We have all walked into a dining hall, a restaurant, or a friend’s house and thought “it smells like a home cooked meal from my childhood.” There, in that moment, you are transported to a time, place, and mindset that are uniquely yours. You’re somewhere between re-living a memory and lucid dreaming for that moment before you return to reality and start looking for some of that food.
What makes those memories so powerful?
I don’t have a good answer, but I know that two ingredients are always in the mix when I get that special “smells like home cooking” feeling. Without question I always find onion and garlic are included. In the USA we are heavily influenced by many cultural cuisines. The Midwest, where I grew up and still live, is heavily marked by European influences. Those ties lead back to all sorts of spices and vegetable bases but the common thread I usually find includes onion and garlic.
These special ingredients add a one two punch of flavor to simple meals and compliment complex dishes as well.
Whether it’s fresh, dried, or even infused, these ingredients pack quite a punch of flavor. The pungent, all too familiar smell of garlic comes from different sulfur-containing chemicals where alliin turns to allicin, an amino acid produced when garlic is crushed or chopped. The allicin then releases the enzyme alliinase which makes it oh so smelly. Although that may have sounded like a bunch of science mumbo jumbo, it’s very important to why we love garlic.
Also, alliinase breaks down quickly during cooking which is the reason raw garlic is spicy but cooked garlic is rich and somewhat sweet. Toasted and dried garlic often have more similar flavor to cooked garlic compared to fresh. That said, we do sell dried garlic that retains all of the sharpness and complexity of fresh product.
The equally pungent smell of onion is caused only by the damaging of each cell, usually in the process of chopping the onion. Now I won’t go into the detailed science of alliinase releasing from the cell then coming in contact with isoalliin and so on and so forth. But, I will say that smell is decidedly more complicated than you might realize.
In dried form, garlic and onion are an extremely popular addition to different foods from pastas to meats or soups to savory pastries. By putting these ingredients in dried form, it creates a longer ingredient shelf life while also creating more accessibility. Just think about it, garlic and onion are in almost every sauce you can find! Food manufacturers seem to always find a way to sneak these flavor giants into their products, and we’re not mad about it!
From fermented honey garlic to onion infused olive oil, these ingredients easily share their potent flavors.
People that follow a low FODMAP diet aren’t able to consume garlic or onion without major stomach issues. Since garlic and onion are in lots of different recipes, infused oils are a great way to have that flavor without sacrificing any discomfort. The fructans in onions are the pesky carbohydrates that cause the major issues, but since they are water soluble, they don’t get transferred to infused oils. Hooray!
Even if you don’t have stomach issues from eating onion or garlic, infusing them into oils, vinegars, honey, and more can just lead to extra layers of flavor! We are all about the complex flavors that can come from special recipes (check out our video series Trading Recipes for some cool recipes).
Onion and garlic are just about everywhere you look when it comes to savory foods. Consumers can enjoy the flavor of onion and garlic year-round thanks to the preservative properties of drying and a powerful set of modern treatment techniques! Drying makes onion and garlic shelf stable and dramatically increases shelf life which also drives down costs. Whether you’re a home cook, chef, or a food manufacturer, dehydrated onion and garlic are wonder ingredients that save time and money while still tasting great!
If you want to learn more about the science behind onion and garlic, the state of the onion and garlic market, and the approach we take toward ingredient sourcing, check out our podcast Beyond The Bench-Top! New episodes each month.
For recipes including onion, garlic, and many more ingredients, check out our recipe blogs!