Friday, May 23, 2008

Dictionary Friday: Ginger

It's the name of the blog...and is also officially the longest "Dictionary Friday" EVER.

A plant from tropical and subtropical regions that's grown for its gnarled and bumpy root. Most ginger comes from Jamaica, followed by India, Africa and China. Gingerroot's name comes from the Sanskrit word for "horn root," undoubtedly referring to its knobby appearance. It has a tan skin and a flesh that ranges in color from pale greenish yellow to ivory. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, while the aroma is pungent and spicy.

This extremely versatile root has long been a mainstay in Asian and Indian cooking and found its way early on into European foods as well. The Chinese, Japanese and East Indians use fresh gingerroot in a variety of forms — grated, ground and slivered — in many savory dishes. Europeans and most Americans, however, are more likely to use the dried ground form of ginger, usually in baked goods. Fresh ginger is available in two forms — young and mature. Young ginger, sometimes called spring ginger, has a pale, thin skin that requires no peeling. It's very tender and has a milder flavor than its mature form.

Young ginger can be found in most Asian markets during the springtime. Mature ginger has a tough skin that must be carefully peeled away to preserve the delicate, most desirable flesh just under the surface. Look for mature ginger with smooth skin (wrinkled skin indicates that the root is dry and past its prime). It should have a fresh, spicy fragrance.

Fresh unpeeled gingerroot, tightly wrapped, can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks and frozen for up to 6 months. To use frozen ginger, slice off a piece of the unthawed root and return the rest to the freezer. Place peeled gingerroot in a screw-top glass jar, cover with dry SHERRY or MADEIRA and refrigerate up to 3 months. The wine will impart some of its flavor to the ginger — a minor disadvantage to weigh against having peeled ginger ready and waiting. On the plus side, the delicious, ginger-flavored wine can be reused for cooking. The flavor of dried ground ginger is very different from that of its fresh form and is not an appropriate substitute for dishes specifying fresh ginger. It is, however, delicious in many savory dishes such as soups, curries and meats, a sprightly addition to fruit compotes, and indispensable in sweets like GINGERBREAD, GINGERSNAPS and many spice cookies.

Ginger is the flavor that has long given the popular beverages GINGER ALE and GINGER BEER their claim to fame. In addition to its fresh and dried ground forms, ginger comes in several other guises. Crystallized or candied ginger has been cooked in a sugar syrup and coated with coarse sugar. Another form called preserved ginger has been preserved in a sugar-salt mixture.

These types of ginger can be found in Asian markets and many supermarkets. They are generally used as a confection or added to desserts. Melon and preserved ginger are a classic combination. Pickled ginger, available in Asian markets, has been preserved in sweet vinegar. It's most often used as a garnish for Asian dishes. The sweet red candied ginger is packed in a red sugar syrup. It's used to flavor dishes both sweet and savory.

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Inspired by this, from this morning's Chowhound email:

What to Do with Fresh Ginger
A large piece of fresh ginger will often dry out before you have the chance to use it all. There are a couple of ways to prevent this. Several Chowhounds recommend freezing whole pieces of ginger, pointing out that it can be grated easily on a rasp grater while still frozen. Another option is to put the ginger in a clean jar and cover with the alcohol of your choice (acme uses vodka; starkoch opts for dry sherry). The ginger's texture and strength do not change, and the liquid it's stored in is great in stir-fry sauces, says QueenB.

Some hounds use fresh ginger not to cook with, but to drink. hannaone makes ginger tea by slicing the cleaned root into pieces about an eighth- to quarter-inch thick, adding them to boiling water, and simmering for 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how strong you like it; use about two to three ounces of ginger per half gallon of water. You can add a quartered lemon about 15 minutes before it's done simmering, if you like. cimui makes this, then chills it for iced tea.

miss louella minces up a bunch of ginger, puts it in a container with a bit of extra room, fills the container with honey, and stores it in the fridge. Mix a spoonful or two of the honey and ginger with sparkling water and add a squeeze of fresh lemon to make a refreshing drink.

Andiereid makes homemade ginger ale: Chop peel-on ginger in a food processor, and add two cups of this to two cups of sugar and six cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Strain the solids out and you're left with an excellent ginger syrup with serious kick. Add about a third of a cup to a glass of ice, top with seltzer water, and stir.

A couple of hounds recommend recipes that use a great deal of fresh ginger if you have a lot that you need to use up. valerie loves Barefoot Contessa's Indonesian ginger chicken. And scoopG recommends this fresh ginger cake, and adds that even though it calls for four ounces of ginger, he usually uses at least six.

Board Link: What to do with a lot of fresh ginger?

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails