Monday, September 26, 2011

"Slag" and Other Stuff in Jars

More elegantly known as Garlic Confit, my son calls it “Slag”.  I got the idea several years ago when I was buying garlic cloves in a jar, already hulled.  I use garlic so much that I was definitely impatient with the tedious process of taking the skin off the cloves.  My fingers became sticky, as did the paring knife I was using.  I didn’t like pressing them with the blade of the knife to loosen the skin because all too often, the cloves got smashed in the process.  I could roast the whole head, drizzled in olive oil until the cloves were soft and spreadable and almost like a garlic jam—and I often did that when roasting a chicken in the oven.  But I still had many uses for raw garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced; and for that the cloves really had to be hulled. 
But here was a Costco-sized jar of hulled garlic cloves which would surely go bad quickly if I didn’t do something with them right away.  So, from the big jar, I kept some aside for other uses and turned the rest into “slag”.  I put a double handful in a deep pan and covered them with extra virgin olive oil and simmered them until they were golden.  I scooped out the creamy cloves and put them in jars, covering them with the oil.  I poured the remaining roasted garlic infused olive oil into bottles.  Now I had two separate basic ingredients to add zing to all kinds of different dishes.  The garlic was perfect when spread on bread, sprinkled with parmesan and toasted in the oven to go with dinner.  The infused olive oil was a savory base for a salad dressing or even to make an aioli.
Over time, I’ve moved away from this kitchen basic as I’ve explored new directions in my cooking adventures.  But when I saw a recipe for garlic confit in Food and Wine magazine, I felt validated, as if this little idea of mine had enough merit that someone else thought to elevate it to “haute cuisine” status.  The only difference was that I used more oil and didn’t include herbs in the cooking, only adding them at the end.
Fingerling Potatoes
The First Beets

As the end of summer has brought the beginning of full harvest from my little garden, I’ve been busy putting all the stuff in jars to enjoy through the long dark winter.  I even decided I could do a variation of ratatouille, the French tomato/zucchini/onion stew with some of my squashes.  The cucumbers have been great so I made three varieties of pickles, including icicle dills that I hope will taste as fresh and delicate as the ones I had in a restaurant last week.  
Icicle Dill Pickles, "Slag", Dilly Beans, and Ratatouille

This will be the first year I haven’t done anything with the tomatoes—yet.  We have them sliced with a balsamic vinaigrette for lunch and dinner.  We have them to share at every possible opportunity.  For breakfast I have a couple tossed in a pan with herbs and an egg poached in the center. 
Black Krim and French Heirloom Tomatoes

But finally, I think I have enough tomatoes to roast some in a slow oven until they nearly caramelize.  These I will put in the prettiest jars I have and give them as gifts—some of them anyway.  After all, I will badly need the tomato fix in January!
Garlic Confit (“Slag”)
2 cups garlic cloves, hulled
4 cups extra virgin olive oil
Rosemary, fennel, and bay leaf, one sprig or leaf for each jar
Pour olive oil over garlic to cover in a deep skillet and cook over moderate heat until garlic is deep golden.  With a slotted spoon (I use a Spider), lift out garlic and put in small jars.  Cover with olive oil and slip herbs into jar.
Pour remaining olive oil into a bottle and seal with a cork.  Garlic may be kept in refrigerator for five months or so (unless you’ve used it up already).  The oil will keep on your counter, to be used as a base for vinaigrette, or sprinkled on vegetables that you sauté, or lightly drizzled on toasts for crostini.
Beautiful Black Krim and its blushing center

Slow-roasted Tomato Confit
4 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
About 8 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Fennel sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried fennel
Tomatoes seasoned and ready to go in oven for slow roasting
Tomatoes ready to go into jars

Spread cut tomatoes and garlic cloves in a large clay pan with sides (about the size of a cookie sheet).  Toss with salt, herbs, garlic a 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast in slow oven for about 2 hours.  Spoon into two sterilized pint jars.  Top off jars with a little more olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  Seal jars and boil in water bath for 10 minutes.
Roasted Tomato Confit
This is a concentrated tomato confit.  A little goes a long way for intense flavor.
Toss pasta with a spoonful and serve with a little grated parmesan as a side dish.
Or toss it with shrimp and sauté briefly until shrimp is cooked through.
Or toss into a salad for a little extra flavor.

It’s been raining all day, the first steady rain we’ve had in weeks, it seems.  So today has been a good day to tend to the harvest that the garden has so generously provided.  It’s time for it to rest now.  I am always so astonished by how fast everything grows and how suddenly it all seems to end.  Summer is too short!


  1. Slagging away in the kitchen?

    So much more interesting than strawberry or blackberry jam :)

    (although those are good too)

  2. You've been busy. Everything looks wonderful.