How to cook with ginger
I love cooking with spices, I find the aroma they give off delicious before adding them to any recipe. Ginger is among my latest discoveries, and whenever I can, I add it to the dishes I prepare.Fresh or dry, whole or ground, preserved in syrup or confit in sugar, it offers various possibilities in the kitchen, being able to be incorporated into many of our recipes, so it is interesting to know how to cook with ginger.
The origins of ginger go back to times before written history. It was one of the first spices that came to Europe brought from Asia by Arab merchants, being used as medicine and as a condiment. It is native to South Asia, but is grown in many tropical countries such as India, China, and Japan.
How to use fresh ginger
Ginger root has tender brown skin and is heavily knotted. Sometimes the whole piece is called a root. The pieces have to be thick, full and with smooth, firm and solid skin.
Fresh ginger should be kept, loosely wrapped in aluminum foil, in the bottom of the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year. Just grate what you need and put the root back in the freezer or fridge. Another way to preserve it is by cutting it into small slices, placing them in a glass jar and covering them with dry sherry or olive oil. This way it keeps up to a year in the fridge.
Fresh ginger is irreplaceable in oriental dishes. In Chinese cuisine, it is peeled and cut into very thin slices or strips and heated in the oil to perfume it, before sautéing the rest of the ingredients. It is also distributed over meat or fish before steaming or sautéing them.
To make a spicy paste for Indian curried dishes, peeled ginger root is ground with other spices, or grated with onion and garlic. To give a fine ginger flavor, there is no way to rub a piece of fresh root in the salad bowl or on the duck or chicken.
You can also put a couple of thin slices inside a whole fish (trout or mackerel, for example) or soak one or two slices in vinegar or oil to dress salads or in syrup for fruit salads.
How to use dried ginger root
Dried ginger root only retains 25 percent of its original weight, so its flavor is more concentrated. It is prepared from the fresh root in one of two ways: one of them is to wash it and dry it in the sun or in an oven, in which case it keeps the skin, but brown and wrinkled. It can also be boiled, peeled, and (sometimes) bleached, in which case it will be white or ivory.
It can be bought loose or in containers, in herbalists and stores of oriental products. It is kept wrapped or in a jar, in a cool, dark place. So that it does not lose its aroma, it must be used within three months. The dried ginger root should be peeled, if necessary, and then crushed to release its aroma. Ideally, hit it a couple of times with a mallet or the roller to separate the fibers.
It is great for meat, poultry and fish marinades, stews and salad dressings. If it is left to infuse for a few hours, or even a few days, its flavor softens. It can also be soaked in water, syrup, or milk to make puddings. Or added to other spices to pickle onions, red cabbage, pickles, or (surprisingly good) peaches or apricots.
Dried ginger root can be ground to make ground ginger, which will have a less pronounced nutmeg flavor than store-bought nutmeg under that name. To do this, it is cut into small pieces and crushed in the mortar or ground with a coffee grinder. If there are some hard fibers left, it is best to pass the ginger powder through a fine sieve.
How to use ground ginger
Ground ginger is ground from the dried root. Jamaican ginger, which is lighter in color, has the most delicate flavor, being suitable for baked dishes. African ginger is, on the other hand, the one with the strongest and spiciest flavor. It is best to buy it in small quantities and keep it in jars in a dark place. It must be used within three months.
Either bought ground or ground at home, ground ginger is very versatile. In baked dishes it combines perfectly with other spices: cinnamon, cloves, pepper or nutmeg. Surprisingly, it enlivens any pastry dough and also serves as a melon topping. It has to be used in moderation, because its flavor is strong.
How to use ginger in syrup
It is made with young and tender roots that are cleaned, peeled, left to partially dry and then cooked in a concentrated syrup that is scented with the aroma of the spice. The best is the call ginger stalk.
Traditionally, in China, ginger in syrup was contained in special delicately decorated porcelain jars for export. Today they are highly sought after jars by collectors. They were shaped like a bulb, like modern jars have. Ginger in syrup is sold in oriental and specialty stores and keeps for at least one year. Scented syrup is also used.
Straight out of the jar, with or without cream, ginger is a perfect dessert to finish a spicy meal. A few pieces of canned ginger with its syrup are great to spread over ice cream, pudding, or to liven up any canned fruit, especially peaches and pears.
It is also a delicious glaze for a baked ham or a few pieces of roasted lamb. Added to spicy buns, cakes or pasta, it keeps the dough juicy, as well as giving it a deliciously different flavor. The pieces that are found when eating the buns will be slightly soggy, animating the texture of the dough.
How to use candied ginger
Candied or crystallized ginger is a sweet that is made from fresh roots, cooked several times in a concentrated syrup and put to dry. It is sold loose, by weight or prepackaged, in pieces and sticks. It must be kept in a tightly closed jar, in a cool, dark place, for up to a month at most, as it shrinks and hardens afterwards.
It is delicious added to an apple pie or a hot dried fruit salad. I love to add a few pieces to compotes and jams. On many occasions it is used to replace ginger in syrup, as it is easier to find. To use, sometimes it has to be washed beforehand to remove the sugar layer and thus prevent it from going to the bottom of the dough that contains it.
How to use ginger essence
It has to be used with caution, as it has a very strong flavor and aroma. A few drops can be added to cream, ice cream, fruit mousse or jelly, although it is preferable to reserve it for use when the spice is not available in another form. It can be bought in stores specializing in oriental products.
With the passage of time, security is gained in the kitchen and you can begin to give our dishes a personal touch, departing a little from the recipe that we want to make. With these tips on how to cook with ginger, I hope I have contributed to encourage you to create your own personalized versions of the dishes that you usually prepare. You will tell me the results.
Photos | jlastras, Forest & KimStarr, Spankart, Miansari66, ObsidianSoul, Mk2010, Roberto Verzo and alfredmoya
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