Ginger is a wholly unique flavor. It’s both tangy, spicy, fruity, and slightly sweet. Wester cultures use it mostly in sweets and desserts and Eastern cultures use it in savory dishes. You can make/flavor beer, wine, and liqueur with it. And, above all else, it can gently soothe an upset stomach. However much I love ginger, I realize that it falls into the same category as cilantro– the “love it or hate it” category. Candying ginger is easy to do and delicious to eat– it also mellows the flavor significantly, making it suitable for even the ginger-weary.
Ginger is a root that originated in Southern Asia and is now grown many tropical or subtropical regions of the world. Ginger’s fascinating flavor was at one time a rarity for Western cuisine and reserved only for special occasions or holidays. Americans and Brits love it in desserts of all types and bring it to the coveted realm of “tradition!” when we make our beloved gingerbread at Christmas.
Indeed, the smell and taste of it always reminds me of Christmastime and I don’t think that association will ever escape me– nor would I want it to. I make an adapted recipe for gingerbread from the Middle Ages that is nothing more than honey heated with ginger and spices and then mixed into breadcrumbs. This thick pot-pourri plaster is then rolled into balls and dipped in superfine sugar to create a frosted effect. They’re delightfully chewy and perfect with my mulled wine.
If you’ve never done it before, I don’t know if I could properly tell you how incredibly fulfilling it is to candy things– lemon rind, whole kumquats, etc. It is very easy and the results are that rare combination of beautiful and enjoyable. Candied lemon rinds or candy ginger look like a million bucks scattered on the top of a cake or cookies and could be blended into any sugar cookie to add a blast of refined flavor.
As I said, I know that ginger is a cultivated taste and you can even use the best pasta maker machine to prepare the form of your candies. But, candied ginger seems to bridge that gap. The texture of the root is turned dense, each pale sliver glistens with sugar, and every bite runs a full course through sweet to spicy to sweet again. These are ideal to put out at a little get together, in a pile on a nice dish these take your party from fun to classy.
If everything else about candied ginger doesn’t please you enough, consider that you get an amazing by-product from the process: ginger syrup. It’s perfect for mixing into a cocktail and tea or pouring over vanilla ice cream on a hot day for a refreshing treat.
Don’t discard the leftover syrup the ginger cooked in! Use it to glaze cakes, mix into cocktails or iced tea, or to pour over ice cream. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
- 1 medium sized fresh ginger root
- 1 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar for later
- 1 cup waterInstructions
The skin is very tough and fibrous on ginger, so gently peel it but try not to waste a whole lot of it.Once it is peeled, cut it into either little rounds or coins or into matchsticks. Whichever shape you use, just make sure to make the slices on the thin side. Combine the cup of sugar and the cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, gently add in your ginger and then reduce the heat to low and let the pan come down to a simmer. Let the ginger simmer for a half hour– no real need to stir unless a piece is stuck to the side or isn’t covered with the syrup.
After the half hour, turn off the heat. Line a baking sheet or large cutting board with parchment or wax paper (this makes clean up easier!) and put a cooling rack (the same you’d use for cakes or cookies) on top. Remove the ginger from the syrup and arrange the pieces on the cooling rack. Allow the pieces to cool and dry out for about an hour or so in a dry place. When they are almost dry, roll each pieces in the 1/2 cup sugar.
Remove the parchment or wax paper from the sheet or cutting board and put down a clean piece. Arrange the now candied ginger on the board and all them to rest again for another half hour or so on the board in a cool and dry place. The candied ginger should be firm and thoroughly crusted with glistening sugar. Place them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to two weeks and snack on them at will… or every time you raid your fridge looking for something sweet.