It’s 11 p.m. on Monday night and Hurricane Sandy is whipping around outside. Our lights have briefly blinked a few times but has so far our power held steady. The wind is definitely raging and the rain has been fairly intense for a few hours, but I think Northern Virginia is faring a bit better than NYC and other areas north of us. So far we’re safe, dry, warm, and enjoying our electricity here at I Eat Food.
I mentioned my homemade garlic and onion powders and their awesomeness in a recent post, which earned a couple of interested comments, and since Saturday was the last farmers market of the season, I grabbed a bunch of garlic and onions so I could make up some more of each of the powders and document it for you, although believe me, if you have a dehydrator, it’s dead easy. Basically you simply dry the garlic or onions and grind them up. But if you’d prefer to see some photos and read my commentary, by my guest! (If not, scroll down for pictures of a wonderful hawk!)
I haven’t done this without a dehydrator, although I’m sure it’s just as simple to do it in your oven set at its lowest temperature. It’ll just take less time and you’ll want to check it periodically. Actually, garlic takes a REALLY long time in the dehydrator, so for small amounts, there may be some benefit in doing it in the oven. The onions might be a different story; you’d have to watch them much more closely and make sure they don’t cook.
I started doing this because, well, I’ve been going nuts with the dehydrator since I got it, but really mostly because I LOVE the garlic (a potent German variety) at my farmers market and I was thinking how sad I was going to be when it was no longer available. So I started buying a few more heads than I needed each week and dehydrating them to make garlic powder. Of course, the powder isn’t going to replace fresh garlic; I’m just going to have to resort to grocery store garlic throughout the winter (I just shed a tear), but it’s nice to have the good stuff in some format. And my powders are soooooo much better than that bland, tasteless stuff you can buy in stores. When I’m feeling really lazy – or if, god forbid, I’m snowed in (or hurricaned in!) this winter – I won’t be ashamed to toss in some of these powders instead of small amounts of fresh garlic or onions. But enough introduction, here’s what I did:
I’ll start with the garlic. You can make any amount of this you want. For this batch I used 10 heads of garlic from the farmers market, which resulted in over 2 cups of garlic powder.
This is the worst part of making either powder: peeling the garlic. I saw this tip on The Kitchn a while back so this time I thought I’d try it. I think it might work better for grocery store garlic, but it didn’t hurt to do it. One of the great things about the garlic I get at the market is it’s actually pretty easy to peel; it has a thick skin I can often pop off without even banging it with a knife. Anyway, the first thing I did was smash each head of garlic on my chopping block. They are strong, so I had to bang each one a couple of times, but soon the cloves fell apart. (You can see that for many of these cloves, I could just take the peel off them at this point without a struggle.)
Of those cloves with peels that were a bit more fussy, I put 2 or 3 heads worth into a mason jar and then put a lid on it.
Then I shook the jar vigorously for several seconds …
… then dumped them out. I was able to remove all the peels without using a knife using this method.
Look at the mess of garlic peels I made in my sink!
And here’s my peeled garlic:
Next you want to slice the garlic as thinly as possible. The thinner you slice it, the faster the dehydrating time, and as I mentioned, garlic takes a long time to dehydrate enough to powder. If your garlic has sprouts in the cloves, you can optionally remove them at this time. I removed the sprouts, small versions of which existed in most of the cloves. This took a long time and I’m not sure it was really entirely necessary, but I remove them at any other time, so I went ahead and did it.
Slice each clove at least in half lengthwise. Depending on their size, you may want to slice some into thirds or fourths. The thinner you slice them, the less time to dehydrate.
Arrange the sliced cloves on dehydrator trays; don’t allow them to touch. My ten heads took about 2 1/2 large trays.
Pop them in the dehydrator and fire it up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Next I started on the onions. This is less fiddly. Simply peel and dice as many onions as you want. I used four quite large onions, which resulted in about 1 1/3 cups powder. If you are sensitive to onions when chopping them, as I am, definitely wear goggles.
Arrange the diced onions on dehydrator trays. With onions, you don’t need to worry about the no-touching rule; just spread them out in a single layer. I put about one onion’s worth on each large tray.
