Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Garlic Jar

This little jar is one of my most favorite things.

When I moved from New York to Seattle years ago, I took what I could carry with me on Amtrak, and I also stuffed a few large boxes to follow me via UPS. As you can imagine -- pots, pans, and other matters culinary were not the bulk of "what made the cut." As I finally got settled, it was like starting from scratch when it came to my little apartment kitchen. What fun that was. Really.

There was a fantastic business in my Capitol Hill neighborhood called Chicken Soup. Donated items were sold and the proceeds went to support AIDS patients in the area. Someone had donated a set of glass canisters -- in graduated sizes -- and I just had to have them all. One for pasta, one for rice, one for flour, one for sugar... The price was right. It was for a good cause. And they were so darned sweet! But I'm getting too far from my topic.

This jar was the smallest of the bunch. It's plain old glass; nothing fancy. The little dome lid fits perfectly inside the lip. It doesn't have a rubber seal to retain the garlic ... perfume. There are only 2 ingredients that ever go in it -- real chopped garlic and olive oil.

I'm not talking about that pre-diced stuff you find at the store (laced with who knows what). Frankly, that doesn't taste remotely like the real thing. It may even suffer from CAS (Canned Asparagus Syndrome -- the canned stuff becomes different enough to actually be considered a separate food). And it's packed in a watery, briny liquid. Water and oil don't mix. Think about that when you're adding that wet stuff to hot oil in a saute pan. One more negative: it's too finely minced. There's no wiggle room to play around with the strength factor. (A larger dice will tolerate more time at center stage in your saute pan, allowing a milder, sweeter flavor to develop.) About once a week I chop a lot of garlic, put it in my squeaky clean jar, and top it off with extra-virgin olive oil. I keep it in my fridge, and every time I get to cookin' -- out she comes. Need a bit of fresh garlic? Need a drop or two of garlic oil? No problem.

I fight the urge to keep it on the counter. I love to look at it, sitting pretty next to my favorite pepper mill and my olive oil carafe with the shiny stainless steel pour spout. But I'm heartless; I stick it in the cold, dark fridge. Refrigeration does solidify the oil a bit, but a minute or two at room temp and she's back in business. Plus, it's hardly worth playing around with the whole botulism thing. Once the garlic is covered with oil, it becomes anaerobic (no air is moving around it), and that means refrigeration is key. Keep it fresh, keep it cold, and keep yourself alive. If I'm not going to be using it as quickly, I sometimes skip the oil and store it dry. Works great -- I just don't have any oil to drizzle about.

I love my little garlic jar. It has a wide mouth -- I can easily fit a soapy dishcloth into it. It's glass -- I can put it in my dishwasher. There isn't a speck of plastic or rubber to retain any smell -- not that I mind, but the whole squeaky clean thing is important to me (did someone say OCD?). About once a week I start fresh. All the oil and garlic get thrown into a dish that can take it, the jar gets back to squeaky clean, and then the wonderful chopping and filling process begins again.

Rachel Ray can have her garbage bowl. I wouldn't trade my precious garlic jar for anything.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer~

Do you have a specific variety of garlic that you like to use? I know that there is a fair amount of imported garlic entering our ports and I've heard California grown garlic is best for flavor and freshness. Any thoughts on this?

Jennifer said...

Thanks for reading! Here in the bluegrass, there is none better than Blue Moon Farm garlic, and it can be purchased at the Lexington Farmer's Market. When shopping in general, I look for very firm, tight bulbs (without green shoots already coming out!). The only kind I really dislike is the oversized elephant garlic -- never could taste any garlic flavor!

Rona Roberts said...

Lovely post, and amusing for a non-garlic reason. I put 17 egg whites into a container that must have been separated from your garlic jar at birth, and the whole time I was wondering whether I should ask, "Jennifer - do you have any use for a whole lot of Elmwood egg whites?" If you do, let me know. Otherwise - meringues, I suppose. Egg white omelettes.

Jennifer said...

Rona, too funny! Thanks, but I am not worthy. I sadly had to throw away forgotten egg whites that had been in my freezer for...can't say how long. I hope you make meringues -- hopefully on a very non-humid day in the near future!

Rona Roberts said...

I did end up making meringues (on a slightly humid day) last Saturday - used up 3/4 cup. Only....oh, maybe 3 cups to go. (The supply grows thanks to a custardy stretch I've been in.) Meringues, local strawberries, creme Anglaise...I took a photo (not Jennifer quality, just a reporting kind of photo) and posted it here. Scroll down.