Showing posts with label In the Kitchen - Preserving and Canning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label In the Kitchen - Preserving and Canning. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden

Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Posted by Bel

Where we live in Australia, it's citrus season.  When I drive along our country roads I see trees laden with bright orange and yellow fruit - in parks, paddocks, beside shops and in backyards.  What a bounty!

Our most successful citrus trees so far, on the farm, are two different varieties of mandarins.  Our children eat lots of mandarins, especially the loose-skin variety - easy to peel and sweet!  We also juice mandarins and make ice-blocks from the juice.  And still there are more on the tree!  Here are some of our favourite recipes...

Mandarin Jam (about 3 jars)
8 mandarins
1kg sugar
3 cups water
Wipe mandarins with a damp cloth, cut them in half horizontally then in half again. Using fingers remove seeds and discard them. Peel away skin and reserve the skins of 4 mandarins. Using a sharp knife cut skin into fine slivers. Place mandarin pulp in food processor, process until pulp is chopped (few seconds). Place pulp in a large pan, add rind, sugar and water – mix well. Mixture should be about 5cm deep in the pan. Stir jam over medium heat until shugar has dissolved, increase heat slightly, boil gently, uncovered without stirring for around 50 mins. Check occasionally during last 10 mins of cooking to make sure mixture isn’t burning on the bottom. Test to see if jam will jell on a cold saucer. Remove scum from surface, pour jam into hot sterilised jars. Seal when cold. Label and store or give as a gift.

Mandarin Muffins (18)
1 cup mandarin pieces, deseeded
1 cup mandarin juice
2 cups wholemeal spelt flour +
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rapidura sugar
1 egg, beaten
250ml natural yoghurt
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1/2 cup nuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Jucie the mandarins. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, sugar. In another bowl, comine egg, yoghurt, juice, oil. Stir nuts and mandarin pieces through dry ingredients, then add the liquid mixture. Stir only until moistened. Fill lined muffin cups until 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Ready when spring back to the touch. Freeze well.

Mandarin syrup (Cordial)
1.5kg sugar (I’ve used white or raw)
900ml water
450ml mandarin juice (or orange, grapefruit, lemon etc)
few strips rind
Bring the sugar and water to the boil – when it starts to thicken slightly, add the juice and peel. Simmer 5 minutes. Strain well into a jug. Pour into sterilised bottles. Seal and label. To serve, mix with chilled water or soda water. Nice as a mixer for cocktails. To enchance flavour, add mandarin (or lemon) juice icecubes to drink – YUM.

To Freeze Mandarins:
Peel, de-seed and freeze in a syrup for use in cooking at a later date. Syrup may be useful as liquid measure in some recipes as well.

Remove pith and freeze sections as a cool treat.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Peck Of Pickled Peppers!

by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese

When you have a glut of capsicums (peppers), there are a few ways to preserve them.  You can chop them up and simply freeze them, or you can roast them and preserve them in oil (but keep them in the fridge), or you can pickle them.

I prefer pickling, because the finished product can go in the pantry without taking up valuable refrigeration space, that in turn costs money.

So I had harvested a couple of types.  I planted a yellow and green long capsicum in late November last year, and harvested these last Sunday.  The red and orange ones are fiery hot, but the green and yellow are a lot milder and right for pickling.

I just slice them cross ways, seeds and all.

Cook up a litre of pickling vinegar which contains half a cup of sugar, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon of pickling spice and simmer for 15 minutes.  I let the pickling vinegar completely cool before adding them to the jars.

Then I pack the sliced capsicum into sterilised jars.  These jars (below) used to have anchovies in them, and they were reusable, we kept them for preserving.

Don't they look nice?  In three weeks time they will be ready to eat.  We will use them on pizza, in soups and casseroles or in salads through the winter.

They should last for a year (if we don't eat them first).  I find this method so simple, and full of flavour.  Does anyone else use this kind of method to preserve types of vegetables?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Guava Jelly

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

It's the time of year when there's not really anything fruiting in the orchard.  We do have bananas, but they all ripen at once so it's a mad rush to eat, dry and freeze the whole bunch.

