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January 28, 2010

About Ginger

A warming, tropical spice, ginger is a great ingredient to use during cold winter months

Fresh Ginger

The HSUS

This week’s recipe is a simple carrot soup made with fresh ginger. This winning combination of sweet and pungent flavors is satisfying any time of the year, but is especially appealing during cold, gray winter months.

Indeed, there is nothing quite like ginger to warm us up: homemade ginger tea is a soothing tonic, and the peppery snap of fresh ginger invigorates any meal—a ready cure for winter doldrums!

Native to India, ginger is a staple ingredient in Asian cooking. It is part of a family of lively spices that also includes cardamom, galangal and turmeric. Ginger is used to season a wide range of dishes, from savory sauces to sweets. It can be tossed into a stove top stir fry or baked in a slow-roasting oven. Its characteristic pungency (which diminishes with cooking) mostly complements rather than dominates other flavors.

Dried, ground ginger—the form of this spice most commonly used in baking—is not interchangeable with fresh ginger. However, adding a teaspoon or two of grated ginger or fresh ginger juice to a cookie or bread recipe can brighten its flavor.

It is not necessary to peel ginger, especially if the plant is young: the fine skin of a young plant will go unnoticed in a finished dish. If you do peel a knob of ginger, the edge of a spoon works better than a knife.

To make homemade ginger tea, cut 3-4 1” slices of fresh ginger (unpeeled) and steep for 5-10 minutes in water that has boiled. The longer the tea steeps, the stronger and more peppery the flavor. Refrigerate leftover ginger tea and add sparking water, mint and a teaspoon or two of maple syrup to make a refreshing cold ginger soda.

How to Extract Fresh Ginger Juice

Use a microplane or a specially designed ceramic grater called an oroshigane to finely grate ginger. Collect the grated ginger pulp on a double layer of cheesecloth, then twist the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the pulp, straining the liquid into a small measuring cup or bowl. Fresh ginger will yield a surprising amount of juice: one tablespoon of pulp yields approximately one teaspoon of juice.

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