Ask Peter: How to make stem and crystallised ginger
I enjoyed your lovely ideas for using ginger in syrup (Bite March 17). Do you know how I could make my own ginger in syrup? And is it possible to make crystalised ginger to coat in chocolate — might be a lot more interesting for Easter gifts than plain old eggs.
I’m pleased to see you enjoyed the ginger story. Making both stem ginger and crystalised ginger is actually really easy, but it works best with fresh young ginger, before it has become fibrous and tough. The fibres become quite stringy and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them. So, if you can only get your hands on the woody stuff, wait until better quality arrives.
Firstly, peel around 800g of ginger. You can do this really easily with a potato peeler — although the purists would use a teaspoon to scrape the skin off. If the ginger is knobbly, make sure you either pull the knobs off and use for something else, or get that teaspoon scraping properly! Slice the ginger against the grain, much as you would a fillet of meat — that is, don’t slice it lengthways, but across the tuber. You want to end up with 500-600g peeled and sliced ginger. Slice it as thin as you think you’d like it. For chocolate dipping you want it no more than 2mm thick. For use in scones, biscuits and the likes it can be a thicker as you’re likely to chop it up anyway.
Place the sliced ginger in a non-reactive pot and cover with enough water to cover it by 1cm. Bring slowly to the boil, then simmer five minutes and drain in a colander. Do this three times and when you’ve finished, put it back in the pot and pour on a litre of water and 850g of white sugar or unrefined golden sugar. You can use brown sugar but the ginger flavour will be masked and therefore less intense. Add two good pinches of fine salt and slowly bring to a gentle boil and then cook until the syrup resembles a light runny honey. If you have a sugar thermometer, or a digital thermometer that you can immerse in liquid, cook until it reaches 106C. At this point you can decant the ginger and syrup into sterilised jars, seal them while hot and leave to cool overnight at room temperature. The next day place in a cool pantry or store in the fridge and the ginger will last for up to 1 year.
If you’d like to make crystalised ginger then once it’s ready and while it’s still hot, drain it into a colander over a bowl — don’t throw the syrup away as it’s a terrific cordial. Let the slices drain really well — you can even pat them a little dry in a tea towel. DON’T use kitchen paper as it will end up sticking to the ginger. Toss the slices, ideally while still a little warm, in 2 cups sugar and leave for a few minutes. Toss again and then lay the slices out separately (don’t overlap) on a cake rack. Leave at room temperature overnight covered loosely with a cloth napkin. If it’s really warm place them somewhere cool as the sugar will sweat. Next day store them in an airtight container and use within a few months. The sugar that comes off them can be used in ice cream or sorbet, sprinkled over baked rhubarb or quince, in fact in anything that would benefit from a grunty hint of ginger.
Now for your Easter treats — simply melt chocolate (60-75 per cent cocoa fat works best for this) and dip the crystalised slices in it. Or, drop them in a few at a time (making sure no excess sugar is on them as it will affect the chocolate) and scoop out with a fork one at a time. Lay the pieces on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and leave to cool. Any holes where you can see the ginger, are best patched up with some chocolate drizzled from a teaspoon. Leave to set at room temperature, before packing delicately.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.