Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ginger, a Warm Herb for Winter

Ginger is an herb that I have grown very fond of in the past few years.  It is one of the classic herbs of traditional Chinese medicine........but also what makes gingersnaps and ginger ale so tasty!  It is a great herb for the digestive system, helping to relieve nausea, morning sickness, and motion sickness.  The root is the part of the plant that is used and it can be used fresh or dried.  I prefer using fresh roots, but have also used dried ginger in capsule form to relieve nausea when I have problems with an inner ear infection.
This is fresh gingerroot.  It can be found in most grocery stores in the produce section.
If you read my last post, I have also used fresh ginger in tea......using my nifty little French press to make nettle and ginger tea.  I now have a new fan of nettle and ginger tea - my daughter Grace.  (Which is a wonderful way to get some nutrients into my picky eater!)
Another way I use ginger is to candy it, and I try to make a batch of candied ginger at least once a year.  I find it to be a delicious preventative medicine during the cold and flu season.  It's not hard to make candied ginger, it just takes a little time to prepare.........about 4 days!  (but it only takes a few minutes a day......really!)
I buy a couple of pounds of fresh gingerroot at the grocery store.  Look for plump, firm roots.  Peel and cube or slice the ginger until you have about 2 cups.

Ginger that I have peeled and am cutting into small chunks.
This is not an easy task since the ginger is unusually shaped.  I usually end up breaking it into pieces to peel it.  Ginger is fairly fibrous, so when I cut it, I slice it like meat - across the grain - so the fibers are shorter.  The ginger then goes into a saucepan and covered with water.  Put a lid on the pan and bring it slowly to a boil.  Simmer the ginger until it is fork-tender.  Remove your pan from the heat, keep the lid on it, and let it sit overnight at room temperature.  The next day bring the ginger to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add thin, peeled slices of 1/2 a lemon or orange and also add 1 cup light corn syrup.  Simmer for 15 minutes longer, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat, put the lid on, and let stand overnight.
On the 3rd day, bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir in 1/2 cup sugar, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir in another 1/2 cup sugar and bring to boil again.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand overnight.
On the 4th day, bring the mixture to a boil once again.  When the ginger is translucent and the syrup has thickened, remove the ginger from the syrup.  Put the pieces of ginger out onto a wire rack or screen to dry.  The recipe I use tells me to leave the ginger out to dry overnight, but I find that I need to leave it out to dry for a few days.  Otherwise, it will all stick together when you store it in a jar or container.  The ginger will still feel tacky, so dust it with sugar to keep it from clumping together.  Store it in an airtight container.
Here are the ginger pieces after they have been 'candied'.  I put them out to dry on these spatter screens.
My current stove cooks things too hot, so I scorched this batch a bit.  Still edible, but a few of the pieces got extra browned.  (I keep telling Shawn that we need a new stove!!!)
I store the ginger pieces in a small canning jar or a plastic container with a snap on lid.  Then I can have a piece of ginger to nibble on when I feel the need.  Ginger is very peppery tasting.  It has a heat that hits you at the back of the throat.  Even though it's hot, it is really good for coughs, colds and sore throats.  You can also mince the candied ginger and use it in cooking or add it to tea.
This is the 'sauce' that is leftover from making the candied ginger.
Once you have removed your candied ginger and put it out to dry, save the sauce that remains.  This can be a delicious remedy all on its own.  I put the leftover sauce in a jar and add it to teas.  It could also be used to glaze meats or added to stir-fries for a sweet and hot flavor.
Here is my completed candied ginger.
If you want to try your hand at making candied ginger, now is a good time.  Or at least it's a good time for me since it's cold and nasty weather and I'm indoors a lot more and don't have other projects going on right now.  Plus there are lots of cold and flu germs floating around out there, so get this good-tasting medicine ready for you and your family.
Also, check your ginger once you have completed it and put it in a storage container.  If it was too wet when you put it up, it will melt your sugar dusting and will be a pile of goo in your container.  Don't worry......just dump it all out on a sheet of waxed paper and let it dry for a few more days.  Then you can dust it again with sugar and pack it up once more.
Let me know what you think.  Do you think you'll try making some candied ginger?  Do you have other suggestions on how to use it?  Comments, people!!!!  I love your comments!

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a process, Joyce! But good things come to those who wait. :)