  Fahrenheit

The ideal freezer temperature (for garlic and other vegetables) is somewhere between 0° Fahrenheit and -6° Fahrenheit.    According to the USDA Food Service and Inspection Service,  for every five degrees Fahrenheit above zero, the recommended storage time is cut in half.  Food stored above 0 Fahrenheit loses more nutrients and loses quality faster than properly frozen food.  Keeping food below Fahrenheit keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.  


Freezing to 0 °F  or colder inactivates microbes — bacteria, yeasts, and molds that may be present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can once again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.  Trichina and other parasites can be destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict conditions must be met. Home freezing cannot be relied upon to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking, however, will destroy all parasites.

Select the Ideal Storage Container or Vessel

If you are freezing chopped, minced or roasted garlic,  seal them in an air-tight container.  If you are freezing garlic cloves or entire garlic bulbs, place them in a paper bag first, and them into an air-tight container.  An air-tight container helps prevent the flavors from escaping into the freezer and prevents air and oxygen from surrounding the garlic.  Garlic that is stored in an air-tight container can last up to 5X longer than traditional storage methods.  Here at GroEat Farm, we've been able to preserve garlic cloves in a chest freezer for over four  years.  

An easy way to create an air-tight storage container is to place the garlic in a bag and seal the bag, except for the small hole where the straw is inserted.  Suck as much of the air from the bag, quickly remove the straw and seal the bag.  Place the garlic in the zip lock bag and seal the top, except for a small opening for a straw.  Use your lungs and lips to suck the air from the bag.  Recheck the entire seal lock band to make sure the bag is sealed.

Other containers suitable for freezing garlic include certain types of freezer-aprooved glass containers, plastic freezer containers, flexible freezer bags, and glass canning jars.  Foods packed in wide-mouth jars are easier to remove than those packed in narrow-mouth jars.  Some household containers are not recommended for freezing garlic / vegetables. The cardboard cartons that milk, ice cream, or cottage cheese come in are not moisture-vapor resistant enough. Also, non-canning jars break too easily at freezer temperatures. 

Never store fresh garlic in a plastic bag, if the garlic is not stored in a freezer.

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Can I Vacuum Seal Garlic in FoodSaver Bags?

When it comes to garlic preservation, is it a good idea to use a FoodSaver vacuum sealer?  Garlic release natural gases (likely  CO2) which can effect the vacuum seal, and within a vacuum sealed pouch.  Garlic cloves are alive and actively respire.  Cellular respiration is a process that all living things use to convert stored glucose into energy.  Autotrophs (like plants) produce glucose during photosynthesis.  Only foods that have been cooked at a temperature high enough to stop all respiration and enzymatic activity (to kill all living cells) should be vacuum sealed.

Clostridium botulinum only grows under certain conditions - no (or very little) oxygen.   Vacuum packaging creates a no-oxygen environment.  Garlic and mushrooms are low in acid and have available water. Both are grown in close contact with the soil.  The likelihood of Clostridium botulinum being on the garlic and mushrooms is high. By removing the oxygen by vacuum sealing and store at room temperature, you have created a nearly perfect set of conditions for Clostridium botulinum to grow and produce toxin.  

KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE  (USDA.GOV)

Vacuum packaging removes air from food packages. Some pathogenic bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum which causes the deadly botulism poisoning, prefer low-oxygen environments and reproduce well in vacuum-packaged foods. Thus, perishable foods must be kept either in the refrigerator at or below 40 °F, or in the freezer at 0 °F or colder. Vacuum packaging may extend the storage time of refrigerated foods, dried foods and frozen foods, but it is not a substitute for safely processing perishable foods to be stored at room temperature, such as canning or dehydrating. Use refrigerated, vacuum-packaged within a few days, or by the manufacturer's recommended use-by date.

** NOTES FROM OUR GARLIC FARM, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE and OBSERVATIONS.

I had a conversation with one of the engineers at FoodSaver.  FoodSaver is one of the many companies who manufacture and sell Countertop Vacuum Sealers,
Handheld Vacuum Sealers and Other Vacuum Sealers.  I was told that when garlic is placed in a vacuum-sealed bag, over time, gases that are released from the garlic will "erode" the seal.  As I love to experiment, I placed 5 (live and viable seed garlic) purple-striped whole garlic bulbs in a food-saver bag, and vacuum sealed the contents.  I kept the vacuumed sealed bag of garlic on our kitchen countertop (it was not placed in the freezer.)  For about one week, the bag was hard as a rock and each bulb was tightly sealed within this single bag.  I sealed the bag in two different locations along the top.  After eight days, the bag lost it's seal. Interesting!  If the vacuum seal erodes and is lost due to the garlic gases, is there still a risk that Clostridium botulinum will form at room temperatures?    What is the point of using these expensive vacuum-seal bags, not to mention the time and labor wasted in performing the vacuum sealing, if the seal will erode over time?  The next test will be to place the vacuum-sealed garlic bag in the freezer to see if it looses its seal as well?  Put simply, live garlic produce a natural gas that may result in a loss in the vacuum which can leave them vulnerable to becoming spoiled.

