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Smoked garlic is a whole garlic bulb that has been dried using traditional drying techniques and then smoked over wood, such as birch or hickory. The bulbs are a light golden brown while the cloves remain white. Smoked garlic will have a very mild garlicky scent with a bold smoky, aroma. Unwrapped cloves will display subtle smoky flavors and a slightly sweeter, milder taste.
Smoked garlic is available year-round.
Garlic, botanically classified as Allium sativum, is a member of the lily family along with chives, shallots, and onions. Any garlic variety can be smoked using various types of wood, from hickory to birch, depending on what flavor profile is preferred. Garlic is smoked using one of two methods: The cold smoke method leaves the cloves raw and fresh within their tight wrappers, and then they are smoked uncovered, away from the heat. The hot smoke method requires the bulb to be rubbed in oil and sometimes the outer layers are peeled away exposing the cloves to the heat and smoke. The hot method essentially roasts the garlic at the same time, making it soft. Smoked garlic is popular in Europe and the United States.
Garlic does not lose any of its nutritional value when smoked. Garlic contains small amounts of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as minerals like selenium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
Smoked garlic can be used in both raw and cooked applications that call for garlic. It is well-suited for soups, stir-fry, salads, marinades, or sauces. Roasting Smoked garlic will bring out the smokiness and can be spread on bread and cheeses, used in pasta sauces, and used in vegetable dishes. Chop Smoked garlic and use for risottos, barbequed meats, or stuff chicken with whole cloves before roasting for a smoky flavor. Cold Smoked garlic will store for up to four weeks, whereas hot Smoked garlic will store up to one week in the refrigerator.
The northern French town of Arleux, just south of the border of Belgium, has been producing Smoked garlic for over 400 years. At the time, garlic was smoked to preserve it, and now it is done more for the flavor it imparts in the cloves. To celebrate the Smoked garlic of Arleux, a festival is held at the end of August every year. The festival, which began in 1962, welcomes 60,000 people annually. Along with a garlic braiding competition, flea market, and the crowning of a queen of garlic, over 5,000 liters of the region's famous Smoked garlic soup is consumed over a two-day period. In 2000, a group of connoisseurs, growers, and lovers of Smoked garlic founded the Brotherhood of the Smoked Garlic of Arleux or La Confrérie de l'Ail Fumé d'Arleux. Their purpose is to promote the area's Smoked garlic and to develop social, cultural, and sporting activities related to its promotion.
Garlic is native to a region of Central Asia known today as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. This is the area botanists refer to as the "center of origin" for garlic. Garlic was then spread to China and Europe along the Silk Road and around the world with explorers and conquistadors. Today Smoked garlic is more common in Europe, though small-scale growers offer Smoked garlic at farmer's markets throughout the United States.