With delight, my children announced that the Strawberry Guavas are ripe, all along the edge of the rainforest on our block.  These trees are an invasive species, they just pop up where the birds plant them...  As a wild fruit, I love them - they're much bigger than a berry or lillypilly - and the tree is of small size with no spikes or other deterrents.  Some say the fruit are sour, but we find them sweet, soft and abundant - great for eating fresh, juicing or preserving...


Today I made guava jelly.  (Jelly as in strained jam.)  With guavas, we make jelly instead of jam because the many small seeds are very hard.  Sometimes I use yellow guavas (they are pink on the inside), but these aren't ripe until Autumn, nor as prolific.  I decided to type out the recipe, for beginners...  This recipe can be adapted to any amount of guavas (or other, similar fruit).

Cut up guava fruit (remove stalks and any blemished bits)
Water (or enough to cover fruit in your heavy-based pan)
citric acid

Boil cut up guavas in water (today I used 7 cups of fruit to 7 cups of water).  Mash gently when they go soft.  The colour will come out of the fruit, into the water.  Simmer until fruit is quite pale and disintegrated (approx 20 mins).  Cooking guavas gives off a delightful, spicy aroma!  Strain through a fine sieve into a jug to measure the liquid you strain off (I got 4 cups).  Rinse your pan and add this liquid back to the pan.  Rinse and dry your jug and add 2:3 sugar to juice (so I used 3 cups organic raw sugar).  Simmer on low to medium heat until sugar is dissolved, sotrring often.  Add 1/2 tsp citric acid to each cup of liquid you had from the guavas (I used 2 tsp total).  Stir until dissolved.  Keep simmering until the jelly reaches setting point. Stir occasionally, checking that it's not sticking or burning.  While it's cooking I sterilise some jars, write some labels and clean up my mess!  To test when it's set, I put a spoon into the fridge and dip it into the jelly after around 15 minutes, if it sets a bit on the spoon - it's thicker than syrup and a little will set on the spoon as it cools. 

Turn off the heat and pour the jelly into the sterilised jars (today I filled 4 jars).  If there's any scum or bits of fruit in the jelly, scoop that off or pour it through the fine sieve again, through a funnel, into your jars.  Seal immediately with sterlised lids.  Sit on the bench to cool, trying to resist the urge to tip the jars to check for setting!  The next day, these will be cool and set.  Ensure the outside of each jar is squeaky clean and label and date each jar.  This jelly keeps for many months in a cool, dark pantry.  It's nice spread on toast, or served with cheese, or even poultry.

This method of making jelly is suitable for many fruits - especially those with seeds or skins that aren't suitable for jam.  You can experiment with adding a few whole cloves or other spices during the initial boiling stage.

Next, I think I'll try making herb jelly...

What about you?  Have you made preserves lately?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Quince Paste

Written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

Any Cheese maker worth his salt should be able to whip up a few accompaniments for their cheese, so I gave it a go.  I stumbled upon a quince tree on a nature strip when walking around a country Victorian town called Talbot.  I asked the owner if I could take some, and he said "Take as many as you like mate".  Nice man.

I read somewhere that Quince paste was a really good complimentary flavour that goes with most cheeses.  Having never tried it before, it was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off in the end.  The flavour is sensational, and I would recommend this fruit paste to anyone who is wondering what to do with a few spare quinces.

I found a recipe from and followed it exactly.  It worked fine, except that I added a full cup of water at the start because it looked like it was going to boil dry!  Pretty easy process.  Peel, core, chop, then stew.  After the chopped up quinces turned to mush, I blended them in the food processs whilst hot and then returned the fruit to the pot and added the sugar.

So that I could capture the long 3.5 hour process, I took photos at 15 minute intervals.

Quince Paste 091 Quince Paste 092
Quince Paste 093 Quince Paste 094
Quince Paste 095 Quince Paste 096
Quince Paste 097 Quince Paste 099
Quince Paste 100 Quince Paste 101

I just love the way it changes colour during the cooking process.

Then I lined 6 ramekins with plastic wrap and ladled in the paste, and when it cooled a little, we folded over the wrap to protect it as it set.

I left them on the kitchen counter overnight and we had some for lunch with a piece of ash coated brie and castello white cheese.  Unfortunately, these are not my creations, but tasted nice just the same.

