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Make the Best Home Made Garlic



Black garlic turns black after it is allowed to age over time under controlled conditions that bring about a Maillard reaction. 

It is this chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids that gives black garlic that dark color and distinctive flavor.

The flesh of black garlic has a flavor that is at once both distinctly savory and slightly sweet. The resultant flavor and texture is similar to that of molasses. 

On the edges, black garlic feels tender yet dry, but the center is moist with a slightly gelatinous feel.

Black garlic has gained immense popularity over the last few years as a restaurant ingredient, although Asians have been eating it for centuries. 

Black garlic is nutritious, rich in immune-boosting nutrients, such as phytonutrients, according to medical experts. 

Dehydrators are a fairly popular tool for making home-made black garlic. But most people don’t own one. I don’t own one myself, either. 

Most of the techniques I picked up from YouTube videos required me to make a ton of black garlic heads at a go. It was always too much for me to possibly consume at once, even with my garlic habit. 

I was desperate to find a way to make just a few black garlic heads and without having to splurge on new kitchen equipment. 

Instant Pot Black Garlic 

When I discovered the Instant Pot technique, I was smitten with it. Of course I was enamored by the idea of making black garlic within a day instead of a month. 

It was a YouTube video of course that came to my rescue. I learned that I could place peeled cloves of garlic inside a Mason jar, add the jar and a cup of water inside the Instant Pot, and then leave it cooking on high for the next 6-8 hours. 

Six hours later, I was opened the Instant Pot to find somewhat sooty but not quite black garlic. The insides were just the same as those of raw garlic and not squishy at all.

At first I thought it was the six hour cooking time, so I tried again. This time I gave it the full eight hours.  Even then, the texture was not soft and gelatinous like I wanted. The flavor too was a definite miss. Nothing like the black garlic I got from the store. 

At this point, I was ready to move on to my next experiment: Slow Cooker Black Garlic.

Slow Cooker Black Garlic

Emerged from my failed experiment older and wiser, I went back to good old YouTube for inspiration for my next experiment. After a whole lot of YouTubing, I gathered that I was supposed to place the garlic heads inside a turkey basting bag and cooking it on low heat on the slow cooker and then leaving it for a week, checking on it, then cooking it for another week before my black garlic is ready. 

It is a miracle that I even finished the first week of the damned experiment. By day three, the smell of garlic was so intense that I had to quarantine the slow cooker in the bathroom to avoid permanently marking my home with an indelible smell of garlic. 

At the end of the week, the poor basting bag was melted, and the garlic was transformed into coal. Completely charred and lacking in moisture. To call it a failure would be an understatement. 

I tested the temperature of the Crock-Pot after the whole thing was over and at was 350°F at the lowest setting. The failure of the experiment was no longer a mystery. 

I decided to restart the experiment, this time turning it off and on to keep the temperature from going too high or too low. 

It took effort to do this, and three days later, I was rewarded with a second batch of charred garlic. 

My final conclusion was that this method only works with a slow cooker whose lowest temperature setting is between 120 and 160°F.

I was now about to give up, but I still had not tried my rice cooker. So off I went. 

Rice Cooker Black Garlic

I approached my third and final experiment armed with the lessons learned from my work with the slow cooker. 

I tested my rice cooker’s temperature first before putting in my garlic cloves. I was working with a trusted 15-year-old rice cooker. My Zojirushi rice cooker bottoms out at 150°F which is higher than 120°F but certainly not as high as 350°F. I would have to carry out a daily temperature check. 

I started with two heads of garlic which I wrapped in foil before dunking into the rice cooker. The rice cooker was also sealed in foil from the top to keep the garlic from losing moisture. 

Two days later, I checked on my garlic heads and loved how well they were doing. They were visibly darker, though not as dark as they needed to be. I did sadly, cause the garlic to lose much of its moisture.

By the sixth day, my garlic was almost black and thankfully not as dry as I expected. Day nine was the D-Day. I removed my garlic heads, skinned them and was delighted to discover a proper clove of black garlic. 

