Black garlic, otherwise known as fermented garlic, is a black, tar-like substance. It is a type of aged garlic which is attributed to be browned by the Maillard reaction rather than caramelized, first used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. It is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic (Allium sativum) over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. Its flavour is a little bit bitter and a little bit sweet, with hints of balsamic vinegar, molasses, licorice and tamarind. Its umami works well in seaweed-based broths, and in desserts it’s extraordinary. Despite the name, the process that makes black garlic black is not fermentation (microbial metabolism). Instead, it is due to the enzymatic breakdown of alliinase and the Maillard reaction.

What Makes Black Garlic Delicious?

The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction that gives a uniquely delicious flavour to browned foods, such as roasted coffee, maple sugar, chocolate and the darkened crust of bread. The reaction results in hundreds of different flavour compounds, depending on the type of food. The flavour of fermented  garlic is similar to but distinct from other foods that have gone through the Maillard reaction.

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When searching for a pastry chef who could add black garlic to chocolate, I discovered Laura Slack Chocolate Artist. I gained about five pounds as I ate my way into Slack’s company. It was worth the weight. Slack made a small batch of the Lestat Truffle—a dark chocolate skull filled with black garlic– infused salted caramel—at the Second Annual Toronto Garlic Festival. It sold out in two hours. Toronto Life included it as one of “50 Crazy Good Things to Eat and Drink” in 2013. Other black garlic delicacies featured at the Festival include Black Garlic Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, Black Garlic Butter Tarts and more.

Enjoy the exotic black garlic and other varieties at the 8th Annual Toronto Garlic Festival on Sunday, September 16, 2018, 9am to 5pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns – 601 Christie Street at St Clair Ave West, Toronto. Admission is only $5!