You may have noticed that retailers like Smiths, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer sell pre-peeled garlic in small, vacuum-sealed plastic bags.  Producers put  5-10 cloves of the peeled garlic in little vacuum-sealed packets.  Wait !  Isn't this exactly what they're not supposed to do?  Is there a way to pin down the specifics on the time=danger equation here?  Apparently, food processors used forced air to flush a package with a special blend of gases (in this case, probably nitrogen, carbon dioxide and others) to improve the shelf-life of the product (reduce microbial activity and/or prevent chemical degradation/loss of flavor). This special blend of gases should also keep the oxygen level above the level that would allow for Clostridium botulinum for grow.


 

 

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How to Freeze Garlic

Freezing Whole Garlic Bulbs

Freezing entire garlic bulbs is easy, and, possibly the simplest and most effective method of freezing garlic.  Begin with clean, solid (not squishy) full garlic bulbs that have gone through the curing process after harvest.  Curing involves the process of drying garlic for about a month after harvest, away from sunlight.  Use a soft brush to remove as much of the dirt from the bulb.  Keep or remove the "angel-hair like roots". Be sure not to wash the bulb in water.  Place the bulbs directly into an air-right sealed bag or wide-mouth glass canning jar.  Label with the date.  Carefully place the bag or jar in your freezer.  

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Freezing Garlic Cloves 

Freezing peeled or unpeeled garlic cloves is also pretty simple.    Want to simplify the meal preperation time when you’re ready to use the frozen cloves?  By separating the cloves from the bulb, gets you one steop closer to having the garlic ready for your meal preparation.  Here at GROeat Farm, we often freeze unpeeled cloves.   Begin by separating the cloves from the bulb.  A bulb is like a mandarin orange and the cloves are the individual half-moon shaped orbes that make up the garlic geoid.   

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There are so many ways to peel garlic cloves, though we've found the "Silicone Roller Tube" to be very effective and simple.  After separating the cloves from the bulb, place the clove or cloves into the tube and gently roll between your palms or use a counter top.

You can also place unpeeled garlic cloves into a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with another matching bowl and shake, shake, shake.  This is a very effective way to peel multiple garlic cloves.

 

For short-term storage, place the cloves into an air-tight seal bag, and use a straw to draw out the air and seal the bag.  Seal, and label the bag or container. Be sure to label the bag with the date.

Anecdotal Evidence:  "We've observed that peeled garlic cloves have a shorter shelf life (and freezer life) as compared to whole, unpeeled bulbs. It is possible the covering protecting the clove may also help prevent the clove from drying out?" - Jere Folgert, GroEat Farm.  Wrapping the peeled cloves first with plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil, and then placed in an airtight container helps the cloves retain moisture, and shriveling of the cloves is minimized.  You don't need to wrap each clove individually, instead, gently wrap a 6 or so, just enough for your future meal that calls for garlic.  We follow this same dual-wrapping procedure (first plastic wrap followed by foil) when making black garlic.

Freezing Chopped or Minced Garlic

Freezing chopped or minced garlic requires a little more work, though the time you put into the preparation will 'save' that time after thawing the garlic and your garlic will be ready for use in your next meal.  Begin by separating the cloves from the bulb and peel the garlic cloves.  What is the easiest way to mince garlic?  First, crush a clove of garlic with the side blade of a large knife. Then, give it a rough chop. Next, hold your knife and lay the other hand flat across the tip. Use a rocking motion to chop the garlic until finely minced.  Specialized kitchen tools are also effective in mince or crush garlic.  Here are a few options:

  • Aveloki Stainless Steel Garlic Rocker

  • Prepworks by Progressive Adjust-A-Slice Mandoline.

  • OXO Good Grips Soft-Handled Garlic Press.

  • Zak Designs Silicone Garlic Peeler.

  • PeakRous Shaver.

  • Joie Garlic Chopper.

