Honeyed Garlic

When I first shared this recipe in my Wild Fermentation group on Facebook, I did it on kind of a lark, like “Hey, I’ve got honey and garlic in the kitchen. Let’s give this a try!” I never expected it to become probably the most popular recipe in the group to date. But, indeed, it has gone viral with different members posting pictures of theirs almost every week. I got the recipe from the cookbook Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes, by Ikuko Hisamatsu. The recipe is not very detailed and so it was a surprise to me to find that it does ferment. Honey, you see, consists of about 80% sugar and 20% moisture, and so is very shelf-stable; indeed it will never go bad and even has antiseptic properties. However, when you increase the moisture, even if by a very small amount, the wild yeasts present in the honey will initiate fermentation. In this recipe the juice from the garlic dilutes the honey just enough to start fermentation, but not enough to produce a significant amount of alcohol. What you get instead is a transformation of both the garlic and the honey: the garlic deepens in color and mellows in flavor; the honey turns runny and dark, and is infused throughout with garlicky goodness. For this recipe you need to use raw honey and the best quality garlic that is not dried out or sprouting.

Honeyed Garlic

Honeyed Garlic

Honeyed Garlic
Ninniku Hachimitsu-zuke

Raw honey

Just two ingredients.

Just two ingredients.

You can make as little or as much of this as you want, but keep in mind that peeling a lot of garlic can be a challenge. I found that it took about 5 small bulbs of garlic for a 1 pint jar. Hardneck varieties are easier to peel, so seek these out if you can. One method for peeling large quantities of garlic involves shaking them in stainless steel bowls. I haven’t tried this method myself as I don’t have the right size bowls, but others have told me it works quite well. For this batch I put all the separated cloves in a jar, screwed the lid on, and shook and shook it. This worked pretty well to loosen the skins, but still required some peeling as you can see in the photo below.

Shake garlic skins loose in a jar.

Shake garlic skins loose in a jar.

Place all the peeled cloves in a jar that is not much bigger than the total quantity you want to make. For this batch I used a half-liter Fido jar. Pour enough honey over the garlic to submerge it completely. Leave about two inches headspace at the top of the jar.

Leave 2 inches at the top.

Leave 2 inches at the top.

Place the garlic in a cool, dark place to ferment. (A pantry works nicely.) In a few days you’ll notice some bubbling in the jar – this is perfectly normal and a good indicator of healthy fermentation. (If you didn’t leave enough room the honey may bubble over, making a sticky mess.) The garlic will also float to the top, but this isn’t a concern as it’s well-coated in honey.

Bubbly fermentation.

Bubbly fermentation.

Leave the Honeyed Garlic to ferment for about a month. At this point fermentation should be done, and you’ll notice that the garlic and honey have turned darker. There will also be a cloudy layer at the bottom. When you open the jar, you’ll find that the honey has become quite runny and can be stirred back together easily.

Flavor improves over time.

Flavor improves over time.

You may begin consuming your garlic at any point, but it keeps getting better with age. Store it in a cool place – in the winter mine stays in the garage, and in the summer I move it into the fridge. You can use this medicinally to treat cold symptoms: mince a clove of garlic and swallow it with a spoonful of honey, or dissolve the garlicky honey in hot water for a throat-soothing tea. It’s also excellent in all savory cooking that requires a little bit of sweetness: try using it in dressings, sauces, and marinades, and it’s a natural choice for many kinds of Asian cooking. I love to chop up a bit of the garlic and mix it with the honey and some raw apple cider vinegar and drizzle that over Swedish Cured Pork Loin. YUM!

Happy Fermenting!

Worried about Botulism?
Honey and garlic both have a reputation for harboring botulinum spores, and I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the safety of this ferment. Clostridium botulinum is a very hardy little pathogen, but it’s finicky about what kind of conditions it can reproduce in. In order to sporulate and produce the botulinum toxin it needs: a neutral ph, moist environment, and no oxygen. Food preservatives also inhibits it, and salt and sugar are our oldest preservatives. At high enough concentrations of either botulinum spores cannot reproduce. Honey, being about 80% sugar and 20% water, qualifies as a high-sugar, low-moisture food. Additionally, honey is an acidic food, having an average ph of 3.9. Now, in this recipe the honey is being diluted a bit, and I can’t give you the final numbers for the sugar and water content. I can only tell you that I and many others have been eating this for a long time with no problem. Of course, it should not be fed to infants or anyone with a severely compromised immune system.

Honey FAQ
Clostridium Botulinum

You may also like...

66 Responses

  1. Karen McInerney says:

    Mmm, this sounds good, I’m adding these two ingredients to my shopping list!

