Guest Post: Aged Persian Garlic Pickles from Stefanie Kulhanek

April 8, 2015

Ingredients 1

Today’s guest post comes to us from Stefanie Kulhanek. She is an ecologist and science educator living in Montreal, Canada who currently works at the Montreal botanical gardens and Biodome. She has done extensive work with local non-profit organisations promoting urban agriculture and community composting in both Montreal and Toronto.

Stefanie first began canning and preserving 8 years ago as a way to deal with surplus from her garden. Since then she had attended various courses and workshops on the topic and loves to experiment with new recipes. Her other hobbies include winemaking, foraging for wild edibles, growing mushrooms and even cultivating Bonsai trees from native species.

Garlic bulbs

Last fall I was first introduced to the fascinating food item know as Seer Torshi; a unique garlic pickle of Persian origin, which is often aged for seven years or more. I was attending a workshop given by a friend on the topic of unusual foods that she’d discovered while traveling. Amongst the various goodies I sampled at the event, Seer Torshi impressed me the most!

When raw garlic cloves are immersed in plain white vinegar for a very long time, a rather magical transformation occurs. The cloves turn from crisp white to ivory, sometimes with hints of blue-green (see the note at the end of the post), eventually fading to a light brown that deepens with age. After several years the cloves become very tender, mild and almost fruity, while both the garlic and its brine take on a deep mahogany colour – reminiscent of balsamic vinegar.

ingredients 2

Seer Torshi is mainly served as an appetizer, much like olives or a fine cheese and is rarely added to recipes. In fact, given its lengthy aging time and supposed medicinal qualities, this pickled garlic is considered a real delicacy and it’s definitely quite addictive.

I was lucky enough to leave the workshop with what remained of an 8-year old jar and a determination to make a batch myself. After doing some research I learned that, while traditional Seer Torshi requires only minimal preparation but lots of patience, there are also several short-cuts that can be taken to reduce aging time substantially. I decided to try my hand at both methods, based on the recipes below.


Method 1: Old school Seer Torshi (makes 1 pint)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but don’t peel them, otherwise they’ll turn to mush as they age. Try to choose similar sized cloves and pack them tightly into a pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar.
  • Add the honey and salt to the vinegar and stir to dissolve. Then fill the jar with the vinegar mixture leaving about 1 inch of headspace. You may need to put something sterile on top of the garlic to ensure it stays immersed.
  • Place the lid on the jar but don’t seal it too tightly. The garlic should actually undergo a short fermentation and the gas will need to be released by loosening the cap about twice a day for the first week or so. Alternatively use a jar fitted with an airlock.
  • After the fermentation subsides, the garlic should have softened and no longer float. You can then remove the weight, top up with vinegar and re-seal the jar. It should be stored in a cool, dark spot for a minimum of 1 year but ideally for 7!

blue garlic

Method 2: “Quick and dirty” Seer Torshi (1 pint batch)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but do not peel them.
  • Add garlic and white vinegar to a stainless steel pot and heat uncovered on medium-high until simmering. Add salt and honey and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. The garlic cloves will have soften somewhat but should still be fairly firm with their skins intact.
  • Pack the garlic cloves into pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar. Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then fill the jar with the cooled white vinegar mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace.
  • Unlike the traditional method, this garlic pickle should not ferment. Also as that garlic is pre-cooked, it tends to sink in the brine and shouldn’t need to be weighed down. I imagine you could process the jar at this point to seal it – I didn’t bother. Store in a cool, dark spot for a minimum or 3 months or up to 1 year.

garlic in different states

A note on garlic turning blue-green

Under certain conditions, garlic may develop a blue-green hue especially when exposed to certain acids or fats. This is the result of various reactions between the sulphur compounds and enzymes than naturally occur in garlic and the fat or acid it’s exposed to. It doesn’t effect the safety or even the flavour of the food but can be a bit unappealing to some.

When making Seer Torshi using the traditional methods, some degree of blueing is likely. The extent however, will depend on anything from the age of the garlic to the chemistry of the soil in which it was grown. In any case there’s no need for alarm, as the colour will eventually fade to brown. If using the quick method the garlic shouldn’t turn blue as boiling destroys the enzymes responsible for the colour change.

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21 thoughts on "Guest Post: Aged Persian Garlic Pickles from Stefanie Kulhanek"

  • I made a couple gallons of this one year, about a decade ago, and it ages so well. I prefer to eat it cold though because I like the firmer texture when it is cold.

  • I am very interested in making both of these recipes! Can you ever really have too much garlic in the larder!!

    I understand Method 1: Old school Seer Troshi (makes 1 pint). In Method 2: ‘Quick and Dirty, what is the significance of the balsamic vinegar? Why does it stop the fermenting? What does it do to the flavor? Is it sweeter?

    On a scale of 1 – 10, my cooking skills are -2! I do love garlic and garlic pickles!

    Thank you in advance for your time!

  • I had a bounty of garlic about 2-3 years ago and found a recipe for Refrigerator Garlic Pickles so I made a big jar – only need to wait 2 weeks for them to cure. Love them! And they just get better with age. The recipe came from gourmet garlic gardens. You put whole peeled garlic cloves in a jar with an air-tight lid – vinegar to cover with 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of vinegar – put on the lid tight and shake to dissolve salt. Keep it refrigerated – it lasts indefinitely.
    So I’m anxious to try your variation. I have even used these in cooking – they do give a different flavor to things. I eat them just out of the jar.

  • I would love to know what you thought of the “quick and dirty” method, compared to the 8 year old ones you tried. I know they must have been ok, or you wouldn’t have posted the recipe, but i’m interested in what qualities of the two methods matched up, and if you found there to be a huge difference between the two. I love reading your blog. You post the most interesting (and delicious) things!

  • I remember my parents (who are from Iran) making these huge batches of Torshi and keeping them on the back patio for years until they darken. The result is an INTENSE garlic taste, definitely something for garlic lovers.

  • My mom (R.I.P.) taught me how to make seer torshi a few years ago before she passed…both my parents are from Iran so eating torshi was an everyday thing in our house…when I was born (1987) she made a huge batch which filled about 10 large Mason jars…sadly a supposed family friend stole them like so we were only left with the opened jar, but I still have a few cloves left, and I use the liquid to flavor everything from sandwiches to soups…I plan on making a huge batch to honor her and hopefully this time they aren’t stolen and I can pass on the finished product to my nieces and nephews aswell as pass on a tradition to them

  • I like to use apple cyder vinerga can I use it instead of white vinegar the whole recipe as it is good for you,will it spoil my recipe?

  • also can you help me with a torshee that is not very sweet and also has garlic plus cucumber in it and dill.i tasted once very nice with a subtle sweetness

  • Just wanted to let folks know…I put this together when the post went up in 2015, in a ball jar. As of now (2019), something happened to make the lid totally rust out, with a hole that let everything liquid escape/turn rotten. It was a fun pet for a few years but I didn’t get to eat it. Maybe another time with a different setup!

  • Is there any way to pickle garlic in a water bath canner that’s considered safe? There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on the internet and I trust your judgement.

  • Any thoughts on the minimum time required before sampling the old school recipe? I processed a 10lb bag of garlic from Costco in Aug 2015. Over 5 years in and I am dying to try it this holiday season. Too early? Have a bunch so considering giving it a try!

    1. I think five years is plenty long enough to start tasting. Stefanie recommended at least a year, so five strikes me as enough to have something interesting and delicious.

  • I started a batch of this in 2015 and just checked on it. The cloves look beautifully dark, but half the liquid is gone. Is it a good idea to top up the vinegar?

    1. This was a guest post, so I don’t have any direct experience with this recipe, but I would top up the vinegar and seal tightly in the hopes that no more evaporates out.