Couple of things that are worth keeping in mind.
- The longer you keep fresh garlic, the more pungent it becomes.
(you might want to wait a while after harvesting/buying before preserving)
- Home-grown or locally grown garlic will keep for 3-12 months depending on how healthy it is to begin with.
- Anything that is preserved is no longer the same as when fresh.
So don't expect the same flavours, textures, etc.
- Some varieties do well in winter.
(an important consideration if you want true garlic taste year-round - fresh is best)
Probably the 3 main ways to preserve garlic are drying, freezing, and pickling (vinegar).
Drying is an excellent option as it means no extra ingredients, is energy efficient if using a solar oven, an aga, any oven already on, or even the sun, and very importantly, it retains most of its characteristics.
Dry until crisp but not going brown. If you do it in something like a solar oven or the sun, it can take anythig from several hours to a couple of days. Drying does lose garlic its crunch. It then keeps for years if correctly stored. Once re-hydrated, you get the chemical reaction happen that gets us the great garlicky taste.
A benefit of pickling garlic is that the eater won't get garlic breath. But hey, if you live on a couple of acres, I bet you don't care, right? :) The vinegar neutralises it, although it takes months to do so completely.
You can keep it up for to 5 years! And it gets better with age. I've never had any that long. Any vinegar works, depending on your personal tastes. It retains its crunch but loses some garlickness (can't think of a better word). Still a great option.
Freezing garlic works fine too. However, if you're interested in the health benefits of gralic, crush the cloves first and wait about 20 minutes before freezing. (it's a chemical thing)
Garlic in oil?
YUUUUUMMMMMM preserving garlic in oil - not the best idea.
Low acidic foods in oil are only good for very short-term preserving (not really preservation at all, just a few weeks in the fridge). These foods have the risk of forming certain bacteria that are very dangerous to your health.
The garlic in oil you buy in shops has been acidified.
One of my favourite ways to use garlic with oil is to make garlic oil. I leave the garlic in the oil for about 1-2 weeks and then remove the cloves. You get lovely flavoured oil but the bacteria won't grow without the food to live off (the cloves).
Dried garlic in oil is okay, but I've never worked out why I'd want to do that so haven't bothered trying.
Growing garlic isn't difficult, so it's worth growing plenty and eating it all year-round. As an excellent natural remedy for colds and flus, it's ideal to use during the winter.
If you grow it yourself, and you harvest healthy strong crops, store it properly, you may never need to preserve it. But the right recipes offer different and delicious ways of eating your garlic.