Have you ever tried candied ginger? No? Neither had I. Well, I have used it in turkey brine, because that's what Alton Brown says to do. But I have no idea how 1 1/2 teaspoons of candied ginger really affects the flavor of a 14 lb turkey. I have been trying to remember if I have ever used my stash of candied ginger for anything else. I have a vague memory of doing so, though I can't remember what the recipe was.
Never the less, I decided that this year is going to be different. Honestly, I have learned to love ginger root this past year. I have decided that I love Thai food. Not so much the coconut side of things. But the garlic, ginger, cilantro, lime, peanut, sweet, salty, sour, bitter complexity of Thai food is interesting to attempt to cook and delicious to eat. And at the top of the list of ingredients in the best Thai food I have ever eaten or attempted to cook, is ginger. Oh, the ginger rice soup at Thai Palace restaurant in Holland is so worth the trip out there. Yup. I love the stuff.
So why, I asked myself, have I never really used the candied ginger from Penzey's that I keep in my pantry, other than in Thanksgiving brine? Ginger is a warm flavor, so it goes perfectly with the other warm spices that we use at this time of year. In fact, most pumpkin pie recipes use powdered ginger. And what about gingerbread? So I kept thinking, and it seems to me that ginger would work well with cranberries and apples. I decided to add some candied ginger to the cranberry sauce. And maybe the apple pie. I haven't quite decided if I am ready to mess with the Thanksgiving apple pie.
Of course, this is all experimental. And when I am doing something experimental, I don't want to blow a load of money on it. And candied ginger isn't exactly cheap. Ginger root, however is quite cheap. So is sugar. And water is nearly free. And guess what? That's all you need to make your own candied ginger.
I have to tell you, this is nothing but fun. I still don't see myself chewing on candied ginger as though it's a Sour Patch Kid (unless I had an upset stomach--ginger is supposed to be good for that). But I do see myself tossing a few pieces into many different dishes over the next few months. So let's get started.
Don't walk away from this! It doesn't take long for the sugar to melt, and the syrup will begin to simmer. It's a big mess if this boils over (not that I have any personal experience, mind you), and it can happen quickly. So stay close to the stove.
Once the syrup is at a simmer, it's time to add the ginger and orange peel. I almost dropped the ginger in, straight from my hands. But then I remembered how hot that syrup is, and how I really didn't want that sticky liquid to splatter up on my hands. So I grabbed my trusty spider, filled it up, and gently slid the ginger into the syrup. Accident averted.
The ginger will need to cook longer than the orange peel. My peel cooked on medium heat, at a vigorous simmer, for about 40 minutes before it looked translucent. So I worked on draining it while the ginger finished cooking.
I used a fork to grab each piece of peel from the syrup and lay it out on a rack set over a sheet pan. It's not super fussy, but you will want to keep them as separate as possible. By the time that I had all of the pieces on the rack, it was cool enough to toss in sugar.
Just put a little sugar on a dinner plate, and lay several pieces of peel on top of it. Press down lightly, and then turn them over and press again. Then just toss them around a bit to adhere the sugar all over.
Then move the pieces back to the rack, and sugar another batch. Leave them to dry until the ginger is ready.
Finally, once the ginger is done cooking (because there's no need to dirty a second rack!), the orange peel will be cool and dry enough to place in a ziploc bag and refrigerate.
I did try a piece, and it tasted good. But I can't help but think that it would taste even better with some melted bittersweet chocolate drizzled over it all willy-nilly. And I will probably throw some into almond scented muffins and cookies with some Craisins. I might try mincing some up and tossing it into a salad, too. Hmmm...possibilities.
Except.....that's not quite it. You see, there is a beautiful side benefit of candying ginger and orange peel. Remember that simple syrup? You just infused it with orange zest and ginger. That could be really good in hot or iced tea, or brushed over a piece of angel food cake. So don't waste it!
This is the orange simple syrup. I was thinking about how nice that would be in a hot cup of tea or apple cider, and then thought about the ginger syrup, and eventually, I thought of the words "orange" and "ginger" close enough together to have a revelation of sorts.
I love orange and ginger together! At least, they smell amazing. Best shampoo in the world. It makes me happy every morning. So I decided to add some of the ginger syrup to the orange syrup and have a nice mix. It will still be good in tea, and if Bath & Body Works is to be believed, drinking it should give me a boost of energy every morning. Yeah, I know....wishful thinking. But it still tastes and smells amazing! Enjoy!