All About Ginger
Ginger is now one of my favourite spices. I add it to soups, rice, quinoa, desserts, and meat.
But, it wasn’t always that way.
Before I understood ginger, I used the ground dried ginger from the grocery store. Quite frankly I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. Sure it was good, but not amazing like others told me it was.
What is Ginger Root?
Ginger is an extremely flavourful spice that is used in many ways. Although it is called “Ginger Root”, it is not a root at all. It is actually a rhizome (the bulbous stem end of a plant where roots grow out of).
A couple of years ago, I decided that I would just buy the whole ginger roots and see how it goes.
I am here to say that it worked fantastic. It was cheaper, fresher and tasted much better.
The big question is: how do I store it so that I am not watching it waste away before I can use it all? You can store it for a few weeks loosely wrapped in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. But, I wasn’t using it quick enough.
The simple solution is to freeze it. Yup, just chuck it in the freezer.
Buying and Freezing Ginger
- When buying ginger root, choose fresh, plump roots that are heavy for their size. Do not choose ones that are light in weight or wrinkled
- Use a damp paper towel to wipe down the unpeeled ginger to get rid of any dust or debris and some of the loose skin
- If you want to wash it more thoroughly that’s fine. Scrub it under cool running water and then dry with paper towel. Leave on counter to dry the rest of the way
- At this point just throw the whole ginger root in the freezer – unpeeled. Be sure to use a proper freezer bags or airtight containers
- When it is time to use some, pull it out of the freezer and use a microplane or zester to mince the amount you need (frozen ginger grates much easier that refrigerated ginger)
- If you need a larger piece, cut off what you will need and return the rest to the freezer
- If you want to peel fresh or frozen ginger, use a spoon to scrape off the skin. I rarely peel it.
- Be sure to label and date the freezer bag
- Store for up to 4 months
Cooking With Ginger
Dried ground ginger and fresh ginger are very different when cooking. Please do not swap them out willy nilly. You may be very disappointed.
Here are some general guidelines to help you decide how to use each and whether or not to substitute ground for fresh or visa versa:
- Ground ginger is much, much stronger than fresh. Use a gentle touch with ground ginger
- Ground ginger is usually the best option for baked goods as it is more warming than fresh
- Fresh ginger has more of a cooling effect on food, so it is best suited for recipes that use the ginger to bring a fresh, zesty taste instead of a bold, warm flavour
- If a recipe calls specifically for fresh ginger, it is usually not a good idea to substitute ground ginger
- Fresh ginger can be added at the end of a recipe or as a garnish because of its bright flavour. But, ground ginger cannot do the same
- If you do add fresh ginger as a garnish, do not use too much. It can become overpowering and spicy
- If a recipe calls for ground ginger specifically, do not substitute fresh ginger.
- If you do have a recipe where fresh can be substituted for ground, the conversion is: 1 tablespoon grated fresh root equals 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
What About Ginger Paste?
Many recipes will refer to ginger paste, which is simply ginger root ground with water.
It is becoming more widely available in grocery stores now, but it is so easy and inexpensive to just make yourself.
- Place 1/2 Cup (120 ml) water in a blender or food processor (always add water first)
- Add 1/2 lb (227 g) of ginger
- Puree until it forms a smooth paste
That is all there is to it.
This paste will store in the fridge for up to a week. But, you can portion it out into ice cube trays and freeze for a few months.
I keep both ground and fresh ginger on hand so that all my bases are covered. The beauty of freezing the ginger root is that you will always have some available without running to the grocery store.