Give yourself a homeschooled lesson on making something gourmet from something very simple. Next time you’re at the market, pick up a few pieces of ginger root and create epicurean works of art from them. There’s a fine craft in making something beautiful from something ugly, and with the knobby, bulky ginger root, you can make something delicious, as well. Here are five gourmet culinary uses for fresh ginger.
1) Ginger tea. As a medicinal food, ginger benefits include easing stomach aches, indigestion, cramps and stress. It increases “heat,” so it can help break a fever if you’re suffering from the flu. Speaking strictly pleasure, ginger has a delightful sweet and spicy flavor, accentuated by simple citrus, flowers and sweeteners. Prepare yourself a ginger tea for healing purposes or just for a caffeine-free, low-calorie sipper. Simmer a 2- to 3-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced, in about 2 cups water for 10 minutes. Strain and add sweetener to taste. Psst—ginger pairs well with floral flavors, so adding rose hips, chamomile, lavender or any other flowery spices and herbs would be a pretty awesome idea.
2) Ginger vodka. We discussed earlier how to prepare herbal infusions in your home kitchen, and ginger happens to be a strong contender in the fight for Best Infuser. To infuse a 750 mL bottle of vodka (or gin or rum, depending on your palate), peel two to three large chunks of fresh ginger, each about 2 inches in length. Simply add to liquor of choice, seal, and allow to infuse for at least 4 days and up to 3 weeks. The longer it sits, the spicier it will get. Just like with the tea, add other floral ingredients (roses or rose hips would be lovely) to this infusion for an even more enthused drink. If you’d like to make your infusion more of a true digestif, add any of the following medicinal herbs: milk thistle, burdock, barberry or fennel.
3) Ginger syrup. Making a bottle of ginger-infused simple syrup is going to make all of your kitchen adventures about four notches more sophisticated and delicious. Squirt your ginger syrup into hot coffee (you’ll thank us), any cold or hot tea, salad dressings, fresh fruit, and more. It’s your to use as you will, and it will keep for at least a few weeks in the fridge. To brew your ginger syrup, combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, and sliced fresh ginger root (a few inches worth) in a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Strain, cool, and transfer to a sealed container.
4) Candied ginger. You may not recognize them by name, but certainly you’ve seen them before; those cube-shaped chunks of ginger often found in tea shops and candy stores, slightly tan in color and coated in crystalline sugar. You’ll find all sorts of ways to use candied ginger at home: sprinkle them on nutty salads, add them to grain pilafs, stir them into virtually any baked bread or dessert recipe, or eat them whole as a digestive. To make candied ginger: gently blanch 1/2 pound of peeled, thinly sliced ginger. Add it to 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and cook until temperature reaches around 225°F. Drain immediately (careful—it’s hot!) and toss with granulated sugar of choice. Allow to dry on wax paper and store in sealed jars.
5) Pickled ginger. It’s not just for sashimi—although it certainly helps raw fish go down smoothly. Pickled ginger perks up sandwiches (try it with smoked salmon and cucumber or with tuna salad and cheese), adds dimensions over salad and is great in all sorts of desserts. To pickle ginger, combine the following in a saucepan: 1 cup rice vinegar, ¼ cup sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, add 1 cup thinly-sliced peeled ginger and simmer 30 minutes. Allow mixture to cool, transfer to a sealed jar, and enjoy for one month kept in the fridge.