12 December 2009

massage oil and candles and cookies, oh my

A foodie's perfect date night? Maybe. But not tonight. However, those three things led me to my latest foray into the kitchen: candied ginger. How's that? Well, it was a citrus ginger massage oil I scored as a freebie at a ladies night at Nationals Park back during summer that piqued my interest. It was so bright and had a much more zippy smell than only mixed up citrus peels. I lost it for a while, but just found it in my bag a couple weeks ago. Smells sooo good. And just the other week while Christmas shopping for myself loved ones I happened upon a vanilla ginger candle. That spicy note over the normally generic vanilla is what was so interesting, and I bought it immediately. So here I've been hanging out on my couch with a candle burning, filling my house with cozy goodness, looking through all these Christmastime recipes and I noticed that a lot of them, including the cookies I made last week, called for this sweet and spicy candied ginger. But sadly I didn't have any on hand then, so I left them out of the original recipe. And darn it, I wasn't going to let that happen again.

But where to begin... While I'd heard of candied ginger, I had no idea what it tasted like. Heck I barely use ginger in general. I could probably count the number of times I'd used it this past year on one hand, and all of those times in some kind of Asian food. So candied ginger? I had to be missing something if all of these recipes called for it... so what the heck. So with the help of my dear friend Google search, I found half a dozen recipes to play with and used them to make it from scratch.

It started with this guy on the right: a big honking piece of ginger. I suppose this is the part it could be like a date... I got him nekkid by peeling his skin off. Gave him a hot bath twice, then fattened him up with something sweet. And finally capped off the night by giving him some sugar. That's really how you do it, but here's the more G-rated version of how to candy ginger.

Candied/Crystallized Ginger
8 oz fresh ginger (well, 8 oz total after peeling, slicing, so you may want to get more)
1 1/2 C water
1 1/2 C sugar
extra sugar to coating
Special equipment: candy thermometer

Peel ginger. (I used a spoon to scrape his skin off, which makes it easier to get those tight spots.) Slice them into about 1/8" thick pieces. Throw them into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain then repeat one more time.
After the 2nd boiling and draining, add the 1 1/2 cups each of water and sugar to the ginger. Attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so it simmers. Cook, stirring intermittently, until temperature reaches 225 degrees, then take off the heat.
Drain (save the liquid - you can make your own gingerale with it by adding to club soda) and arrange the ginger onto a cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch any extra drippings. Once it's cooled down enough to handle, toss batches of the ginger into granulated sugar until well coated and lay back out on the rack. Let it all dry overnight, then store in an air tight container.
Supposedly it keeps like this for several months, but I won't get to find it -- I'm almost out! You can use it in pretty much any sweets recipe that involves ginger: gingersnaps, gingerbread, cookies, etc. You can even add diced up bits to apple or pear pie for some extra zing.

NOTE: Ginger can also be kept in its syrup. Just allow to cool completely and put the slices and the liquids in an airtight container. It should keep in the fridge for up to a year.

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