This tropical rhizome (an underground stem)
is one of the essential flavors of Asian cuisine. Its pleasantly pungent
flavor comes from naturally occurring chemical irritants that also create
a warm sensation on the tongue.
To choose fresh ginger - choose the hardest,
smoothest pieces you can find. The longer ginger sits around, the more
wrinkled it gets. Avoid any pieces that show signs of mold. To test for
freshness, break off one of the knobs. If the ginger is fresh, it will
break with a clean snap.
To store fresh ginger - keep it at room
temperature for up to a week, or wrap it in a paper towel, seal it in a
plastic bag, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks. Or, keep unpeeled ginger in
a pot or container of horticultural sand. Cover with well pierced foil to
provide ventilation, and store in a cool, dark place.
To freeze ginger - place whole, unpeeled
knobs of ginger in a zipper-lock freezer bag for up to 3 months. Slice or
break off what you need and return the rest to the freezer. Freezing
ruptures its cells and changes its texture, but the flavor remains intact.
Avoid freezing fresh ginger after it is peeled and chopped.
Storing in a liquid - peel pieces or slices
of ginger, place them in a glass jar, and fill with dry sherry or vodka.
Secure the lid and refrigerate for 4 to 6 weeks. The sherry (or vodka) and
ginger will exchange flavors during storage. You can use ginger-kissed
sherry in stir-fry sauces or marinades.
To juice ginger - when you want the pure
essence of ginger without the fibers, make ginger juice. A tablespoon or
two is great in sauces or marinades for chicken breast strips or shrimp.
The easiest method is to keep a chunk of ginger in the freezer. When
you're ready to use it, thaw it, then press out the juices with a garlic
press. You can also peel fresh ginger, cut it into chunks, and shred it on
a cheese grater or puree it in a food processor. Then, wrap the shredded
or pureed ginger in a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice.
Using ground ginger - Avoid using
ground ginger to replace fresh ginger. It's made from the same rhizome as
fresh ginger, but it has a very different flavor. Ground ginger works best
in gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and other baked goods, as well as in curries
with other Indian spices.
Using candied ginger - crystallized,
or candied ginger is usually made from slices of fresh ginger that have
been softened in a sugar syrup and coated with crystallized sugar. Store
it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Chop or snip with scissors and add
freely to cookie dough, muffins, scones or ice cream. Crystallized ginger
also makes an elegant addition to glazes for roasted poultry or braised
To avoid problems with using ginger and
gelatin - Heat ginger before adding it to a gelatin mixture. Ginger
contains an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting properly. Heat
destroys the enzyme. The microwave oven makes this a quick fix. Heat the
ginger on medium power until heated through, which is about 20 seconds.
To chop candied ginger without sticking
- chop in a mini food processor with a bit of granulated sugar. Or if
chopping small amounts with a knife, spray the knife blade with cooking
spray or dip the blade into flour. You can also use scissors. Or, for
convenience, you may want to keep pre-chopped crystallized ginger on hand
in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature.
To peel quickly - scrape the skin
with the side of a teaspoon, following the curves and bumps of the root.
you can also use a vegetable peeler, but it tends to take a bit of flesh
with it. The flesh just beneath the skin layer is often the most
To quickly chop or mince - for large
amounts, cut into 1/2" chunks. Place in a mini food processor and mince in
2 to 3 second pulses to desired fineness. For small amounts, cut into
small chunks and place in a good-quality garlic press. Press over a small
bowl or directly into the food. This will yield mostly ginger juice, so
scrape off the garlic press to get the flesh as well.
Grating ginger - it is much easier
and faster than mincing it. Simply peel away the skin from one of the
knobs, hold the entire unpeeled root with your free hand, and grate the
peeled section on a cheese grater or rasp. If you're frustrated by the
tiny fibers of fresh ginger that can clog graters and rasps, look for a
special ginger grater at an Asian market, made from strips of bamboo or a
solid porcelain plate. Ginger graters have a small teeth that crush the
flesh of the ginger but leave the hairs attached to the stub of un-grated