With the holidays rolling in, I’ve had the spicy, sweet flavors of wintertime on the brain.
I spotted an enormous bulb of ginger root on my last trip to the frutería and snatched it right up—ginger isn’t always in the market when you want it, and just the sight of it got my holiday baking wheels turning. Once I got it home, it occurred to me that I’d have to make a whole lot of something, or many things, to put it all to good use.
Or else—find a way to make it last.
Candying (or crystallizing) ginger softens and sweetens the root, making it a great addition, topping or garnish for cookies, cakes and muffins. It also preserves it, so large amounts like the gnarly hunk sitting atop my cutting board last longer and stretch farther.
The basic process is pretty simple. Peel and slice thin (very thin), boil until tender, and then cook down in a simple syrup.
Some recipes, like Alton Brown’s, have you cook down equal parts of the boiled ginger and sugar with just a bit of water, until the syrup begins to evaporate and the sugar recrystallizes. Others, like the one I used from David Lebovitz, use equal parts sugar and water, which produces not just sweet candied slices, but also a spicy ginger syrup.
Ready to give it a try?
Step 1: Peel and slice.
David mentions a great trick for peeling the root. I’ve always used a veggie peeler, but ginger’s characteristic knobs and nooks and curves make it a bit tricky. Instead, he suggests using a soup spoon. With the bowl of the spoon facing the root, use the edge to scrape the skin away. Chef’s Table tested and approved.
Slice the ginger as thinly as possible, using a mandolin if you’ve got one. I didn’t, and I’ll have to save thin-slicing technique for another day, but suffice to say your knife should be sharp, and a gentle sawing motion will help you cut close. Like the root itself, your slices will be wildly varied in shape.
Step 2: Boil.
Cover the ginger slices with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. David has you simmer at this point for 10 minutes, drain, and then repeat the whole process. Alton says to cover and cook for 35 minutes or until tender. I suspect both yield similar results. I reserved and reused all of my liquid—the infused water that didn’t make it into the next step is great as a cold drink.
Step 3: Candy.
Drain your boiled ginger and return it to the pot with your preferred sugar and water quantities. Melt into a syrup, bring to a boil and then continue cooking on medium until you reach your recipe’s called for consistency. It took me about 30 minutes to get a fragrant, deeply-colored syrup with a “thin honey” thickness.
Step 4: Cool, Roll, Store.
If you’re cooking all the way down Alton-style, at this point you cool your ginger on a rack and store in an airtight container. If you’ve gone the syrup route, pull off the heat and let stand for at least an hour. You can then drain and roll in granulated sugar or store it all together.
I did my first batch using piloncillo and rolled it in muscovado, which gave it a really dark color and caramely taste. I used a more refined sugar for the second batch, which produced a more traditional result; you can see the difference in the photo.
I’ll be using the candied pieces as I experiment with some holiday sweets this week, and splashed some of the syrup into a pitcher of jamaica (hibiscus water), which was incredibly lovely.
Lebovitz, David. “How to Make Candied Ginger.” (2008, December 6). Retrieved from: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/12/candied-ginger/.
Originally published for PK4 Media.