Cooking School

Discover ginger

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Discover ginger

What ginger is
Not actually a root, gingerroot is the knobby rhizome (or underground stem) of the subtropical plant Zingiber officinale. Originating in southern China, ginger cultivation is used in many (if not most) cuisines of the world. Its unique earthy, spicy, citrus flavour has the versatility to cross over from sweet to savoury dishes. It can be used sliced, diced, minced, grated, shredded or juiced.

Fresh gingerroot
Choose plump pieces with smooth, shiny skin and fresh, spicy aroma. Wrinkles and cracks indicate it's dry and past its prime.
Young ginger does not require peeling. Older roots have a tough outer skin that should be scraped off with a vegetable peeler or knife.
Buy enough to use within three weeks. (It's acceptable to break off and buy just a piece at the market.)
Store unpeeled ginger at room temperature or in the refrigerator; store peeled ginger tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.
In a pinch, you can substitute one-third the amount of fresh gingerroot for dried ginger. It's not recommended substituting dry for fresh.

Ground ginger
Ground ginger is the buff-coloured spice made from dried and ground gingerroot.

Since essential oils are lost during drying, dried ginger has sweeter earthier flavour than fresh, which combines naturally with other baking spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. It is widely used in European baking. Ground ginger loses intensity over time. Store in airtight container in cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Did you know?
The ancient greek philosopher Pythagoras recommended ginger to treat snakebites.
Kin Henry VIII instructed the Lord Mayor of London to use ginger as a remedy for the plague.

At the market
In addition to fresh, enjoy ginger in some of the following ways:

• Stem ginger is peeled fresh young roots cooked in heavy syrup. It is really two treats in one: chunks for baking and spicy-sweet syrup over nuts or ice cream.

• Crystallized stem ginger is the tender heart of baby rhizomes that's hand sliced, steeped in syrup, air dried and rolled in sugar. The best example is from Australia. Look for plump, moist pieces to dip into chocolate or fold into baked goods and ice cream. Store indefinitely in airtight container.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn about Japanese pickled ginger and find delicious ginger recipes on page 2

Gari (Japanese pickled ginger) is available in Asian markets as two types. Both of them keep refrigerated in their brine for up to 6 months.

1. Amazu shoga is sweet, thinly sliced young gingerroot marinated in a sugar-vinegar solution that is eaten as a palate cleanser with sushi. Though naturally
pink, many brands enhance the colour for better sales.

2. Beni shoga is gingerroot cut into thin strips, coloured red (with perilla leaf)
and pickled in umeboshi (pickled plum) solution. It is served with gyudon
(beef and rice bowl) and yakisoba (fried noodles).

Minced or chopped fresh gingerroot is often mixed with flavourings and/or preservatives into a paste. Use it like fresh gingerroot to flavour sauces, condiments and dressings.

Medicinal uses
Ginger is known for its stomach-calming effects, such as aiding digestion and relieving nausea, travel sickness and menstrual cramps. (In countries where ginger ale or ginger beer are made, they have been used as stomach settlers for generations.) In Chinese medicine, ginger is prepared as a tea with honey and lemon to promote sweating and act as an expectorant for colds and chills.

Ginger recipes to try:
Chocolate-Dipped Crystallized Ginger
Chocolate Ginger Palettes
Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Pickled Ginger
New-Fashioned Gingerbread
Ginger Beer
Dark and Stormy
Ginger Green Onion Sauce

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