Discover Black Garlic
October 04th 2018
Halloween Spoiler Alert!! If you’re a vampire, you might want to scroll ahead to the next article.
Garlic, a flavour solution for thousands of years (not to mention a staple of ancient medicine and a warder of evil spirits) and still as popular as ever, seems as immortal as the undead it repels. Ironic, then, that it should have a new lease on life! Black garlic is a taste sensation that’s finding its way into all manner of culinary applications.
The remarkably complex flavour of black garlic lends itself to everything from meat sauces to energy bars, and even beverage applications. Not familiar with it? You’re not alone! So far, only 16% of consumers have tried it but its versatility and exotic charm (millennials love to try new flavours) have it poised to be the next big thing.
Garlic is a staple in many cuisines from Mexico to the Mediterranean. Here in Canada, 604 metric tons of the pungent herb was harvested in 2016, and last year we imported an incredible 18,650 metric tons of fresh garlic. So well established is garlic, that it’s hard to imagine there is an entirely new way to use it that most consumers haven’t come across yet. It’s called black garlic, and it could be the catalyst for a flavour revolution.
You might think that black garlic is a new cultivar of Allium sativum, the garlic we all know and (mostly) love. In fact, it’s just regular garlic that’s been processed in a very specific way. To make black garlic, a standard head of garlic is cooked at very low temperature for days or even weeks. Humidity is kept high to keep the garlic from drying out.
The end result looks a bit like it may have just survived a brush fire. Peel away the outer layers, and the individual cloves now look more like figs, or very dark chocolate. Visually, it’s a remarkable transformation, and certainly worthy of an Instagram post. But when you take a bite…
You’ve never had garlic like this
Forget everything you think you know about garlic. Black garlic throws away the rulebook. There’s no bitterness, no burn – and no garlic breath. Thanks to the Maillard reaction, the garlic caramelizes and becomes surprisingly sweet, but not in a candied way. Think molasses, prunes, and even rich chocolate. And yet, there is a distinct umami property to black garlic. It’s an incredibly complex flavour profile, with more facets than a cut diamond, and more uses than a Swiss Army knife.
With such an unusual flavour, you might be concerned that black garlic is a niche product only. A valid concern, but the data is promising. A 2017 study showed that while only 16% of consumers had tried black garlic, more than half of them either liked it or loved it. Menu penetration is low, somewhere around 2%, but that just means there is a lot of room for growth.
It’s an edgy flavour that, when it takes centre stage, is perfect for adventurous eaters. However, it also works in an ensemble cast (to extend the metaphor) to enhance or compliment a flavour profile.
What can can't you do with black garlic?
Used in a powdered form, black garlic is exceptionally easy to work with. One of the things it’s best at is adding umami to a product. This is, of course, essential for making convincing meat alternatives. Using black garlic could make your soy or jackfruit “meat” product taste like the real deal.
It almost goes without saying that black garlic has enormous potential to make incredible glazes since they tend to lean to the sweet side anyway. The rich complexity of a black garlic, honey and sriracha glaze on seared tuna would combine so many layers of flavour, your taste buds wouldn’t know where to begin.
Thanks to the sweet notes, it’s also at home in dessert applications where you might want a more savoury overall profile. Savoury ice cream flavours, like black bean or 5-spice, are a trendy alternative to the usual suspects. A black garlic and dark chocolate ripple cone would certainly get tongues licking and cell phones clicking.
And don’t forget snacks! Snacking is a key part of the modern diet. Adding black garlic to caramel popped amaranth would give you a snack with enough savoury to balance the sweetness, and that’s almost guaranteed to increase portion size. For energy bars, black garlic could add the impression of a more robust meal, while muting the sweet notes of honey or agave.
The future is bright for black
We love getting creative with flavour and mixing up new flavour profiles from both classic and trending ingredients. But it’s rare that a whole new way to use an ingredient comes along. Not only is it versatile and user-friendly, but it’s also it’s an entirely natural way to add incredible flavour and deep colour to a product.
In fact, between its all-natural pedigree, consumer unfamiliarity, and relative rarity, it’s easy to position black garlic as a premium ingredient. That gives your label added cachet, and could potentially justify a higher price point for your product.
It’s safe to say we’re very excited for the future of black garlic. Get in touch with the flavour experts at McCormick for a glimpse of what that future could mean for your business.