When it comes to storing garlic, there seems to be an inverse relationship between flavor and storage. We have found anecdotally that some of the best flavored varieties just don't store as long. Russian Red is one that comes to mind. Heralded as one of the best flavors, it just doesn't store as well. So we try to eat that one first. As I was ruffling through our stores lately I noticed the porcelain varieties, Music in particular, still looked good. So my first tip in garlic storage is to pick the right varieties.
The ideal storage conditions for our hardneck garlic are COOL (50-60 degrees is ideal), DARK, and WELL VENTILATED. I do not recommend putting them in the fridge as it will mimic the natural winter vernalization and actually trigger them to grow, as will light. (FYI: Garlic you see stored in coolers has usually been chemically treated to prevent sprouting.) Storing them where there is little air flow will cause moisture buildup, which encourages mold growth and early spoilage. Never vacuum seal or store in plastic bags.
The garlic bulbs continue to transpire when stored so you will notice they shrink away from the wrappers and become easier to peel over time. They are still edible if sprouted, but use your own judgement on that. Also, the garlic will store much, much longer if you leave the outer bulb wrapper on until you are ready to use it. Our customers have told us that our garlic stored well up to a year, however the peak storage time is generally considered to end at the beginning of the year for hardneck garlic. That is why I am writing this tutorial on how to freeze garlic-do it while it is still good.
Probably like you, our storage setup isn't ideal. Climate-controlled storage is on our to-do list but won't be ready until next year's harvest so you just gotta make the best of what you have. It is getting to be that time of the winter that the quality of some of our stored produce is starting to decline. I had to throw some of our squash, the rest I cooked up and froze. Our onions have been eaten or went bad. What remains are some taters and of course, garlic.
I told myself I would deal with the garlic after the holidays and after checking on things this past weekend I decided it was time. We had quite a few cloves that were broken apart since planting (we selected the best cloves for planting and saved the rest for eating) and they don't store as well that way. This is the method I use to preserve garlic and get it in a super easy form to use for cooking:
Frozen Garlic Cubes
1. Peel the garlic
Method 1 (preferred): Place bowl full of garlic and paring knife in front of husband while he is watching football. Resume other activity while he makes himself useful.
Method 2: Use a hard object like the bottom of a heavy glass to smash the cloves and the skin will come off easily.
2. Pulse in food processor or blender
I have yet to find one of these that can take my abuse for more than a couple years but right now I have a Ninja and it seems to be holding up OK (besides my breaking one of the bowls the first time I used it-warranty replaced it). Add enough olive oil to coat the cloves. They shouldn't be submerged or anything, just coated. Pulse until garlic is minced to desired consistency.
3.Put into ice cube trays
I found a tray with a somewhat smaller cubes that works well. Use a rubber spatula to stuff the garlic into the compartments so it doesn't just crumble apart once frozen. Cover with some saran wrap and stick it into the freezer for a few hours.
4. Transfer to freezer-safe container
Once the cubes are frozen remove from tray and place into a resealable freezer safe container like a ziploc bag or mason jar. Label and date. Keep it in your kitchen freezer and it will be conveniently ready for cooking when you need it!
This method rocks for preserving garlic-it is just as easy to use as the chopped garlic in the jar that I used to buy before I started growing my own garlic and realized how much more flavorful it is. You can throw a cube into your saute pan while it is heating, add to soups, or microwave for a few seconds and mix it into dishes.