WE use ginger. Lots of it. We make ginger ale, and ginger tea. We cook a multitude of Indian, Mauritian, Chinese and Thai dishes. Ginger is a necessity for these cuisines.
But let’s face it: peeling this root is tedious.
The etymology of the word “ginger” (or should I say the root word of the root itself?) can be traced back through French, Latin, Greek and all the way to the Sanskrit “smgamveram,” which is a compound word for horn (smgam) and body (vera).
Cleaning this tuber is, in a manner of speaking, taking the bull by the horns, tiny as those protrusions may be.
The best technique I have found for removing the “bark” of ginger is to take a rather dull kitchen knife and scrape, with the blade perpendicular to the root itself. But even this process I find time-consuming.
So it’s time for me to come clean on how I usually clean ginger: I don’t. At least not via the traditional method of removing the outer skin.
Here is my little hack for preparing ginger:
- Scrub the root thoroughly, with a vegetable brush if you have it. Don’t worry too much about whether it looks clean. Just make sure it is thoroughly rinsed.
- If there any truly gnarly ends, slice them off.
- Slice the remaining root it into chunks that will fit into a blender. Start with approximately 1/4 cup of ginger in volume.
- Throw the slices into the blender and cover completely with water, approximately 2 cups.
- Blend on high for a good minute.
- Pour the liquid through a strainer into another container, such as a Mason jar.
- The strainer will eventually fill with a wet mash. Take a spatula and press the mash against the strainer to get as much of the liquid as possible through the screen.
- Place the mash into a separate container.
What you now have are two very useful components. The liquid in the Mason jar is a very tangy concentrate that can be diluted with sparkling water to create home-made ginger ale. Start with 3 or 4 teaspoons of the golden elixir and add an 8-ounce glass of sparkling water. Add lemon and/or honey or other sweetener to taste. (We use no sweetener, but it’s a personal preference).
Now, the mash is equally useful. This can be stirred into any of your favorite Asian cuisines such as soups and stir-fries. The amount of mash is equivalent to raw ginger, so measuring is quite straightforward for use in recipes.
As for storage, you can keep the mash in the refrigerator for several weeks and you can even freeze it. I sometimes make up such a large quantity that I then scoop it into ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Then you have a nice handy chunk to throw in dishes of your choosing.
I have also experimented with drying the ginger and have successfully created a ginger powder equivalent to what you might buy off the grocery store’s spices rack. The pulverized granules work well, but this process is much more time intensive. But, again, there is no need to actually peel the root. If you are up for the challenge, here’s the algorithm:
- Slice the ginger into 1/8-inch thick pieces.
- Place on a tray that provides air flow underneath but holds the individual pieces. I used a tray of a three-section bamboo steamer. Even a splatter screen for frying will work.
- If your oven has a dehumidifier setting, using this to dry out the ginger. If no setting is available, put the oven on the lowest possible setting (140 degrees), leave the oven door ajar. This process will take a few hours either way.
- Let the ginger air cool and dry for another couple hours.
- Place small batches in blender and pulse blend.
- In the end, your ginger powder should look something like the accompanying photograph.
And that’s it. Give my ginger-preparation hacks a try and let me know how it worked or whether you have any suggestions for improving on the process.