The taste was great and it really brought out the flavour of the cheese.  A great accompaniments indeed.  I have found that it can be stored in the fridge, in the freezer or in a cold place as long as it is sealed like jam.

When it is quince season again (winter) then I will definitely be on the lookout for more backyard quince trees!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Preserving Time

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Summer and Autumn for us bring abundance from the garden that Spring and Winter don't offer.  Sometimes, we have TOO much.  And we can't give produce away because everyone else has TOO much!

One of my favourite fruits are in in abundance right now - passionfruit.  I love to eat them straight from the shell, in smoothies and iceblocks, as cordial or jam, in cakes and icing...  For information and recipes, see this post.  We have several types of passionfruit vines planted, including some planted by birds (which are the most productive)!

It's also choko season.  I've written on the co-op blog about these versatile and under-rated vegetables (fruit?) before, here.


We have an early harvest of pumpkin (squash).  Some of them are Kent pumpkins from last season's vines, and some are enormous bugle pumpkins.  Since this is my favourite vegetable, I have no trouble using up pumpkins!  I wrote a bit more about this vegetable here.


We're also enjoying couple of gluts I haven't written about before...  Chilli is the first one, and what we haven't used in cooking I have put into the first batch of sweet chilli sauce.  I just used a basic recipe from my Thermomix cookbook, and it's a little runny but tastes and smells exactly like sweet chilli sauce should!  There are so many recipes online, if you have excess chillis just do a search until you find one containing ingredients you have at hand.  Mine contained chillis, water, rice wine vinegar, garlic, raw sugar, salt.  Next time I'll try a little cornflour to thicken the sauce. Our bush is still laden with chillis, so I will get to try a few different recipes.  My 12 year old son loves this sauce!


Also in abundance are mangoes.  Not from my own trees, but they do grow about 40km from here!  Where we live, the winters are too cold...  With the excess mangoes I will probably dry them.  It's time to get that dehydrator out because we'll do some herbs (too hard to air-dry in our summer rainy season) and also some bananas when those are ripe.  Dried fruit is such a handy snack for kids when we go out in the car.  I love drying my own because I know that nothing has been added and the fruit is fresh and organic!


What is in abundance where you live right now?  What are some of your favourite recipes to use and preserve these harvests?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Curing Olives At Home

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

I have been wanting to try this for years, ever since I tasted home cured olives for the very first time at my mate George's house when I was about 12 years old back in my home town of Loxton in South Australia.

I have three very small olive trees and I have yet to produce any of my own fruit.  They are just not mature enough.  Combined with the fact that I just love olives whether they be green or black, I just needed to get my act together and give it a go.  I have noticed many places around our town that have olive tree laden with fruit, and they were just sitting there going to waste, which seemed like a crying shame to me.  What to do?

Well first I had to learn to cure olives before I approached anyone for their surplus.  So when we visited a country farmers market (Talbot Farmers Market), I visited the olive man and asked him if it was easy enough to cure olives.  He rambled on a little but I got the gist of it, and it was enough to whet my appetite and seek other curing recipes.

I purchased 1kg (2.2lb) of Sevillano Olives and took them home.  After a bit of research I found that there were a few ways to cure olives, one in brine, one in water then brine, and one in lye.  I chose the one in water and then brine method as the Sevillano olives are mostly green all the way through, even though they look black, which is a bit deceiving for a beginner like me.

So here is how I went about curing my olives (click to enlarge photos).

Firstly I disregarded any with bruises and blemishes and threw them in the compost bin.

I separated what I thought was the green from the black, as the recipe calls for different soaking times.

Next I used a sharp knife to make a cut lenghtwise on opposite sides of each olive to quicken the soaking process.  Try not to cut into the pip.  The soaking process removes most of the bitterness from the fresh olive, and anyone who has tried to eat a raw olive will attest to its horrible bitter taste.

So in clean and sterilised spring clip jars, I placed the black and green olives (black at the back and green at the front jars).  Then you simply fill each jar to the brim with tap water and then clip down the lid.  By ensuring that some water leaks out when you clip it down it is fairly certain that all the olives are entirely immersed.  Change the water every day, which is easy with this type of jar.  Just release the tension on the clip and drain the water.  Then fill up again to the brim with tap water.   The recipe I used said that you soak black olives for 4 days, and green for 6 days, however I found that both were too bitter still for my liking and discovered that the black ones were really green olives in disguise!  I soaked mine for 14 days until I was happy that most of the bitterness was gone.  If you get a little bit of scum on top of the water some days, don't dispair as this is normal.


Above is the final olives and you can notice that during the soaking process the blackness of this type of olive turned green.  So on to the next stage, which is the brining.   

I added two thirds of a cup of salt to 2 litres (~2qts) of water and heated it until disolved.  Then transfered to a pyrex jug to make it easier to pour into the jars.

Fill your jars up with brine to just covering the olives. 

Some may float still, so to make it impervious to air and stop any mould from forming, cover with a little olive oil.  About 1 cm (half an inch) will suffice, enough so the oil is a single layer floating on top.

Then seal the lid with the clip.  I left about 1cm clearance so that there was no spillage when I sealed it.

My recipe called to leave these jars for 5 weeks.  After the waiting period that they are ready to eat.

Back in late May, I was invited to a friends house to pick some olives that she had an abundance of.  Kim and I picked a big 4 litre icecream container full, and I used a different method to cure these ones.  I made a brine with about 10% salt and soaked the olives for just over 5 weeks, changing the brine once a week.  I started to taste them at the 4 week mark and found that after 5 weeks the bitterness was starting to abate.  Just before six weeks were up, I made up a final 2 litres of brine, added two tablespoons of vinegar and bottled them up as the photo below.  To seal them from the air, I poured over a layer of olive oil, which you can probably make out.  They taste delicious after the six weeks, but but were much better after eight.

So how did my first set of olives go?  They taste so good that Ben and I finished off this small jar of olives shortly after this picture was taken!  I am very impressed with the flavour.

I have never tasted anything so fresh before.  Apparently they can store for up to six months like this in the brine, but they last even longer if stored in olive oil.  I don't think that they will last that long.

Next year, I will ask around and barter for a 10kg bucket of olives from friends and see how we go from there.  Until next olive season.  Just love those fresh olives!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Hot Chilli Chutney

One of my favourite home grown condiments would be this one, my Hot Chilli Chutney.  I have made it three years in a row, and it never fails to please any guests who happen to visit and they usually leave with a small jar as a gift.  I proudly boast that all the vegetables within it are home grown except for the ginger, which does not grow in my climate!

When I make this I usually double the recipe which makes about 8 small jars.

Hot Chilli Chutney
  • 450g (16 oz) Jalapeno chillies
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 25g (1 oz) root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 quarters of a cup of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 and a quarter cups white vinegar
  1. Sterilise the jars in an oven @ 120C (230F) for 15 minutes.
  2. Finely chop chillies, including seeds.
  3. Mix together the chillies, chopped onion, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, salt and oil.
  4. Transfer to a heavy based pan and fry for 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  5. Add sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil. Cover pan and boil for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  6. Pack into jars, then seal. Water bath for 20 minutes. If you have button topped lids, make sure the button pops down when the jar has cooled to ensure a proper seal. 
We are still using some that we made from last years chilli harvest. It keeps for a long time, but make sure that once opened, that you keep it in the fridge just to be sure. I syphon off the layer of oil on top after I open every jar, and decant it into a small bottle to use as chilli oil.  It is great to use as an additive to spice up that dish that needs a boost.

The chutney is great with all Indian curry dishes.  Be warned, this is one hot chutney!

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Just a Few Canning Tips

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Canning and preserving season is here all of a sudden. I thought it might be a good time just to go over a few basics that can make things go a little easier.

1) Make sure you have everything on hand for your recipe before you start. Ingredients including pectin, fresh spices, salt, sugar and jars, lids, rings, or freezer containers depending on your method of preserving.

2) Round up all your large bowls, colanders, and any other container you may need for the initial parts of production.

3) Plan your processing time to fit in with your other scheduled family responsibilities. Many things can be started and left to simmer, or macerate for hours and as long as overnight. Berries for jam can be crushed and mixed with sugar and pectin and refrigerated for day or so, pickles can be started in brine hours or even days before processing, allowing you to have several things going at once.

