Wild and Lazy Fermentation

We Can Phickle That! Brined, Pickled Garlic

Cloves of Garlic in a jar salt and bulbs

All you need to make an excellent secret ingredient.

You know how sometimes when you’re at the gym, there’s a guy next to you, sweating away, who just exudes the smell of a lasagna?  I’m that guy.  I can retain the smell of garlic and purge it through sweat like weeks after my last garlic consumption.  It’s ridiculous.  I also, sadly, have a bit of a love hate relationship with garlic.  I LOVE eating it, and for years (this is how in touch with my body I am) I would eat raw garlic in hummus or in salsa or in a salad dressing and be totally perplexed by the horrible bloating and discomfort I would experience afterwards.  I finally realized, again, after years of this, that I’m basically garlic-intolerant.  So you lactoids and GFers out there, I feel your pain.  I know this sounds weird and that garlic-intolerance isn’t a thing, but tell that to my belly when it chooses to imitate that of a 9-months preggo belly after a single bit of raw mince enters it.  The weirdest part, though, is that it’s only raw garlic; roast it, boil it or  sauté it and I’m in garlic heaven.

Salt Cellar and Garlic

Two ingredient pickle. Three if you count water.

Happily, my garlic free pass also applies to fermentation.  I can chomp down on a fermented clove and experience no ill effects, which makes me really, really happy.  I don’t tend to eat these cloves raw, though.  They aren’t as pungent as raw garlic, but they maintain their  crisp texture, so if you ever wanted to freak out your friends by appearing to eat a bulb or two of raw garlic, fermented would be the way to go.

I let my garlic ferment for a good, long time, but if you are the impatient sort, you could always add a bit of whey to get it going fast.  I don’t mind it slow, though.  Even a pint lasts a long time in our garlic loving house.


Delicious piles of digestible cloves


Yield 1 pint of pickled cloves

A few notes: Sometimes garlic turns green/teal/blue when it ferments.  It’s totally fine to eat (and can make certain kids giggle with delight when they eat it).  Sadly this batch stayed white, so I don’t get to show you those fun shades of organic green.  It has to do with the age of the garlic and amino acids.  More on blue garlic here.

Regular readers will note that I use about double the salt in this recipe that I do in many of my pickle recipes.  There are a few reasons for this.  The longer fermentation time is one, and the fact that I use these as a seasoning rather than a chomping pickle is another.  If you feel that it’s too much for you, feel free to reduce the salt.

Organic garlic is greatly preferred here.  Like ginger and hot peppers, I always buy (or grow) organic to avoid vegetables that have possibly been irradiated.  If all the bugs, good and bad, are dead, fermentation will simply not occur.

Balking at peeling all that garlic (and yes, you’ll want to peel it rather than buying the pre-peeled cloves that are treated with all kinds of preservatives that could impede fermentation)?  Try this fun method of peeling a whole bulb quick.  It’s fun, it works, and you’ll even burn a few calories.

If this is your first time making fermented pickles, please check out my Pickle FAQ before getting started.


  • 4 heads garlic, cloves peeled and separated
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup room temperature, filtered water


  1. Stir salt into water until dissolved.  Alternatively, you can heat the water for easier salt dissolution, but you’ll need to let it come back to room temperature before pouring it over your garlic.
  2. Put your peeled garlic cloves into a quart-sized jar, cover with your (room temperature brine).
  3. Make sure garlic is kept away from air, using either an airlock or gasket jar or a cheapo/free method, such as the ghetto jar method.
  4. Let your jar sit at room temperature for 4 weeks (they can go much, much longer) away from direct sunlight.  You may want to check at the two week point to make sure brine hasn’t evaporated.  Keeping your cloves submerged is essential!  If the brine is low, add a touch more.
  5. I say this garlic is getting close to done when the smell of it changes from harsh, raw garlic to the alluring aroma of roasted garlic.  After that, it’s acidity preference and you’re free to chomp dem cloves.  If there’s any garlic pungency left, they aren’t done (at least to my preference).
  6. Make some alarmingly tasty hummus, salsa or pesto!
Garlic cloves and bulbs

Pretty bulbs and cloves make excellent eats



  1. Posted September 17, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I love garlic, but I am just not a fan of using raw garlic in anything but Caesar Salad – it can be a bit much. I’m doing this today!

    I’ve noticed the garlic in some of my pickles – esp. my green bean pickles, turns blue green. Now I know why! Thanks.

  2. Amanda
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, garlic is wonderful! I think that’s why I fought the knowledge that my body didn’t like it for so long. Roasted and fermented are now my top ways to consume it, and that’s good enough for me! Happy fermenting!

  3. Posted September 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Heat and low acidity is destroying most powerful (and most irritant) substance in garlic – allicin. So, garlic loses superpowers, but keep standard healing powers with other substances.

    And garlic is also high in inulline content – it is prebiotic stuff and it may cause bloating. It is eaten by lactobacilli during fermentation, too.

    I´m from strong, raw garlic loving country*, and we have a trick for better digestion of raw garlic – eat it without a inner sprout. I have not an idea why it is working, but it does.

    *we are growing special varieties of super-strong garlic. And we have an excellent hangover cure http://www.cityroom.com/stories/gourmet/2011/09/27/traditional-czech-garlic-soup/

  4. Posted October 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Amanda! I was so excited to see this post because I also have trouble digesting raw garlic. I tried it out and after four weeks the liquid and garlic cloves have turned brownish. The garlic was very fresh, so I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Have you seen this before and do you know if this is normal? It smells great, so I’m really hoping it’s okay to eat. It not I’ll definitely try again. Thanks for posting this!

  5. Amanda
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Alissa,

    Absolutely! After a month or so of fermentation, my cloves also start to brown. Totally fine to consume! You may find that they still have the pungent taste of fresh garlic, even after they’ve browned and smell very roasted. That’s okay, too. In fact it’s great for folks like us who may want that flavor in a salsa or hummus, but don’t want to suffer afterwards. Nice to know someone out there also has my weird affliction!!

    Enjoy your garlic!


  6. Posted October 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    So glad to hear it – I’ve been itching to use my cloves in some hummus! Thanks Again!

  7. Denis Ellinger
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Great article-thanks for sharing. So after the four week fermentation can I can the garlic? I have LOTS and would like to can some for this winter-Thanks

  8. Amanda
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi Denis,

    Unfortunately, I am not a canner and I really can’t give you any guidance on canning stuff. You can ferment this garlic for months and months and months, so if you’re concerned with getting it through the winter, fermentation alone will do the trick. For information on canning, my friend, Marisa McClellan, has a wonderful (and famous) blog you should definitely check out: Food in Jars. Sorry I can’t help with the canning question. I’m very jealous of your garlic abundance!!


  9. Denis Ellinger
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip-it looks like a great site.
    God bless and thanks again!

  10. rose
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I love to eat raw garlic,but my friend I should not do that,she said.it was not healthy,it causes disease. Garlic helps me in alot of ways for blood pressure. ???

  11. Amanda
    Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rose,

    I can’t reply scientifically about the health aspects of eating raw garlic, but from what I know, it is a healthy thing to do (maybe not for one’s breath, but garlic definitely has many, wonderful health benefits). I think if you like it and it makes you feel good, you’re fine. Personally, eating raw garlic makes me feel terrible, so I don’t do it. Of course, I’m not a medical professional, but to me, that’s always a good rule of thumb!

    Happy chomping!

  12. Bill T.
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Regarding irradiated garlic — wouldn’t simply adding some whey off the top of some yogurt do the trick? Any suggestions on how much?

  13. Amanda
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Bill,

    Yes, you could use whey as a starter, but that’s not really my style. It adds bacteria (though beneficial) other than those that would naturally occur during vegetable fermentation and can make vegetables quite slimy. It does speed up fermentation, though, which some would see as an advantage.

    If you’re into using whey for vegetable fermentation, most of the whey-fermented vegetables in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions seem to use about 4 T per quart.

    Good luck!

  14. Posted April 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I fermented some garlic in this way and left it for a good couple of months. I have watched it turn from white to a dark green/blue colour which is facinating when you get over the fear of eating it!
    The smell is deep and rich and it is a great product. Thank you for sharing this!

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] I’ve mentioned for other foods before (ginger and garlic, for instance), hot peppers are an ingredient that you probably want to buy either organic or from [...]

  2. [...] I just have a kind of intolerance reaction to raw garlic that I don’t have to cooked or fermented garlic.) and that’s the reason I actually started fermenting this tonic, to ensure that it was [...]

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