  2. Jeanmarie says:

    I’m definitely trying this! All I’ve done to date was marinate chopped garlic in a little honey. I think it made a good throat-coating syrup, but I want to try truly fermenting it. Would it make sense to use my already brined garlic in honey, or would it only work with fresh, raw garlic?

  3. Deb says:

    Does the raw honey have to be liquid,or will it liquify as it ferments?
    P.S. I made your Spicy Kraut,and it’s wonderful! 🙂

  4. Ashley says:

    I am going to make this today!

    Also, I wanted to share a super easy way to peel garlic that has literally changed my life, haha – I bought a garlic peeler from some kids who were doing a school fundraiser, and it works so well. It is basically a silicon tube that you put the a garlic clove inside, then you roll it on the counter for 5-10 seconds, then shake it out and the peeled garlic falls out along with the papery skin. You can buy them on eBay for less than $5 and as little as $1 depending on the brand and where they ship from.

  5. Amber Strong says:

    So, I started my honey garlic about 3 weeks ago. It smells (and tastes) delicious! BUT, it never bubbled… not even a tiny bit! The garlic was nice and fresh, and the honey was local, raw honey. Any idea what I did wrong?

  6. Lori says:

    Thought of adding some extras to make a fermented cold medicine, something like i make now that hasn’t been fermented I was thinking of adding some whey also any thoughts on how to do this, i Make my own MK, yogurt, and boucha but am wanting to expand.

  7. Lori says:

    I have another question, i have a bottle of Costco’s Kirkland brand Clover Honey, it doesn’t say raw, but it also doesn’t say it’s been pasteurized, it is starting to crystallize some, how can i tell if it still has all or most of raw honeys beneficial enzymes, and other healthy properties, right now I use it only in cooking where heating it would destroy raw honeys beneficial properties, anyhow. I do also have raw honey, maybe a half and half mix, i’ve done things like bucha, MK, and yogurt, and am anxious to spread my wings into new territories. Also thank you for your quick response I’ve seen to many post where, the majority of comments and questions go unanswered, I think an I’m not sure is better than no response.

    • Sarah says:

      I think that if it doesn’t say raw honey then it is not raw. Crystallization has to do with other factors not related to pasteurization, including what kind of nectar the bees fed on. For this recipe it will be best to use a honey that you are sure is raw, and save the Costco honey for cooking & baking. 🙂

      • Lori says:

        Thanks that’s kind of what I was thinking, but since it was cheaper thought I ask, I couldn’t believe those pics of the 5 and 20 year old garlic, glad you showed that if mine started turning black I would probably tossed it.

  8. Krystal says:

    I got the recipe from that Japanese Tsukemono book as well. Not very detailed, your recipe is better! Thank you. 🙂

  9. Kristi says:

    I’m not ditching my 2 jars of honey garlic yet – still mulling over this botulism thing. Right now the one component preventing me from throwing them out is the high sugar content in the honey. So…one big question – in reading through your instructions, you advised not to use sprouted or dried out garlic. Some of the cloves in my jars were just beginning to sprout. – is it because of some poison or something else? I actually work to make my garlic cloves sprout – I’ve read that the medicinal properties are greatly enhanced by sprouting the cloves. But – that’s a clove that is not put in the honey, so…????

    • Sarah Miller says:

      Sprouted garlic doesn’t have quite as good a flavor. Also, by the time they’ve sprouted they’re not usually as fresh and juicy. Otherwise, there is no harm that I’m aware of.

  10. TSnow says:

    Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing. Should the garlic cloves be whole or can they be smashed?

  11. Jennifer says:

    Well, it was cold here when I started this and I set the jars outside. The garlic has turned dark and I took to cloves of one jar and put it in the other jar so now I have one jar with just the garlic infused honey.
    Does anyone have any other suggestions for using this honey-recipes?

  12. Jennifer says:

    Oops forgot to check the notification box. Thanks.

  13. laurel says:

    Can I add ginger to this without diluting too much?

  14. Jill says:

    Does the fermented garlic require burping?

  15. Shelby says:

    Can I use a mason jar or does it have to be a flip top?

  16. Miriam says:

    I tried this delicious-sounding recipe but it got moldy, even though I sterilized my equipment. I do live in a warm climate (southern California), so maybe it was too warm….any suggestions? I’m afraid that the refrigerator will be too cold.

  17. Carola Johnston says:

    I just read all this, just made mine yesterday and used organic blossom honey, now what should I do? Help please, and thank you!

  18. suzan says:

    The raw honey i purchase is very stiff/thick, how do you stir anything into honey like this? should i warm it slightly? and if i do warm it, am i going to damage the beneficials in the honey?