The first thing I noticed was the aroma which was very similar to store-bought garlic. Then I cut it in two and discovered a gelatinous but stable texture. It was just what I wanted. 

It was now time for the taste test.  I now tasted the garlic and discovered that it was almost perfect. The ‘almost’ meaning that it was a little too dry. 

I figure if I keep them covered throughout the cooking process and pull them out on Day 8 instead of Day 9, I will probably end up with perfect black garlic cloves. 

I had achieved what I wanted. I had a reasonably sized batch of homemade black garlic ready without having to wait a whole two weeks or purchase any additional kitchen equipment. 

My trusted old rice cooker was good enough. My two prior experiments were more than worth it. The milder flavors were pleasant. This method for preparing the best homemade garlic is perfect for black garlic lovers. People who rarely use black garlic can settle for store-bought garlic. 

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Can you Replace Whole Vanilla Beans with Vanilla Bean Powder? Our Taste Test




There is a surprisingly wide range of vanilla extracts, vanilla powders, vanilla beans, and vanilla pastes available on the market. You may have wondered whether you are better off using vanilla bean powder to substitute vanilla beans. We have tested them so that you don’t have to. 

Vanilla Bean Powder

Vanilla bean powder is made from whole vanilla beans which have been ground up. This makes it cheaper than buying whole vanilla beans. Vanilla bean powder is also much easier to use than whole vanilla beans. 

If you need to substitute one for the other in a recipe, use half a teaspoon of vanilla powder to replace two inches of vanilla bean. Whatever you are baking will come out with the same beautiful specks you would get from vanilla beans. 

Vanilla bean powder is not the same as vanilla powder. The vanilla powder works best when you do not want the vanilla to affect the color of the food. You might want your vanilla cake to come out white, sans specks. We learned this information after looking up everything.

We also learned that vanilla bean powder is like vanilla beans because its quality worsens the longer it is stored. This deterioration in quality affects both vanilla beans and vanilla bean powder. We learned that vanilla bean paste is a better substitute for whole vanilla beans than vanilla bean powder. 

We ended up investing in vanilla bean powder we found on Amazon. It cost $10 an ounce which is expensive but not as expensive as vanilla beans. Two vanilla beans cost nearly $20. It can take up to 8 vanilla beans to make an ounce of vanilla beans. 

The vanilla bean powder we ordered from Amazon smelled lovely. We went ahead and used one and a half teaspoons of vanilla bean paste to make blackberry bread. The recipe called for vanilla extract but I used the vanilla powder as a substitute. The results were not what I expected. 

The vanilla flavor was present but subdued. We were hoping to be wowed by the vanilla flavor. We were also hoping to see vanilla bean specks on the bread. There weren’t any specks. The bread took on a grey tint instead. Vanilla bean powder does not achieve beautiful specks or a strong vanilla flavor. Vanilla bean paste does that for me. 

But I might use vanilla powder if I was in a bind with no way to get some vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Besides baking, the vanilla powder might be nice for smoothies, oatmeal, or even coffee. 

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Is this British Condiment the Missing Ingredient in your Life?




I grew up eating cucumber sandwiches, beans on toast, crumpets, and other typically English foods. But for some reason, I was an adult before I had the pleasure of eating my first sandwich pickle. 

It was made with butter spread uniformly on each slice and a not-too-thick cut of Gloucester and finished with a large drop of Branston Pickle. It was a precise, yet simple process that yielded a perfectly delicious sandwich. 

I fell in love with the combination of sweet, savory, acidic, and sticky flavors contrasted by the fat from the cheese. Even though I sometimes added tomato slices to what became my go-to meal when I wanted a nice lunch sans cooking. 

Once I got introduced to the Sandwich Pickle, every trip to the UK became an opportunity to stock up on Branston Pickle. 

Branston Pickle is a decidedly British condiment. It is the equivalent of Marmite or HP Sauce. Branston Pickle has maintained the same recipe since 1922 and faces little competition. The brand sells more than 17 million bottles each year.

A typical British ‘ploughman’s lunch’ comprises bread, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and pickle. Branston pickle is present in most British kitchens.

What gives Branston Pickle its unmistakable character is the mishmash of sugar, applesauce, spices, date paste, and barley malt vinegar which gives it the quality of aged umami. The other ingredients are cauliflower, carrots, onion, and rutabaga.

It is these vegetables that make up the lumpy bits inside the pickle. These lumps may or may not settle dead center on your sandwich. 

If you do not like the lumps, there is always the smooth version of Branston Pickle. The small-chunk version of Branston Pickle spreads more evenly while still giving you something to chew. 

You can choose any of the three versions of Branston Pickle, depending on how you intend to use it. Branston Pickle has many uses beyond sandwiches.

I find the condiment just as delicious on Triscuits and sharp cheddar cheese as it is on a melted cheese toast.

I have spread Branston Pickle on dosa and used it on deviled eggs. The smooth version works better for this.

Branston has been making chutneys for a few years now. Their caramelized onion chutney is quite good – you want to partner it with a bold Stilton. But none of them beats the Branston Sandwich Pickle to me.

Seven years ago, I moved to the US. For the first time, I did not know where to buy my favorite British condiment. When I made a cheese sandwich, I used sweet lime chutney or date relish. But I still missed my beloved Branston Pickle.

One day I accidentally found a little bit of Britain tucked away in Brooklyn, New York. I walked into a lovely store called Two for the Pot at the edge of Brooklyn Heights. I was browsing a range of loose-leaf teas, coffees, jams, spices, and biscuits when I saw more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. I bought a few bags of Walker’s crisps, a pack of Hobnobs, and more than a few jars of Branston Pickle. 

Thankfully, it is now easy to buy Branston Pickle online. Only the no-chunk version seems harder to find on the internet. But it is still comforting to know that I am a few Subway stops away from a local supply of Branston Pickle. 

I may not eat it out of the jar or mix it into pasta-like some people do, but Branston Pickle is my go-to condiment for a cheese and pickle sandwich. 

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How to eat more Lobster




Lobster is huge this spring. We are into everything about lobster. We are looking at recipes, cracking equipment, napkins, and plates. So to indulge our near fanatical love for lobster, we decided to delve deep into everything lobster. 

Here is everything you need to do for a lobster-full season:

The Equipment

There is nothing worse than cracking a lobster with a rock and scattering the shell all over the kitchen. It is disrespectful. You want to have a pick to pry tasty meat from the lobster legs. Curved seafood scissors will help you to remove the meat in one piece because of its curved blades. 

Here is where you can find the best equipment for your lobster dinner. 

The Tableware

Lobsters are not exactly simple dining fare. Lobster meat is a treat. When you are having a lobster dinner, you are allowed to go all out and invest in a lobster platter, special dinner plates, and even these lovely appetizer plates. This is a set of simple yet refined tableware that is just right for lobster.

The Lobster Dinner Preparation and Dining

Once you have your lobster pot, your well-chosen lobster, some melted butter, and lemon, it is time to get to cooking and eating. 

It takes some courage to do this. You have to choose a nice and meaty one. You could give the lobster a few minutes in the freezer before putting it to a boil. But don’t get to 10 minutes because after that the meat will be frozen. Or you could use a sharp knife to stupefy it before cooking. Boiling a lobster is not that hard once you get used to it. 

Learn the proper way to boil it, halve it, carve it, crack it, serve it, and eat it. With some tips and practice, you will be able to properly fold its claws down and remove the whole tail at once. 

The Cooking Instructions

If you are nervous about preparing your first lobster, you don’t have to be. We have a range of fool-proof recipes to choose from. Everything is covered – the rolls, salad, chowder, sliders, paella, and risotto. You can go for the recipe that seems best and which features the ingredients you prefer.Lobster does not have to be boiled. Grilled lobster is oh so yummy. You can start planning your ideal lobster dinner with your favorite wine. 

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