by Chef Larry Canepa

When chefs rediscovered the joy of roasted garlic, we explored all kinds of new combinations. We roasted garlic with olive oil and found the bitter taste and lingering acid was gone. Now, with black garlic we discover a new ingredient with an intense, savory sweetness, faintly reminiscent of truffles. These dark, rather ugly but super tasty bulbs with a syrupy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency are the latest “it” ingredient in chef’s kitchens.

Black garlic is produced through an arguably ancient technique that is entirely natural. There is a lot of myth surrounding its origin going back to ancient Taoism, but the modern process stems from Korea in 2004. Put simply, it is aged approximately 45 days in a controlled environment of constant temperature and humidity. When garlic undergoes this fermentation it develops a unique color, a concentrated flavor, and a jelly-like texture.

The essence of unami, black garlic provides that amazing “fifth” taste, following sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It is sweet meets savory; a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones; a simple food with a wonderfully complex flavor. Like a beautiful aged Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Old Vines Zinfandel from Central Coast, there is a so much flavor in every bite of black garlic, the time spent is definitely worth the wait.

Garlic is considered quite healthy because it is full of antioxidants, and black garlic even healthier. Apparently, the fermentation process enhances the production S-Allylcysteine, which is said to inhibit cancer cell proliferation, and increases polyphenol content, which could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These benefits may explain the legends that consuming black garlic leads to immortality (though the manufacturers do not promise that). Still, it is all but odorless, so it may not keep the vampires away.

Black garlic is extremely versatile. Used in a rich risotto, it raises the intensity of the dish. It is a natural for beef and lamb and for savory foods with mushrooms.  With black garlic, everything takes on an intense, earthy and mysterious flavor.

Pairing black garlic with wine is easy. It can stand up to light, crisp whites or deep, intense reds. But for me, it calls for a bright, soft, fruity and refreshing Dolcetto from Piedmonte or a crisp, aromatic Torrentes from Argentine. Try an upscale grilled cheese sandwich with smoked Gouda and a little smear of black garlic and a glass of Gewürztraminer. Pure fusion delight!


About Larry

Chef Larry Canepa brings  30 years of Food and Wine experience to today’s adult culinary learners. He has worked in the Food & Wine business as Chef, caterer, sommelier and Food and Wine educator. He has taught culinary and restaurant operation classes at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix and Le Cordon Bleu, Scottsdale. His experiences include management and operation of free-standing restaurants, hotels and resorts. Chef Larry Canepa owned and operated the full service catering business, Dinner at Eight for 10 years in the Valley, specializing in intimate private dining and wine seminars. Larry Canepa has conducted seminars and lectures on coffee, tea, wine, etiquette, cooking and service for students, adults, continuing education classes and charitable organizations.