This is one of the world's premier confections. It is wonderful by itself as a small sweet. It serves with distinction as an accompaniment to expresso and cakes in the afternoon, or Champagne and fruit in the morning. Given a bittersweet chocolate coating garnished with chopped macadamia or hazelnuts it is an elegant candy. Chopped or julliened it garnishes pastries, custards, pumpkin pies, stewed fruits, cookies and many other desserts. It is even a welcome accompaniment to a Curry.
This is not a hard recipe, but it needs to be watched, and the heat regulated carefully, so that all goes Slowly, and that the cooking is stopped at the proper time. I took these notes this evening from a batch I just finished, hope it can be understood.
First, the ginger. You want young, tender ginger, as fresh as possible. The characteristics you want to look for are:
For this recipe, buy about 10 ounces of ginger, which will give you about 6 ounces of cleaned and sliced ginger root. Once you have learned the basics, this recipe can be multiplied to almost any quantity.
- Thin, tender and even brown skin.
- Firm flesh with minimal "give", or "spongyness".
- Well shaped main body with minimal extraneous protrusions.
- A fresh and pleasant odor.
First, carefully peel off the outside brown skin of the root. Remove the secondary knobs, freeze them for something else. Cut out any discolored or dried out spots. Cut the root into 2 inch lengths and slice lengthwise into 1/8th inch slices. Punch holes in the slices with a needle or fork, sort of like you would tenderize a steak. Toss the slices in a bowl with:
2 Cups sugar.
Add 1 Tbl of water to a 6 or 8 inch iron frying pan or a heavy wok, pour in the ginger and sugar, and bring very slowly up to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally for an hour. Lower the heat to a minimum and let very slowly simmer, stirring occasionally and separating the slices, until the syrup starts to get thick and crystallize. There will be a rim of sugar that crystallizes out around the edge of the pan, and the mixture will become quite thick and syrupy, and will have a lot of sugar crystals in it. Soon the mixture will bubble slowly all over the surface, and when gently stirred will crystallize more and more. (This last phase only takes a few minutes, so watch carefully toward the end. If it carmelizes, it is junk.) Soon the syrup is mostly crystals, and the whole mass will start coming together when stirred. When you can make a pile of it in the middle of the pan, and very little syrup drains out, take it off the heat, and toss gently while it cools. Make sure the slices remain separated. If done right, the crystallized ginger slices will separate from the sugar at this point. Spread it all out on a tray to cool and dry, then store airtight somewhere dark and cool. Use the sugar in coffee, cookies, or anywhere else that a fresh, clean ginger accent would be nice.
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