The garlic press . . . is it necessary?
As a garlic fan, I find that crushing garlic with the flat of a large knife blade works best. The method is fast, and other than your knife and board, which you're using anyway, there are no other extra tools to wash or clean.
However, many cooks I've talked to can't get by without a garlic press. They like it for extracting garlic juice (some people find raw garlic pieces indigestible), and a gentle initial pressing will provide only the juice. Another reason for wanting a garlic press is its ability to produce an evenly minced or grated consistency.
The second type of garlic press advocates are those who use the gadget without peeling the clove. These cooks don't want to be bothered with the tedious task of peeling garlic. They also cannot stand the smell of garlic on their hands so the garlic press and a little knife to remove any bits and pieces retained in the tool could certainly come in handy.
For the rest out there without a garlic press, here are some shopping thoughts:
Sturdy Build, Large Capacity
The Garlic Squeeze is one of the sturdiest looking garlic presses that I have run across. Larger than most, it is die-cast from aircraft-quality aluminum with a stainless steel pivot pin. Aside from its large capacity, which allows you to squeeze several cloves at a time, I also like the hinged red set of prongs made of durable nylon which act as "self-cleaning" teeth. After pressing the garlic, peeled or unpeeled, the handle may be reversed so that the cleaning prongs poke through the metal perforations to remove the remaining peel and pulp. The holes, which have sharpened edges, are just the right size, not too small to make cleaning difficult.
Providing a product guarantee against breakage for five years, manufacturer Greg Bedayn says: "We further guarantee it to require no brushes, toothpicks, or strong language to clean. If you are not 100% satisfied with your Garlic Squeeze, return it to us for a full refund." He advises that after using, it should be rinsed immediately under running water. Washing in the dishwasher will stain the aluminum and is therefore not recommended.
Garlic and Onion Press
Leifheit International, a German-based company that manufactures a complete range of sleek-designed contemporary kitchen tools, offers a Garlic and Onion Press. It is basically made of shiny chromium-plated steel but comes with a pair of attractive white acrylic handles. The set comes with two interchangeable metal inserts so that one has a choice between fine or coarse pressing. The holes are sharp, making it possible to obtain a lot of juice or shreds out of that clove. Like the Garlic Squeeze, the product efficiently processes unpeeled garlic cloves. A bracket for hanging the device on the wall is available. The Leifheit press works particularly well for extracting onion juice from cut-to-fit pieces of onion without producing tears.
Surviving the test of time, the acrylic Garlic Machine from Chef'N Corp. has squeezed in side-by-side classic garlic presses on store shelvings. It was introduced several years ago by inventor David Holcomb from Seattle. At that time, it stirred up quite an interest. The "machine" has a cylinder made of clear plastic for containing a bunch or a few cloves. When the screw-type handle is twisted, a small plastic plunger is pushed down to squeeze the minced garlic out through sharp perforations.
The tool comes with a cover so that any unused portion may be kept in the cylinder and stored in the refrigerator. However, the manufacturer advises using remaining garlic within two weeks. The machine works best with peeled cloves but may also be used with unpeeled pieces, limited to three cloves in order to work efficiently.
When garlic is the topic, it's often easy to visualize braided garlic. These ropes were once hung in kitchens for the purpose of being handy when needed, or, going back further in time, to drive evil spirits away. Braided garlic these days is used more as a pleasing decor naturelle in the kitchen.
Beautifully braided, picture-perfect garlic heads from Crinklaw Farms in King City, Calif., have won many contest awards in garlic festivals. The company produces bulk garlic for produce markets as well as decorative braided garlic wreaths and straight braids. Accented with pretty bows in assorted colors and/or strawberry corn, the braids are individually boxed for shower or holiday gifts.
When used for cooking, the garlic heads, which are harvested in August, should be consumed within six months to a year. The braid should be hung in an area that does not receive direct sunlight or excessive heat (60 degree to 70 degrees). A garlic braid for decorative purposes should hold its shape for years. By spraying it with clear lacquer it will last indefinitely, according to the manufacturer. Also, keep guests' hands from pressing the cloves. After many moons and enough beatings from the rays of the sun, they naturally turn dry and hollow.
The Garlic Squeeze may be ordered by sending $20 plus $1.30 for tax and $2 for shipping and handling to Garlic Squeeze, 1550 Huston Road, Lafayette, Calif. 94549.
The Garlic Machine has a suggested retail price of $10.99 and is available at Barbara's (Westside Pavilion), My Favorite Things (Dana Point) and Crown Hardware (Costa Mesa).
The Leifheit Garlic and Onion Press has a suggested retail price of $8 ($9.50 with bracket) and is available at Bullock's .
Garlic Braids from Crinklaw Farms range in suggested retail price from $14 to $36 and are available at Irvine Ranch Market and Gelson's.