Friday, July 3, 2015

The Five Day Ginger Project

I was going to call this another installment of Kitchen 101 and be boring. But on Day Two as I heated up the pot for the second time it struck me- The Five Day Ginger Project. Perfect!

So for The Five Day Ginger Project we are going to make another common spice shelf staple you should have on hand- crystallized ginger. I can't live without this stuff. Seriously. I live in the country. Our little grocery store never has fresh ginger and I use it often enough to make this five day project worth every minute. Sure, crystallized means it's been basically candied by poaching in a sugar syrup for four days, but that's purely a means of preservation. I still use this ginger in savory dishes as well as some pretty fantastic baked goods.

It all starts with fresh ginger. You've seen this in the produce aisle- knobby brown lumps of the root of the ginger plant. It's sweet and hot at the same time. Not a pepper heat but a garlic-like heat with a spicy sweet flavor. It's a must have for Asian dishes and well, gingerbread would be just bread without the ginger wouldn't it? You can grow ginger at home but I happen to have two felines who think they are vegetarians and every plant is an all you can eat salad bar. My attempts at growing ginger turned into piles of chewed up and spit out leafy goo. I have to buy it from the store.

Now don't be put off by the five day thing. It's really not that bad. Making your own crystallized ginger at home is NOT a quick process. It's a labor of love, but like just about anything that's homemade, you get a much fresher product without additives and preservatives. It's worth the work to me. This recipe makes enough ginger to mostly fill a quart canning jar. And it's not really work - it takes very little effort to bring the pot to a boil, simmer, and then cover and let sit until tomorrow. Easy peasy!

Crystallized Ginger

1 1/2 pounds fresh ginger
3 cups sugar, divided, plus more
1 lemon
1 cup white corn syrup OR 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water

Peel the ginger and cut into 1/4 inch thick circular slices. 

In a large heavy stockpot place the ginger and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes or so. Add 1 cup of the sugar, raise heat and stir until it returns to a boil. Remove from heat. Leave at room temperature overnight. 

Taste test the syrup after this first cook (let it cool slightly). Already the ginger flavor is very pronounced. 

The next day uncover, slowly return to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes. Slice the lemon, removing the seeds. Add the lemon slices and corn syrup. I used the additional cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water instead of corn syrup. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Again remove from heat, cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Taste testing the ginger on day two was mind blowing. Wow what flavor! The syrup, while sweet from the sugar and corn syrup, had a definite punch of ginger heat, but unlike hot peppers ginger's heat doesn't burn your mouth or hang around. This recipe is worth making even if just for the syrup!

On the third day slowly bring to boil again, stirring often and watching to it doesn't scorch. Add 1 cup of the sugar and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the last cup of sugar and return to boil slowly. Be very cautious of the heat- with the sugar the syrup can burn. Once mixture has returned to boil, remove from heat, cover and leave overnight.

On the fourth day bring to boil over medium low heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the ginger is translucent and the syrup has become thickened and drips heavily from the spoon. Let the mixture cook very slowly over low heat for about 30 to 45 minutes more. 

Remove from heat and carefully remove the ginger with a slotted spoon and spread out on a rack to dry overnight. Reserve the syrup (discard the lemon slices) for other uses. The next day, the fifth and final day, coat the ginger slices with additional sugar. Store in tightly sealed glass jars.

I'm going to let the ginger dry overnight another night and
give it a second roll in sugar. Then storing in a jar
Now that we have this luscious ginger, what can we do with it? 
  • Chop it up and add to baked goods like gingerbread, cookies, fruitcake. 
  • Finely dice the ginger and combine with melted butter and a splash of soy sauce for a wonderful baste for baked chicken. 
  • Spice up your apple pie.
  • Dip pieces of melted chocolate and serve for a refreshing after dinner treat
  • Give cranberry sauce a kick
  • Dice and add to stir fries
  • Add crushed ginger to barbeque sauce
  • Nibble on ginger to settle an upset stomach
  • Use the reserved syrup to flavor drinks and sauces, easing sore throats etc
Ginger will find it's way into all kinds of foods at your house. It's a great "spice" to have on hand. Dehydrated sliced ginger is also a great way to have ginger on hand- just peel, slice thinly, and run through the dehydrator until dry and crisp. Store in an air tight container. Just break off what you need, rehydrate, and go!

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