Slide those trays into the dehydrator to join the garlic. Dehydrate until the onions are completely dry and very crisp. I usually wait 24 hours, though they are probably ready before that. It’s hard to over-dry them. Remove from the dehydrator and let cool completely on their trays. Don’t skip the cooling step because you don’t want them to sweat on each other if you mix them up while they are still warm. You must keep everything as dry as possible.
Now, you can stop here if you want to keep some dehydrated onions in this diced format. I have a couple jars of these and they are nice to have on hand. You can throw them into super-quick soups, use them in dips or dressings, or even use them as a crunchy topping on casseroles, salads, and other dishes.
If you are making powder, simply grind them in batches (I do about a cup at a time) in a very dry spice (a.k.a. coffee) grinder or blender. Don’t blend too long; just enough to make the powder.
Now, the garlic. You have to be a bit more careful with it than the onions. Remove each tray from the dehydrator and examine each clove to decide if its dry or not.
What I do is take a bowl, pick up each clove individually, and attempt to snap the clove in half. If it resists or bends at ALL, put it back on the tray. If you are unsure, put it back on the tray. If it breaks in two but feels at all soft or mushy, or doesn’t break with a satisfying *snap*, put it back on the tray. Only accept cloves that are brittle. Garlic takes a really long time and it must be bone dry before you attempt to grind it. Usually the first time I go to collect it, about half of it is completely dry. When I’m in a dehydrating frenzy, I’ll just leave the remaining cloves in the dehydrator as I load it up with other items. You can’t over-dry it, so err on the side of caution. It’s been 30 hours and I still have half of the cloves I put in last night in there. The good news is they are dry enough that if we do lose power, there’s no rush to finish them. In the summer, I’d sometimes let the “almost-dones” sit in the dehydrator while it was off until I’d had a chance to slice up some other vegetables or fruits.
Again, spread the cloves out and let them cool completely before grinding them. When they are cool, grind them in the spice grinder or blender until powdered. This is about half of the 10 heads I started with and is about 1 1/4 cups of powder.
Transfer both powders to clean jars. They both, especially the onion, have a slight tendency to clump, although I’ve found it less pronounced than some brands of store-bought powders. Any lumps I do see very easily stir right out. Stick a silicone packet in the jar to prevent lumping. I’m using silicone packets I found in a tub of miso, but any will do. These smell amazing when you open the jar – like actual onions and garlic! Not dust, like store-bought powders. I’ve made a ton of each and I’m worried about going through it before spring brings me more farmers market garlic!
Last week I had to transport a red-shouldered hawk that had fallen or flown into a half-drained swimming pool (where he perhaps saw or imagined he saw some prey) and was unable to get out. This is because hawks can’t swim and once they end up submerged in water, they can’t get back out. Fortunately for this guy, the owner of the pool called Animal Control, who collected him from the pool. Then I was summoned to take him to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia. Now, when I got the call about this I was very excited. I love all the little birds and squirrels and bunnies I usually drive around, but a HAWK?! Now THAT’s exciting! Plus I’m a huge fan of the Raptor Conservancy so I was thrilled to drive out there with my new hawk buddy. Kent Knowles is a really good educator and was happy to let me sit by as he gave “my” hawk a once-over to check for injuries (fortunately, he was just wet), and he showed me some of the other birds. And now I need to decide if I have the time to volunteer some time with them. I really want to because RAPTORS! I LOVE them. But I’m SO busy as it is I think I might be crazy. This full-time job of mine is a real hindrance…
Anyway, here is my red-shouldered hawk friend. Isn’t he beautiful? He’s lucky his shenanigans didn’t do more damage, but he was prescribed a few days to dry out, then he was to be put in a flight cage where he’ll have to prove he can a) fly and b) catch his own dinner. As soon as he proves himself, he’ll be released near where he was found, and hopefully he’ll have learned his lesson about swimming pools.
Checking his wings for damage (none was found):
Okay, finally, this has NOTHING to do with food or even wildlife, but IT’S THE MOST HILARIOUS VIDEO EVER so I just have to share it. I hardly ever watch Youtube videos but this is completely awesome. (A young) Glenn Danzig shares his book collection. Mark and I can’t stop quoting it, and Mark’s been hopping around the house parodying it non-stop (“Welcome to my stuffed animal collection,” etc.) Welcome to my book collection!
And now to try to fall asleep to the wrathful sounds of Sandy…. I hope those of you in the Mid-Atlantic with me are faring okay, especially those in areas harder hit.