When it comes to ginger, I truly love it. Herbalists and nutritionists tout the health benefits of eating this knobby fibrous root , but I simply use it because I enjoy the citrusy, spicy taste.
I always keep fresh ginger tucked in my refrigerator drawer and it is one of my must-have-on hand- ingredients. Besides grating it into curries, I liberally add it to spaghetti sauces, lasagne, marinades, stir fries, weekend morning ginger chai, and even sprinkle on top of pizza.
My most recent venture or as my family claims “fixation,” has been with candied ginger and discovering yet more ways to use my beloved root.
Candied or crystallized ginger is sliced ginger that has been cooked in a sugar syrup until it becomes sweet and tender. It retains its gingery bite, while taking on the sweetness that ginger just doesn’t have by itself.
I have discovered that there are many advantages of using the candied variety of the root. Foremost is the convenience. By cooking the ginger in sweet syrup, it prolongs the shelf life of the root for up to six months or more.
Candied ginger can also be discreetly carried around. Take it with you to your office and or on vacation to get the health benefits even on the go.
Finally, unlike fresh ginger, which can have a flavor that is a little too aggressive for some in big chunks, adding chunks of candied ginger to a cake or cookie can add a lot of spice tempered by just the right amount of sweetness.
You can buy candied ginger in the stores but making your own is much more fun and easier on the pocketbook. It is a very straightforward recipe.
The important part is that the cooking temperature needs to be carefully monitored and to allow the cooking to go slowly. The only tools needed are a candy thermometer and a nonreactive pot (stainless steel, glass work well).
Begin by purchasing fresh ginger root. Look for firm, unblemished roots with smooth wrinkle free skin. Young ginger root is plump with a mild taste while old ginger root is fibrous, woody, and bitter.
Peeling the ginger can be tedious. But this task can be made easy if you slice of the knobs first and then use a paring knife or a potato peeler to scrape of the skin. Once peeled, slice roots into uniform thin (1/8 inch ) disks. Keeping the slices unvarying in shape and size allows for uniform cooking.
It is necessary to boil the roots twice before candying. This process will help tenderize the ginger as well as remove some of the sharpness of the root compounds.
Once the ginger has been parboiled, the pieces are then cooked in a sugar water mixture. The mixture eventually reaches a consistency of thin honey or 225F on the candy thermometer. The candied ginger is drained, tossed in sugar to crystallized and let to dry overnight.
Since I acquired my fixation, I have lost count of how much of the sweet confection I have gone through. I always leave it on the counter, and catch my family reaching for it as after-dinner nibble. I have sprinkled them on sundaes, and mashed them into lattes.
And if you really want to put it over-the-top, dip pieces of crystallized ginger halfway in melted chocolate. I think this might be a great addition to any Christmas goodie plate!
The by product of the candied ginger, the thick ginger syrup, can also be used in so many ways. The sweetener complements well in cocktails, topping for ice cream, and teas. Two or three tablespoon of the syrup can be added to large tumbler of club soda and a lemon slice, for awesome ginger ale. Over pancakes or waffles it has to be tasted to be believed.
Whether it be for the health benefit or for the taste, you do not need to tread gingerly! Go boldly ahead and try out these candied ginger recipes!
1/2 pound fresh ginger, peeled, sliced thinly
2 cups sugar, plus additional sugar for coating the ginger slices, if desired
pinch of salt
Put the ginger slices in a non-reactive pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let ginger simmer for ten minutes. Drain, and repeat one more time.
Mix the sugar and water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F/106C. Drain very well while the ginger is hot, so the syrup will drain away better and sprinkle the drained slices with sugar as you toss the ginger in a bowl. Spread the ginger slices on a cooling rack for a few hours or overnight, until they’re somewhat dry.
Ginger Chai Granola
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
Mix all the dry ingredients, except ginger, together in a big bowl so everything is evenly distributed. Add the sweeteners and oil, and mix well. (Keep aside the candied ginger to add after baking.) Pour onto a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Bake in the middle of the oven at 300°F for 50-60 minutes.
Every 20 minutes or so, and more often towards the end, take the baking sheet out of the oven and give the granola a good stir. Near the end of the baking time check it often, it only takes a few minutes for it to burn.
When the granola is done take it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan. Once completely cool mix in the chopped candied ginger. Store in a tight jar or other container, preferably in the fridge so the nuts stay fresh.
Ginger Spice Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup mild-flavoured (light) molasses
Combine first six ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, shortening and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at email@example.com. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on www.reddeeradvocate.com.