After you chop and/or mince garlic, create "balls" as large as a ping pong ball, or as small as you find to be managable.  Pre-freeze the garlic bulbs for a few hours by placing the balls on a pan, cutting boad, parchment paper or wax paper.  Pre-freezing will harden the garlic balls and make them easier to handle, and will keep them from sticking together.   After the balls freeze, place them into a air-tight seal bag or zip-lock bag.  Seal and freeze.

 

Another option is to spread the minced garlic onto parchment paper, as one continous slab about 1/2 inch thick, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze for a few hours or until partially frozen. using a sharp knife, cut into the slab and create 1 inch x 1 inch squares. Transfer the individual squares into an airtight container such as an air-tight sealed bag or freezer bags and store in the freezer.  

Try freezing chopped or minced garlic in ice cube trays.  Dedicate this ice cube tray to garlic, as it will smell garlicky for a long time.  Also, gently rince the frozen cubes under running water to remove any frost or freezer burn. 

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Freezing Garlic in Butter

A Frozen Stash of Garlic Butter Will Be Your "Secret  Advantage" in the Kitchen!  Garlic and Butter are a wonderful combination.  On a busy week night, If you want to skip the peeling and mincing garlic, prepare in advance a stash of frozen garlic butter.  Storing this amazing combination in the freezer will preserve the garlicky flavor for a long time.  What is nice here is that garlic butter can be used to make (our favorite) garlic noodles or add amazing flavor to a dish of pasta.  Garlic butter can also add pizzazz and energetic flavor to ramen, spagatti and garlic bread.

Garlic butter is essentially a compound butter.  To stock your freezer with the magical combination, begin by softening unsalted butter and then mix together chopped or minced garlic. A good ratio of garlic to butter is three or four large garlic cloves and six to eight tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter.  To add more flavor, try mixing in fresh or dried herbs such as oregano or parsley.    Shape the compound-garlic butter into easy to use balls before freezing.   Place the garlic butter in a zip-top bag or air-tight plastic or glass container.  Another options is to fill ice cube trays with the compound butter which will allow you to use portions of little cubes of garlic butter with ease. 

Freezing Roasted Garlic

Freezing Roasted Garlic is simlar to freezing chopped or minced garlic.  The only difference is you will need to roast the garlic in the oven first.  You can roast garlic and then freeze it to preserve its savory flavor. Roast garlic in the oven, then mash it to help the roasted garlic flesh escape the papery skin. Transfer this mashed roasted garlic to a parchment paper or wax paper, which you then submerge in the freezer for two to three hours. Pull it out and transfer the frozen roasted garlic to freezer-safe bags for long-term storage.  Try freezing roasted garlic paste in ice cube trays.  Dedicate this ice cube tray to garlic, as it will smell garlicky for a long time.  Also, gently rince the frozen cubes under running water to remove any frost or freezer burn. 

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How to Thaw Garlic

After removing frozen garlic cloves from the freezer, thaw garlic like you would other vegetables.  One option is to thaw in the refrigerator (slower).  Another option is to thaw in a bowl of water (quicker).  Frozen garlic is fairly easy to cut with a sharp knife.  If you are in a hurry, slice and dice frozen cloves and add them directly to your dish as it is cooking.  If you are preparing a meal, there’s no need to thaw frozen chopped, roasted or pureed garlic.  Add it directly into your dish from frozen, and it will melt as it cooks.  After removing frozen crushed, minced or garlic-butter, thaw in the refrigerator or use directly in your meal preparation. 

 

How to Use Frozen Garlic

After removing garlic from the freezer, thaw the garlic.  Handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.   After the thawing is complete, garlic can be used in virtually every way you would use fresh garlic.    Garlic is most often used as a flavoring agent but can also be eaten as a vegetable. It is used to flavor many foods, such as salad dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces, vegetables, meats, soups, and stews. It is often used to make garlic butter and garlic toast.  You do not need to wait for frozen garlic to thaw before placing it into a soup or stew you are assembling. Let the frozen garlic heat up with the rest of the stew and enjoy its fragrant flavors.

Dehydrate Garlic for Long Term Storage

If you have a lot of garlic and you want to keep it long term, and you do not have freezer space,   another method for preserving it is by dehydrating to remove the moisture.   Begin by peeling garlic cloves.  Slice garlic very thin with a sharp knife or rotary food processor.  Arrange the cut cloves in a dehydrator keeping air space between slices.  Set dehydrator to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit and allow the sliced clove "rings" to dry until all of they are crispy and break easily (like a potato chip).  Store the results in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot out of sunlight.  Use a vacuum seal maching to store dehydrated garlic for even longer storage.  And, you can always place the dehydrated garlic powder in the freezer!

Other Way to Store Garlic

Make black garlic.  

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