Make your own crystallized ginger
By Katie Scarvey
ne easy way to spice up your cooking is to use real ginger — not the powdered kind that comes in a bottle but the actual ginger root, which is a gnarled and knobby rhizome.
Besides jazzing up your stir fry dishes, ginger can be used as a home remedy for nausea, whether it’s the result of illness or hangover. Its anti-nausea properties supposedly come from a soothing effect on the linings of mucous membranes.
My husband, Dave, swears by ginger as a way to prevent seasickness. He reminded me that before a bachelor fishing outing for his best friend, the fishing party staved off nausea with nothing more than some powdered ginger in water. Even in a small boat bobbing around in 6-8-foot waves, nobody got sick, he said.
Ginger has also been reported to help ease hot flashes in women.
To cook with the root, you usually have to peel off the outside to get to the part you want, which can then be minced or grated or even cut into matchstick-sized strips.
Fresh ginger root will last about three weeks. It can also be frozen for up to six months. Young ginger root, generally available in the spring, will be more tender and less fibrous than more mature ginger root.
Crystallized ginger makes a fantastic spicy-sweet snack that is not too difficult to make. My daughter came home recently with more than a pound of ginger root from an Asian market in Charlotte, and since we didn’t think we’d use it all before it shriveled, my husband decided to try making crystallized ginger.
You want to start with good ginger. If ginger looks wrinkly or shrivelled, avoid it. Look for firm ginger with smooth, thin skin.
To get the skin off you can use a paring knife, but my husband tried a different method: scraping the skin off with a spoon.
He reported that the spoon method worked “remarkably well,” and that he had no trouble going around the knobby bits with it.
The recipe he used came from David Lebovitz’s blog (www.davidlebovitz.com).
Lebovitz points out that a candy thermometer isn’t necessary, that you simply need to keep an eye on the pot and “when the liquid is the consistency of thin honey, it’s done and ready to go.”
Dave tossed his drained slices in granulated sugar instead of going the syrup route. The pieces seemed to kind of “sweat” for a while, but we just left them out until they dried out. We’ve been snacking on them ever since.
We haven’t tried it yet, but I think dipping ginger pieces in dark chocolate would elevate this snack to the level of brilliance.
You can also chop up crystallized ginger and use it in baking — muffins or oatmeal cookies or scones. Use your imagination!
Candied or Crystallized Ginger
1 pound fresh ginger, peeled
4 cups sugar, plus additional sugar
for coating the ginger slices, if desired
4 cups of water
pinch of salt
Slice the ginger as thinly as possible. It can’t be too thin, so use a sharp knife.
Put the ginger slices in a non-reactive pot, add enough water to cover the ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let ginger simmer for ten minutes. Drain, and repeat, simmering the ginger slices one more time.
Mix the sugar and 4 cups water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225 degrees.
Remove from heat and let stand for at least an hour, although I often let it sit overnight. Or if you want to coat the slices with sugar, drain very well while the ginger is hot, so the syrup will drain away better.
Store ginger slices in the syrup, or toss the drained slices in granulated sugar. Shake off excess sugar, and spread the ginger slices on a cooling rack overnight, until they’re somewhat dry. The sugar can be reused in a batter or ice cream base, or for another purpose.
If packed in its own syrup, the ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one year. If tossed in sugar, the pieces can be stored at room temperature in an airtight jar for about three months.
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