4) Follow tested recipes with low acid ingredients or foods. Experiment with safe things that are high acid like jams and chutneys that utilize preservatives like sugar and vinegar. Tomato products like salsa and marinara sauce are loaded guns for canning - treat them with respect. Or experiment to your hearts content and freeze them for safety!

5) Make sure you and your family really like what you're preserving - it's a lot of work and is disappointing to be staring at 15 jars of chutney next year that no one liked.

6) If possible can with a friend, or family members. It's fun and enjoyable, and the rewards are limitless from that first ping when a jar seals, to next winter when you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Please add your tips in the comment section, I am sure I missed quite a few.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Fermenting Cucumbers

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
It's late summer, and the garden produce is really rolling in. I only have a few more weeks, if I'm lucky, before the nights drop below freezing. So I'm busy harvesting then using various preserving methods to squirrel stuff away for later. For years, canning various flavors of pickles was standard operating procedure around here for dealing with the cucumber glut. And I still have plenty of jars full of sweet, dill, bread & butter pickles and relish.

Last year, I tried fermenting the cucumbers instead, and found a new favorite. I like sauerkraut - fermented cabbage. Fermented cucumbers, also called sour pickles, are just as good - plus easier and less time-consuming than heat-processing lots of jars. And now, as the heat of summer fades, it's cooler inside. The fermentation process works best between 55F and 75F (13 - 24C). Above that, the pickles ferment too fast and get soft. Lower temperatures just mean a longer fermentation time, and slower is better. I use a 2-gallon glass crock, but for those interested in trying this method a gallon glass jar works great.

Your cucumbers should be fresh, right out of the garden if possible, picked before the seeds inside start to toughen up. Size doesn't matter - bigger cucumbers just take longer to ferment (so eat the little ones first). If your cucumbers are a couple of days old, you can soak them in water for half a day to refresh them a bit. You might want to take your kitchen shears out with you when harvesting. Try to clip with a little 1/4 inch of stem attached instead of pulling them from the vines. Don't use damaged fruit, and wash away any remaining dirt or debris.

Slice away the tiniest little sliver from the blossom end. The blossom contains an enzyme that encourages the cucumber to continue to ripen. Removing it stops the process, and your pickles stay firmer and crunchier. Old recipe books say adding young grape leaves will make crunchier pickles. I have a couple of organically-grown grapevines, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I don't know if it made the pickles any crisper, but the leaves pickled along with the cucumbers and were so good I now add extra just be able to eat them on their own.

For a gallon of fermented pickles, you'll need about 4 pounds cucumbers (about 6-7 salad-sized ones). Put any or all of the optional ingredients (2 tablespoons dill seed or a couple of fresh heads of dill; a couple garlic cloves, a couple dried hot peppers, 2 teaspoons mustard seed, and/or a layer of 4" grape leaves) in the bottom of your container, and add the whole cucumbers. You can pack them in vertically if you're using the big ones. Stir 1/2 cup non-iodized salt into 8 cups water with 1/4 cup vinegar added. When the salt dissolves, pour the mixture over the cucumbers. Use a clean ceramic plate or glass jar to keep the cucumbers submerged an inch below the level of the brine. Cover with a piece of cloth or another plate, and put it somewhere cool where you can check it a couple of times a week. Skim scum and mold from the surface as needed.

As the cucumbers ferment, they'll lose their bright green color, turning translucent (that's not mold - it's white flakes of sediment, easily stirred up and then it settles out again). Complete fermentation can take from 4 - 8 weeks.

You can eat them at any time, but they are fully fermented when no white patches remain. If kept in a cool spot, the pickles will continue to get sourer. If you can't find a cool spot to keep the jar, refrigerate them for longer storage.

I'll keep my crock on the kitchen counter for 4 - 5 weeks, adding additional cucumbers as I continue to harvest, making additional brine solution as necessary to keep them submerged. After that, I'll move the crock down to the cooler cellar, to keep through the winter. Every week to 10 days an almost gel-like layer of scum forms on the top - rarely it would get a couple specks of blue-topped white mold on top of that. It's easy enough to just pinch that layer, pull it out, and toss it.

When I want another pickle, I'll fish one out, redistribute those left, and replace the plate. Inside the house, I keep a quart jar of brine in the refrigerator, where I keep the current pickle, cutting slices off as needed. No scum forms on the jar in the refrigerator. When the cellar starts warming up, in the spring, I just transfer the pickles left to a jar in the refrigerator to keep eating until I either run out or I can start a fresh batch. My reference source here.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Braiding Garlic

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Living in a small house, with limited storage options, most of my decor serves the dual-purpose of beauty and storage. I like the look and usefulness of hanging my annual garlic harvest as a decorative braid inside my open pantry. Attention paid to careful harvest and ample curing time, combined with the cooler air of the open closet where my pantry shelves share space with the tank for our well, means I'm still eating from last year's braid (below) as I finish up this year's harvest.

I've never had much luck storing hardneck garlic much past the end of the year, so now grow only my own softneck garlic. After more than 20 years of planting the best ones each succeeding year, I have my own heirloom, perfectly adapted to my own climate. The process starts in late autumn before, when I dig in a layer of compost then plant the biggest, nicest fresh garlic cloves held apart from the harvest just a couple of months prior. Winter snows soon water them in, and by late February the young garlic shoots are up an inch. Then it's just a matter of making sure they get a weekly watering, either from Mother Nature or a few hours worth of soaker hose.

By July, each plant ideally has at least 10 leaves. When the oldest leaf or two is about half dry, as well as the top inch or so of the tips of the rest, I pull the soaker hose away, gently bend the tops down, and let the plants dry in the ground for a week. I then loosen the soil with a shovel and lift each bulb out of the ground, never just pulling by the tops. The neck of the bulb is quite fragile and I want the leaves there to shrink-wrap the bulb instead of breaking.

I lay the garlic on a screen in the deepest shade out in the yard, the leaves of one bunch covering the bulbs of the next. When the dirt has dried enough to rub most of it away, after a couple of days, I clean the bulbs and use scissors to clip the roots off short, rubbing any dirt or rocks out of the center. Each intact leaf forms a layer of protective wrapper around the bulb inside as the garlic cures. The more wrapper layers, the longer the garlic will keep. Since my garlic is decorative as well as useful, I'll sacrifice the top, driest layer to get to a prettier white layer underneath. But only one, maybe two at the most (if that layer has broken at the neck), and then gently scrape any remaining dirt off with a fingernail. The cleaned bulbs, with the outermost wrapping still intact up beyond the neck, are then left outside in the shade for a couple more days. I want the stems limp but not crackly-dry.

Big bulbs last longest. I use my garlic braid from the bottom up to keep it looking nice as it hangs in my pantry. So I start my braid with three of the smallest bulbs. Braiding with the bulbs on top, I just add in another bulb whenever there is room. The stem being added in is always added to the center of the braid, so that a section immediately crosses over it, locking it into place. When adding a bulb to either side, its stem is added to the top of the bunch that have just been crossed over to the middle.

Occasionally, as the bulbs get bigger, I might have to make a couple of filler passes of the braid alone so that each bulb will have enough room for good air circulation all the way around. As I braid, I'll run my hand up each section periodically to crunch the crispy dried leaf tips away. It keeps the braid from getting too crunchy to work with, and will mean less mess in my pantry later. When I'm finished, I have a long braid of bulbs, alternating center and sides, with a flat plait on the back that will hang against the shelf support post throughout the year.

I hold out a couple of the biggest bulbs, for planting come October, and finish by braiding to the ends. Bending that over to the back side, I use cotton string wrapped tight and knotted, then criss-crossed tightly up and down the top section to bind it, then knotted again, and finally the ends tied into a hanging loop. I'll leave this year's braid hanging in the open cutout between kitchen and living room, where there's warm and gentle air circulation, for another month. The wrapping layers dry, the necks shrink, and the braid stays strong enough to hold the weight. This year, from a patch 2.5 x 4 feet, I have a 2.5 foot braid, just short of 5 pounds, of 40 nice garlic bulbs. I'll use up the twelve left from last year first, cooking, canning and pickling, plus the few bulbs that were too small or with necks too weak to braid. For the two of us, a bulb a week throughout the year is just about right.