Some realizations hit you in the still of the night – those grey hairs don’t just mean you’re getting old, they mean you have earned the right. To stand up for yourself. To say no. To be happy how you choose to be.
Some realizations take you by surprise, my 9-year old is writing with a ball point, my 7-year old no longer cries when she gets up in the morning to prepare for school, my 5-year old is in his second year at school and can read. My kids are all grown/I will soon be an empty nester :-).
Some realizations are understated. You rise to walk up the tall mountain. You know it will be hard but you find yourself at the summit, panting and realizing…..it was just as hard as I thought it would be, but I’ve coped far better than I ever expected.
Some realizations are slow to come, like the deliciousness of sweet ginger. So slow to come that you pause, and stop and think….of how difficult it will be to peel and julienne the young fresh ginger. But you quickly look past that. You move forward to embrace all the things you can do with it. And when the recipe you happen upon is a four day journey…and you only have (want 3 days), you wing it. You realize that you can do so much with it.
Eat it; (Dice it into chunks and add to your favourite stir-fry, rice or noodle dish! – I absolutely loved the contrasting, sweet and fiery ginger in the Vietnamese Noodle dish).
Drink it; (Make a tea, a ginger lemonade, some punch……the sky’s your limit)
Bake it in a chocolate cake and overall create undying love with it. (Ask my nieces who their favourite Aunt is and why?)
Candied Ginger, Ginger Jam and Ginger Confit, adapted from Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen
Four day process for three half-pints plus a little extra.
My additions and comments are in bold, the original recipe is in italics.
Ingredients1/2 lb. fresh ginger
4 cups caster sugar
4 cups water Extra caster sugar, to candy
Use fresh young ginger – it will be easier to peel and will not be as ‘tough’ and fibrous as older ginger.
Use the back of a teaspoon to peel the ginger.
You can halve or double the recipe, to suit your needs. Though more is better, isn’t it?
Soak the ginger in ice water overnight. The resulting liquid from the first soak tastes of very fresh ginger and is a cloudy yellow colour. You could use the liquid to make some ginger rice, freshen up a soup, perhaps even make some ginger tea. I didn’t feel like discarding it!
The next day, drain the ginger and put it in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then pour off the water, cover with cold water and bring to a boil again.
Strain off the water one more time, then cover with cold water and bring it to a boil one more time. Strain off the water and set the ginger aside. Something interesting happens to the texture of the ginger after the three cycles of cover with cold water-bring to the boil and strain. At the end of this period, the ginger is firm and takes on a crisp/light crunch. So you bite on a piece and it is almost the texture of Chinese water chestnuts. Not at all what I expected.
First boil: In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the ginger, and let it steep in the sugar syrup overnight.This is where I shaved off some time. I began this step in the morning and let the ginger steep in the syrup for six hours. The first boiled syrup is a light tan colour and the ginger deepens in colour and taste. It becomes sweeter and takes on a deep yellow hue. Till its next soak. I cant resist pulling out chunks of ginger and chomping on them. At first all I get is the fragrance of ginger, followed by a mellow sweetness. At first there is no heat, then it comes in waves, slowly building till it reaches a crescendo that is a pleasant, mellow warmth and spreads like fire in very short grass
Second boil: The next day, strain out the ginger and bring the syrup to a boil. Add back the ginger and let it steep again for twelve hours, or the next day. I followed this step to the letter. Well almost. I let my ginger steep for 6 hours, not 12. . The second soak and boil leaves the ginger translucent and a shade darker. I expect each subsequent boil will strip a shade of light off, sweeten a depth more and get my ginger closer to me.
Third boil: Once again, strain out the ginger and bring the syrup to a boil. Add back the ginger and let it steep again for twelve hours, or the next day. This time, I let it steep overnight and prepared myself for the final stretch. By the third cook, the syrup and candy pieces have taken on a gloss, a shine that makes me suspect they know they are getting near the end.
The final day, make sure you have your sterilized jars, canning pot filled with water, and all that jazz set up. I didn’t do any of this as I was going to use the ginger right away. Instead, I prepared sugar to candy the ginger and sneak some. I must say each time I get near the pot, I help myself to a slice or two. Just checking to see how its done.
Bring the ginger and syrup to 220°, using tongs, pack the ginger into jars, then divide the syrup. Clean the top of the jars carefully, place the lids, tighten the rings, and process for 10 minutes.
Instead, I fish out the medallions/coins and ‘tree trunks’, toss them in sugar and set them on a rack to dry overnight. I candy my ginger!
The next morning, I am amazed at the crunch the pieces have developed. Even the fibrous bits all of a sudden loose their toughness, standing tall, proud, delish!
And off they go into the candy (Snoepjes, Dutch for sweets) jar. Awaiting my nieces who blitz through the entire tin in an afternoon. ‘Ginger is good for you’….. I say to myself. Excusing myself in indulging them.
I decide to recreate my favourite ever ginger jam, using homemade pectin. Its a snap – I put the confitted ginger and some syrup into a pot, tip in my homemade pectin and let it come to the boil. After a few minutes, it’s jammed. I put it in a jar and enjoy some for breakfast, on bread. It isn’t Scott’s Finest Ginger jam, but it is mine, all mine.
A few days ago, I baked a ginger and chocolate cake, using the leftover ginger jam. I stayed with Amanda Hesser’s tried, tested and adored Chocolate Dump-it all cake which is my most requested bake ever. I’ve made over a hundred cakes since December 15th when I first made it! I love its versatility – it is a brilliant canvas for new flavours and frostings. Anyhow, the cake was nice – very gingerbreadish, with my additions of ginger powder, cinnamon powder and chocolate chips (which all sank to the bottom, mind you). I topped it with some chocolate ganache with candied pecans. And I have to apologise for not having a photo to demonstrate all of its goodness, even it wasnt my favourite version of the cake.
And so, tortourous as the ginger peeling and chopping were, I’ll be making this again, in a huge vat so we can enjoy its goodness for months to come.
What are your favourite things to do with fresh ginger?