In the culinary world, the term "black gold" is usually reserved for truffles, those delicious mushrooms that make everything taste better. But did you know that black gold could also be black garlic, which is equally tasty -- and, perhaps, a little easier to come by? Although it may sound like one of those items you don't really need, we're going to insist that -- yes, you do.
Clean Plate Charlie stumbled upon it this weekend, when the Little House owner Chrissy Benoit -- founder of Lake Worth's Havana hideout -- gave us a taste of some in her Boynton restaurant. Recently, she's been using black garlic to flavor some of the Little House's most popular dishes, including the daily mac and cheese.
According to Benoit, black garlic -- or fermented garlic -- is more intense, with a robust, sweet flavor reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce and molasses. Indeed, a fruity tang emanates from each bulb, softened from fermentation, yielding a color anywhere from dark brown to midnight black.
So how does it turn black? A little time. Garlic contains natural sugars and amino acids that -- after undergoing fermentation -- produce melanoidin, a dark-colored compound responsible for turning the garlic black. Typically, special fermentation boxes are used to create the process in a controlled environment, where garlic is heated, cooled, and dried until ready. After a few weeks, the garlic becomes tender, with a jelly-like consistency, yielding a wonderfully complex flavor.
Benoit sources her black garlic from a unique purveyor: her father, who has developed his own fermentation process after modifying a smoker on his farm in Loxahatchee. Benoit receives shipments a few times each month and sells what she doesn't use at the restaurant to locals and customers.
What makes black garlic so great, aside from taste? We're glad you asked. Basically, it's all the good things about garlic, like flavor-enhancing qualities and health benefits -- without any of the bad. Like, say, bad breath. The smell won't linger on your tongue or in your mouth. Pungent odor? No, more like a soft, mellow scent. Just as a good wine gets better with age, it's pretty much the same with garlic. That, and it's loaded with nearly twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic, and -- thanks to the fermentation process -- contains a naturally occurring compound that has been proven to be a known cancer fighter.
Interested in trying some for yourself? Recently Whole Foods was selling the delicacy for close to $40 per pound. If that seems a little out of your price range, you could always try making your own. All you need is a fermentation box and some time. Of course, if money and time aren't on your side, you could just stop by the Little House, which is selling three bulbs of black garlic for $20. For more information, visit the Facebook page to see what menu items feature the new flavor, or call 561-420-0573 to place an order for the next batch.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.
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