I'm a ginger fanatic! The first recipe I ever posted on this blog was for my favorite fresh ginger tea; a delicious cozy beverage that I crave constantly on chilly nights, sick days, and pretty much anytime I can use a little extra comfort. I also cook regularly with it (infusing the spicy flavor into both baked goods and savory dishes) so I always have one or two big knotty looking roots of it somewhere in my kitchen. As flavorful as it can be, many people shy away from using fresh ginger simply because of how weird and tricky it looks. If you've been using dried or jarred ginger in place of fresh, I encourage you to give it a shot.
After the jump: the coolest ways to peel and store ginger (yes...I said "coolest").
1. How to Peel Ginger:
If you're only using ginger to infuse cream or butter with flavor (like these ginger coconut madeleines or ginger brown butter cake), you can just slice it and skip the peeling. But if the recipe requires that you actually add the sliced or grated ginger to the final dish, peeling is a must. Fortunately, ginger skin is very thin and can actually be peeled quite easily (and safely!) using the back of a spoon. (A spoon!)
To do this, first determine and mark off the amount of fresh ginger that you will need; this will be easy as recipes usually specify the amount by measurement (i.e. "two inches of fresh ginger" or "3 1/2 inch slices"). Leaving the ginger root whole (so that it's easier to work with) use a paring knife to trim it of any small nubs or knotty bits ONLY on the portion of ginger you will need for your recipe. Then, holding the ginger root in your hand, use the tip of a regular small dinner spoon to scrape along the root starting from the end and up towards you, just up to the amount you need. The skin will come off easily and once peeled, the ginger can then be grated to the point where the unpeeled part ends.
2. How to Store Ginger
Whole, unpeeled ginger, should be stored inside a zipper sealed plastic baggie, in the crisper section of your refrigerator. Once you've cut off a portion, wrap the bare tip with a bit of plastic wrap and return to the baggie.
A MUCH cooler way to store ginger? Peel the entire root and drop into a clean mason jar, then pour in vodka until the ginger is completely submerged. Store this in the refrigerator. It'll keep fresh and usable for months (you can rinse off the vodka before using although the alcohol on it will be negligible (and when you're done with the ginger, you'll be left with an AWESOME ginger-infused vodka perfect for your next cocktail party.)
A third, albeit less cooler, option: peel the entire root and zip into a freezer-safe zippered baggie; this will keep in the freezer indefinitely and can be grated while still frozen and then returned the the freezer anytime you need a bit of frozen ginger (note that it will be virtually impossible to slice when frozen so use this only if you use a lot of grated ginger for stir-frys or baking).
3. How to Grate Ginger
A microplane works best for grating ginger; you'll get a fine grate that blends easily into your recipe, and not have to deal with any woody or fibrous pieces in your final dish. Second best is the fine side of a box grater. When grating, be sure to only use the grated parts that come through on the side of the grater opposite the blade. The stuff that gets caught on the blade side is fibrous and stringy, and not what you want in your dish.
Five Ideas for Cooking with Fresh Ginger:
- Drop a few slices into cream when heating it to make chocolate ganache. Strain out the ginger before pouring the cream over the chocolate for a spicy ginger-flavored ganache that can be used to frost cakes, fill tart shells, or make homemade chocolate truffles.
- Add a slice or two of ginger when melting or browning butter, for ginger-infused butter that can be added to brownie or cake batter, or over vegetables or pasta in savory recipes.
- Grate fresh ginger into your favorite homemade or bottled vinaigrette for a spicy ginger dressing or marinade (awesome with chicken or shrimp).
- Help ease nausea or an upset tummy with a mug of fresh ginger tea. Click here for an easy recipe.
- Add few slices of ginger to a couple cups of milk and heat gently over low heat. Use the ginger milk in your coffee or add a pinch of sugar and cinnamon for a relaxing drink before bed.
- Make a ginger simple syrup by combining a cup of water with a cup of sugar and 3 or 4 slices of fresh ginger, simmer until the sugar dissolves and let cool to room temperature. Use this in cocktails, to sweeten lemonade, or to drizzle over plain pound cake.