This is this month’s installment of DIY (do it yourself)! Each month, I’m posting another helpful hint to keep a little closer to your kitchen.
This month, I’m going to teach you how to prepare ginger. It’s actually super easy, but it becomes harder the more tools you try to use. Ginger is counter-intuitive like that.
The best part is the preparing fresh ginger will make your kitchen smell amazing, and if you have a garbage disposal that’ll be taking care of the outside of the ginger root, then double bonus!
Following the theme, here are the sections to this post:
Ginger is a root, just like carrots, potatoes, or all of those other delicious guys that grow under the ground. You might see it referred to as either ‘ginger’ or ‘ginger root,’ but it’s all the same.
It’s used extensively in Asian cuisine, throughout South, Southeast, and East Asian cuisines. In South and Southeast Asia, it’s used extensively in vegetarian curries to add flavour. In East Asian cuisine, it’s included in sauces and other condiments or pickled, so it stands out a little more.
In Thai cuisine, galangal, or Thai ginger, from the same family, is used in similar preparation.
Ginger can also be candied, wrapped in chocolate, powdered and used in gingerbread, made into ginger ale, or brewed into the most fantastic Harpoon 100 Barrell Ginger Wheat Beer.
digression That’s the beer that got away—I had one on draft at the Mission just at the end of its brewing season, and wasn’t able to track any down in stores to hoard. I even wrote Harpoon basically begging them for some, and they said that there might be some on draft at a couple places in JP, but that they didn’t have any more bottled. If it ever gets brewed again, I’m calling dibs on all of them. /digression
Ginger has also been used extensively medicinally, and ginger oil has been shown to cure both skin and ovarian cancer in mice, which is kind of crazy if you think about it. Chemicals in ginger can ease pain, lower fever, and aid relaxation, and they’re antibacterial!
Buying and Storing Ginger
My favourite part about buying ginger is picking through the root pile to find just the perfect piece that I need for whatever recipe. I can’t tell you how dismayed I was when I saw once that my local Whole Foods had packaged a few ounces of ginger root all together in a plastic bag—luckily that seemed to be a freak accident.
Look for pieces that are firm, uncut, and unbruised. They should be a uniform light-to-medium brown, and a little golden. The inside should be a bright warm yellow colour, and would be the perfect palate to paint a kitchen…
Ginger can be either refrigerated or frozen, and will store for quite some time as-is. Refrigerated, it will eventually dehydrate and get all soft and awkward, just as old carrots do.
When cut, the ginger will be a little fibrous, but shouldn’t be overly so. The more fibrous, the older the root.
We store our ginger in the quintessential Bowl of Things that Get Used Frequently, alongside Ryan’s bananas, garlic, onions, limes, other citrus, and whatever else we’re planning on using in the next recipe.
If you buy a larger root and break off pieces, then the ginger will eventually dry out where exposed and seal itself, so you don’t have to worry about wrapping it or anything special if you’re buying a bunch to use piece by piece.
Yep, a simple spoon. Ditch the vegetable peel or knife—grab a spoon.
It’ll take the peel off no problem, and you’ll have an easier time navigating around all the bumps and curves of the root.
Added bonus: no accidental nail trimmings! I swear, I always end up catching my fingernails at least once each time that I use a vegetable peeler, which part of the reason why I hate them…
So take a simple spoon and scrape all the dark, dry peel off the ginger. You’ll be left with a fresh golden root.
Some recipes, like curry paste or broths, call for sliced ginger. If needed, just run your knife down the root to create small rounds of ginger that can be food processed or simmered in broth. They could also be pickled from here, or maybe used as some kind of garnish since they look so lovely.
Most of the time, however, you’ll need minced ginger. The easiest way to do this is to slice the root and place the slices into a spice-designated coffee grinder. This will whir it up easily into a paste, but will be terribly hard to clean, and you may not want the rest of your spices tasting faintly of ginger. (Then again, if you’re like me, most of the spices that get ground fresh are going in curries, so it’s kind of a boon to have them taste of ginger.)
To mince the ginger, start with something like a julienne. Slice down the length of the root. You’ll now have little ‘sheets’ of ginger, almost—I should have snapped a picture here…
Remove the bottom ‘sheet’ or two so that you can place the ginger flat-side-down. Slice down the length of the ginger again, this time at a 90º to your previous slices. You’ll end up with little ginger sticks.
Slice across the sticks to dice the ginger.
Run your knife through the ginger a few times to dice the pieces even further.
You could also use the same method as mincing garlic to create a paste, although ginger is tougher than garlic, so this will be a little harder.
After that, you could combine ginger with garlic and chillies to form garlic-ginger-chilli paste to throw in Indian curries, or use ginger in some unexpected preparations like spicy Squash Soup.
It adds a nice heat and subtle spice to the flavour profile of any dish…but does it have a soul?