During the Holidays I love to make Gingerbread houses, Gingerbread cookies, Ginger snaps, and Gingerbread….Ginger ale is the only soda I can justify as having a health factor to it, ….and the ginger tea in my last blog is a great stress relieving and relaxing beverage any time of year…so as the holiday puts Ginger in the forefront of so many decorated tables, I encourage you to introduce yourself to the great flavor it can add to your cooking and to your health.
Ginger is an herb used as a spice in foods and beverages, as for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics and also as a medicine. Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of stomach problems and pain relief. The oil made from ginger is sometimes applied to the skin to relieve pain.
Native to Asia, ginger has been renowned for thousands of years in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries. Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe.
Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
Purchasing Fresh Ginger
When shopping for fresh ginger, look for pieces with a plump, smooth, somewhat shiny skin. If it's wrinkled or cracked, the ginger is drying and past its prime. Never substitute dried ground ginger for fresh. It simply doesn't taste the same.
Storing Fresh Ginger
Fresh ginger will get moldy in the refrigerator. It's best to store it at room temperature much like you would potatoes. Ginger will eventually sprout little buds. These are considered a pungent delicacy in many parts of Asia. Just pinch them off and enjoy. Some people freeze their ginger, although we don't recommend it as it alters the flavor. Others store their fresh ginger in dry sherry or Madeira in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. The ginger will impart some of its flavor to the wine, but that's a minor disadvantage when weighed against having peeled ginger ready and waiting to be used. The ginger-flavored wine can be used in stir-fry dishes, salad dressings, sauces, etc.
Preparing Fresh Ginger
To prepare fresh ginger, peel only the skin of this knobby-looking rhizome (an under-ground stem). Use either a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. One ginger fan suggests scraping off the skin with an ordinary spoon. "It works great and it seems like you don't lose so much of the good stuff." Depending upon your recipe, fresh ginger may be sliced, diced, minced, grated, shredded or juiced.
Cooking with Ginger
Unlike any other flavor, ginger is unlimited in its culinary uses. From the fieriest of stir-fries to the sweetest of ice creams, ginger has the ability to cross over from savory to sweet. Rather than tinker with tried-and-true Asian recipes, seek other culinary marriages for ginger. Experiment with a small amount of fresh, pickled or candied ginger in a recipe. Remember that a little ginger goes a long way. As you go, increase the amount of ginger to suit your personal tastes. Add ginger to soups, stocks, salads, vegetables, marinades, sauces and desserts.
Try this refreshing Ginger Juice!
10 Oz. fresh peeled chopped ginger
6 limes juiced (or lemon)
2 large ripe pineapples, peeled & chopped
5 cups warm water, plus 2 cups cool water, or more as needed
1/2 cup wildflower honey, or more to taste
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Place the pineapple chunks with 5 cups of warm water, in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a mesh strainer into a large bowl to extract the pulp. Add in the lime juice. Set aside to chill.
Combine the ginger and 2 cups of cool water in a blender. Puree and transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then let cool to room temperature. Strain and add to the pineapple-lime juice.
Combine the honey and the remaining 1 cup of warm water into the sauce pan and simmer until well blended. Add to the pineapple-ginger juice mixture. Add extra water as necessary to make 1 gallon. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until well chilled. To serve, pour into glasses and garnish with mint.
Best of Cooking, Denise