  19. Betty says:

    Please advise what to do with the fermented juice?
    Can I reuse the juice to ferment the new batch of garlic?
    Thank you

    • Richard Laue says:

      The juice is great as a glaze for meat, fish, vegitables, also use it in making salad dressing. I would think adding more garlic to the honey might make it to watery. Using. Tablespoon in the new batch would help jump start the pricess

  20. Angela says:

    Is raw, creamed honey ok?

  21. REGINA HALEY says:

    Just started my honey garlic was curious if Can also used lemon in honey Tks

  22. David says:

    Just wondering if there is an upper limit to how long you should leave it? I made some several months ago before I saw this recipe, based on a suggestion from a friend. Tonight I opened the jar, and there was a strong not-very-pleasant smell. There was no sign of mould, although the cloves were very shrivelled. Inside it seemed that the middle had dissolved. I am just wondering whether this should be eaten shortly after the month fermenting?

  23. Rebecca says:

    Love it! I’m making my third batch of this after finding the same recipe you mentioned in a book that I got from a roadside library box! I’m wondering if you can detail the way yours smells t completion?

    I’ve also just started a jar filled with cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, ginger and lemon slices covered with raw honey, No garlic in this one so I’m hoping my garlic-hating kiddo might like it 🙂

  24. Brittany says:

    How long is this stable once opened? I assume it should be refrigerated after opening? I ask because I know that veggie ferments are stable for ages in the fridge, but fruit ferments spoil quicker. With a vegetable plus all that honey sugar, this seems to be a mixture of both, so should it be consumed fairly quickly after opening? weeks? months?

  25. sarah says:

    Thanks for this post. I didn’t intend on fermenting mine, just making a garlic-infused honey for cold season, but I left it out a week and just opened it and it’s bubbling quite a bit. Worried about botulism, so I looked it up. If my garlic cloves weren’t always covered is that bad? I also added a cinnamon stick and turmeric. I guess I’ll try it….hope it’s good and I don’t get sick!

  26. Squirrel says:

    Shake cloves in a jar really fast, this will peel them. 🙂

  27. Rebecca says:

    I was wondering if I could add sage and thyme to the fermented garlic to add their benefits for cold car to the ferment?

  28. Joseph Tongo says:

    Please can I grind or blend the garlic ? And if I want to add ginger, can that one too be blended ?

  29. Joseph Tongo says:

    Can the garlic be grinded or blended? And if i want to add ginger can that one too be blended?

  30. Stuart says:

    I have my own bees I also just harvested a heap of ginger from my garden
    all I did was slice the ginger then put it in a jar half full of honey from my bees and within two days it was bubbling away the ginger has darkened in colour and the honey is runny. the honey has already taken on the flavour of the ginger and visa versa. looking forward to cooking up a stir fry with it. I’m sure you could add the ginger any way you like it, blended, or sliced shouldn’t matter. I’m going to try making a ginger honey mead next. I also just harvested some turmeric so am going to try that in the honey also.

  31. Santhi says:

    Mine does not bubble. Some times I use honey garlic in cooking.

  32. Peg says:

    In one of the grocery stores I frequent they sell bags of already peeled garlic cloves. This sounds perfect!

  33. Lita Watson says:

    I think this way is better than we store the garlic with vinegar or olive oil. So how long can i keep that jar of honeyed garlic in the refrigerator?

  34. Just smash the garlic cloves on the counter with your hand, when you have separated them from the bulb. The shells will fall right off.

  35. Mari Cris says:

    What is the shelf life of honey garlic? If I stored in inside the cabinet it can be last for 1year?

  36. Ashe says:

    I’ve actually got a jar of this that I forgot about in the pantry and it’s several years old. The honey has turned black and it smells a bit like tar. Think it’s still safe to eat? Maybe a bit late to be asking, since I’ve already been at it…

  37. Mich says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I put a large mason jar of it together – 3 days in, I noticed a few cloves were turning green in spots. This is not normal right? Should I toss it all out and start over

  1. November 12, 2014
  2. August 12, 2016

    […] The Wild Fermies are truly wild about this recipe, so I knew I had to give it a try. Sarah Miller explains the process as well as addresses some of the safety concerns on her blog, Attack of the Killer Pickles. I also […]

  3. September 11, 2016

    […] it on a gardening blog that I follow and it sounded intriguing. I found the instructions here. The honey takes on some of the garlic flavor. John eats raw garlic medicinally to ward off colds, […]

  4. October 31, 2016

    […] action, but garlic is also a favorite. Check out this recipe by Killer Pickles for more about her Honeyed Garlic […]

  5. February 21, 2017

    […] tematu połapałam się, że z fermentowanym miodem już się wcześniej spotkałam przy okazji czosnku w miodzie, derenia w miodzie Małgosi, czy mojego własnego bzu lilaka w miodzie 🙂 Choć te powyższe […]

  6. August 2, 2017

    […] Image Credits: Killerpickles […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: