Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Candied Ginger

Ginger makes me happy,
Ginger makes me smile,
Ginger every way and day,
Full of spice and guile.

I love ginger. It all started with ginger ale, then pickled ginger with sushi. Then I discovered ginger beer (which is a lovely non-alcoholic beverage), then I turned 21 and discovered that gin goes particularly well with all non-alcoholic ginger beverages. When I am at a loss and at a bar, gin and ginger ale it is. 

So when I went to Whole Foods about a month ago and impulsively picked up a package of candied ginger, it was pretty clear I would enjoy the confection.

Here's what I didn't expect: I could not stop dipping into the bag for a tiny treat...even after breakfast I sometimes grabbed a piece while loading my bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. 

It's spicy, it's sweet, it's crunchy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside (apparently the most addicting texture...just think about oreos!). 

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that ginger has a laundry list of health benefits. It's good for stomach problems/nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and has immune-boosting properties. (Obviously these things are secondary to the deliciousness of candy!).

To make this treat at home, I turned to the teachings of food alchemist and chemist Alton Brown. You start by boiling the ginger alone until tender, then drain (saving the cooking liquid) and return to the pot with an equal weight of sugar and a bit of liquid. Dissolve the sugar, boil off the water, and wham bam alacazam out of a ginger flavored sky...

You think it's going to caramelize. It really does look like the beginning of caramel. But somehow, crystals start and once they start they spread. Soon the whole mess is white and snowy and ready to dry into crisp, sweet bites.

Candied Ginger
Yield: as much as you like! Plus some great byproducts*

  • Ginger Root (1 lb is good if you can think to buy that much), sliced into 1/8 inch coins
  • Water
  • Granulated Sugar (aprox 1 lb for each lb of ginger)
  1. Bring about 5 cups of water to a boil for every pound of ginger (it's going to boil for a while, so enough to cover and then some). Add the ginger and cook for 35 minutes or until a fork can pierce through as it would a cooked carrot.
  2. Meanwhile, put foil on a baking sheet and lay a rack over. Spray lightly with non-stick spray.
  3. Drain the ginger, saving the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and add an equal weight of sugar, then return to the pot and add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid (per pound--get the idea?).
  4. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium/medium low until the water has evaporated and crystals form, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the ginger to the prepared rack, separate the pieces, and allow to cool.
  5. Store in an airtight container with a paper towel. Keeps well, though it won't last in this house!

*Byproducts of candying ginger:
P.S. The cooking liquid from the ginger is incredibly strong ginger "tea" concentrate...try adding some to cold water, black tea, or mixing with hot water and honey (and rum? or gin? for a hot ginger toddy!). It's super strong, so a little goes a long way!
P.P.S. The sugar that falls off the pieces is also delicious-in tea or coffee, on cookies or muffins, etc.

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