Ginger (Zingiber officinale), a subtropical plant, is grown for its spicy, aromatic, gnarled, and bumpy root (rhizome or underground stem), which is used as a seasoning in foods. The root has tan skin, ivory to pale green flesh, and a peppery, slightly sweet flavour. Ginger is planted in August or September using the previous year's crop. Ginger takes about nine months to reach maturity. After the flowers appear, the tops begin to die, leaving the ginger rhizomes ready to harvest.
Ginger is a mainstay of Asian and Indian cooking and is used grated, ground and slivered. Ginger juice is the juice of the root. Candied or crystallized ginger is ginger cooked in a sugar syrup, while preserved ginger is in a sugar-salt mixture: both of these are used primarily for sweets and desserts. Pickled ginger, used as a palate cleanser with sushi, is ginger preserved in sweet vinegar.
The Chinese and Japanese consider ginger a yang, or hot, food, which balances cooling yin foods to create harmony.
- Fresh ginger is available year-round with peak season March through September.
- Fresh ginger can be found year round in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for smooth skin with a fresh, spicy fragrance. Tubers should be firm and feel heavy. Length is a sign of maturity, and mature rhizomes will be hotter and more fibrous. Also available dried and ground in the spice section. Specialty or Asian markets carry ginger juice, pickled ginger and preserved ginger.
- Avoid those with wrinkled flesh, as this is an indication of aged ginger past its prime.
- Fresh, unpeeled root should be wrapped in paper towels, placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated up to three weeks. It can also be tightly wrapped and frozen up to two months. (To use frozen ginger, slice off a piece of unthawed root. Re-wrap unused portion tightly and return to the freezer.) Dried ginger should be kept in a cool, dark space in an airtight container. Pickled and preserved ginger should be kept in their original containers in the refrigerator. Store crystallized ginger in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to three months.
Trim off as small a knob as needed.
Peel using a vegetable peeler or the edge of a spoon.
Grate with a ginger grater or slice across the grain, or chop finely as needed.
Fresh ginger is peeled and then grated or sliced and added to other ingredients.
It is a popular flavouring used in Asian dishes.
Ground ginger is flavouring for salad dressings, baked sweets, soups, curries, meats, and desserts, such as gingerbread and gingersnaps.
Ginger juice is another form used for cooking and baking that makes it easy method to add ginger to foods.
Ginger in syrup is used in jams, sauces, baked goods, and the syrup is used in beverages.
The crystallized version is a common form used for meats, poultry, desserts, cookies such as ginger cookies, and sweets.
Pickled ginger is often served as an appetizer, while the pink pickled ginger is often served as a condiment for Japanese sushi.
Chop or grate ginger with garlic as a base for Asian stir-fries or Indian or Southeast Asian curries.
Steep slices in boiling water for ginger tea, then add sugar or honey.
Add to steak marinades with soy sauce, molasses, toasted sesame oil, chopped garlic, dry mustard, hot red pepper flakes, and scallions.
Ginger In Its Many Forms
- Fresh Ginger
- Available in in two forms: young and mature. Young roots, also called green or spring ginger, has a pale, thin skin that requires no peeling, is very tender and has a milder flavour. It can be grated, chopped, or julienned for use. Mature ginger root has a tough skin that must be peeled away to get to the fibrous flesh and is usually grated, chopped or ground for use.
- Ground Ginger
- Also referred to as powdered, this dried, ground form is quite different than fresh. It is readily available in standard supermarkets, and is used primarily in sweets and curry mixes.
- Pickled Ginger
- Called gari or beni shoga in Japan, this form is pickled in sweet vinegar and is usually coloured bright red or pink. It is a familiar accompaniment to sushi and is also eaten to refresh the breath. Available at Asian markets, it should be kept refrigerated in its container.
- Preserved Ginger
- Also available in Asian and specialty markets, this form has been preserved in a sugar-salt mixture. It is generally used as a confection or added to desserts, and it is especially good with melons.
- Ginger in Syrup
- Ginger in syrup is fresh ginger that has been cooked in sugar and water, which creates a sweet ginger flavoured syrup. The cooked ginger is then stored in the syrup and they are used in jams, sauces, and baked goods. The syrup can also be added to soda water and other ingredients to create a ginger flavoured beverage.
- Crystallized Ginger
- Also known as candied ginger, this form has been cooked in a sugar syrup until tender and then coated with granulated sugar. It is commonly used in desserts and can easily be made at home.
- Ginger Juice
- The juice of ginger is another form that can be used for cooking and baking, making it an easy method to add ginger to foods. In most recipes it can be used instead of fresh or ground ginger, adding it to marinades, grilling sauces, salad dressings, stir-fried foods, meats, fish, poultry, soups, and beverages, such as teas or fruit drinks. Ginger juice can be substituted for ground or powdered ginger. 1 tablespoon of juice equals 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger = 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (though the flavour of ground ginger can be significantly different from fresh).
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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