I'd love to tell you that I'm far enough ahead in my Christmas planning that I already made this garlic confit for a savory homemade Christmas gift idea, but the truth is that I made this for a recipe and then I had the thought that it would be pretty in little jars as a homemade Christmas gift. If you're trying to think of something besides cookies or other sweet treats to give away to neighbors or co-workers, this is a perfect gift for the garlic lovers in your life. In a glass jar, with a layer of oil over the garlic cloves, the garlic confit will keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator, and it's great added to pasta sauce, soup, stew, or any dish where you'd like that roasted garlic flavor. I found the recipe in How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking, a great book that my blogging friend Lydia sent me for an early birthday present, and if you can find pre-peeled garlic cloves, this practically makes itself.
Put 3 cups of peeled garlic cloves into a heavy oven-proof dutch oven. (I used the Christopher Ranch Garlic Cloves from Costco. They now come in a bag instead of a jar, but I've been using them for years.
Add 2-3 dried bay leaves, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then pour in 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup grapeseed or canola oil. (I didn't have fresh thyme so I used my frozen thyme leaves.)
Cover the pan and cook the garlic in a pre-heated 300F/150C oven until the garlic is fragrant, tender, and just starting to get golden in spots. The recipe said an hour and 15 minutes, but I cooked it nearly 2 hours. Watch it carefully towards the end though, because if it gets too brown the garlic will be bitter.
Let the garlic cool and transfer to small glass jars, pouring in enough oil to be sure the garlic cloves are covered with oil. (The original recipe said to cover the surface of the oil with plastic wrap, but I didn't do that.)How to Make Garlic Confit
(Makes about 5-6 small jars of garlic confit, depending on the size of the jars; recipe from How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking by Michael Psilakis.)
3 cups peeled garlic cloves
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (I used my frozen thyme leaves and I think you could substitute a smaller amount of dried thyme)
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup grapeseed or canola oil
Preheat oven to 300F/150C.
Put garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, salt, olive oil, and grapeseed or canola oil into small heavy dutch oven with an oven-proof lid. Put pan into oven and cook on low heat until the garlic is fragrant, very tender, and just starting to turn golden-brown in spots. The original recipe said 1 hour and 15 minutes, but I cooked mine nearly two hours before I felt the garlic was completely tender. Watch it carefully towards the end because the flavor will be bitter if the garlic gets too brown.
Transfer to small glass jars with tight-fitting lids, making sure there is a layer of oil covering the garlic cloves at all time. This will keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator as long as the garlic stays covered with oil
Use mashed garlic confit anywhere that you'd like a roasted garlic flavor. The oil is also great for sauteeing.
(Edit - I heard from a reader with the concern that garlic stored in oil can produce botulism. I did some research on this and did find concerns about storing garlic in oil at room temperature. I found several sources that said garlic can be safely stored in oil IN THE REFRIGERATOR for up to three weeks, which is what this book also said. If you're giving this as a gift, I would let people know how quickly they need to use it, and maybe package in small jars to be on the safe side.)
Ideas for Using Garlic Confit:
Garlic Confit Vinaigrette from The Kitchn
Seared Halibut and Flageolet Beans with Garlic Confit from WrightFood
Chicken Risotto with Garlic Confit and Carrots from Anne's Food
Clams Marinieres from The Paupered Chef
Cannellini Beans with Onions and Garlic Confit from Mixed Greens
More Ideas for Savory Gifts from the Kitchen:
Rosemary Salt from Kalyn's Kitchen
Rosemary and Garlic Herb Rub from Kalyn's Kitchen
Herbes de Provence from French Kitchen in America
Make Your Own Flavored Salts from Steamy Kitchen
Panch Phoron Bengali Spice Mix from The Well Seasoned Cook