Thursday, November 22, 2012

Operation Candied Ginger

Ginger in and of itself is a strong, malleable and useful ingredient. As a spice, it stands out in cookies or cupcakes. As a healing aid, it settles the unsettled stomach. As a palate cleanser, it complements and clears the taste of sushi. Despite its range of offerings, until recently I would have told you I didn’t care for ginger. I’d add it in powdered form to recipes to complement nutmeg, cloves and other fall spices, but I would never want it to be the main ingredient.

So how did ginger become the central theme to so many treats that have come out of my kitchen lately?

I saw an opportunity to challenge everything I’d once thought about ginger (that it’s sort of gross) and I jumped on it… We’ll call this Operation Candied Ginger. 

Despite not really liking ginger, the flavor was hard to avoid in my frequent recipe scouting because other bloggers seemed to enjoy it for some reason unbeknownst to me. They kept highlighting candied and crystallized ginger. I had to know why. 

I bought a few fresh ginger roots and decided to candy it myself following the first set of instructions I found on the Internet… and I failed.

You may have heard that you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the Internet? It’s true. There is a lot of content out there and it’s not all golden. I realized only when my ginger went up in smoke (literally) that the instructions I was following weren’t the greatest.

Trusting these instructions fully (mistake number one), I did as instructed, waited for the water to begin to boil, turned down the flame slightly, and walked away (mistake number two) only to return when my roommate and I noticed the awful smell of burnt char. The blackened and totally scorched ginger pieces stuck to the bottom of our small stainless steel pot for weeks, resisting the first several attempts to scrub it off until we finally managed to scratch it all off.  

Undeterred, I bought more ginger roots and returned to the web. This time I found a trusted source — David Lebowitz — and read the instructions twice before I got started. His instructions added additional and more precise steps than the first set such as boil the ginger pieces first in water alone before adding sugar and using a non-reactive pot.

Tasting the ginger at every step of the way and watching it like a hawk, I successfully candied ginger AND changed my own mind about the flavor. Candied ginger is delicious!

What’s more is that when you make ginger yourself, you end up with a number of finished products.  

Three actually.

You have your candied ginger, rolled in sugar and left to dry out overnight (or at least 5-6 hours), the leftover ginger sugar as any sugar that doesn’t make it onto the candy will retain some of the sweet ginger scent and taste, and ginger syrup as the sugar and water mixture absorbs the ginger flavor as it cooks down into a thick sweet syrup. I’ll get to this in the next post!

Whether you think you like ginger or not, I HIGHLY recommend trying this recipe as pulling it off will make you feel like the most badass domestic goddess out there!

Candied Ginger (recipe adapted from David Lebowitz):
  • 2 or more ginger roots, peeled
  • equal parts water and sugar (2 cups or more)
  • extra sugar to coat the candied ginger
  • Slice the ginger as thinly as possible
  • Put the ginger slices in a non-reactive pot (I used a cheap non-stick pot), add enough water to cover the ginger, and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and let ginger simmer for ten minutes before draining the water
  • Repeat steps 2-3 once more.
  • Add equal parts sugar and water to the pot with the ginger pieces and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and let simmer until the temperature reaches 225 F or until the mixture thickens considerably (about 30 minutes)
  • Remove from heat and let stand for about 15 minutes to cool enough to handle the ginger pieces
  • Strain out the ginger pieces from the remaining liquid with a fine strainer, storing the syrup in a jar and tossing the pieces in sugar
  • Lay sugar-coated ginger pieces on a cooling rack to dry over night or for at least 5-6 hours
  • Store excess sugar in a separate container (you'll want to use this on cookies, in tea, etc.) 
  • Store syrup in the refrigerator, but ginger and sugar can be stored at room temperature

Note from David Lebowitz: You don't need a candy thermometer to make this provided you keep an eye on the pot and remove from heat once the liquid has the consistency of thin honey. (I was just a bit paranoid and wanted to use the thermometer I inherited from my grandma but haven't had a chance to use yet). 

Enjoy your ginger and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 

No comments:

Post a Comment