When I was growing up, the only ginger we had in our kitchen was the powdered kind kept in a tin in the spice drawer. It came out in the fall to be added to pumpkin for pies and to cake batter and cookie dough for gingerbread and gingersnaps.
Fresh ginger was too exotic for Tops Market, where we did our grocery shopping. I don’t think I ever encountered it until I moved away to the city. And even then, it was years before I brought it into my own kitchen.
Now it’s a pantry staple.
My favorite way to use fresh ginger at the café is to grate a good amount of it onto a cutting board using a fine flat grater, then scrape the juicy pulp into whatever dish I’m making and discarding the stringy filaments and paper-like peel. If I’m adding it to vegetables in a skillet, I’ll leave it on top of the vegetables for as long as I can before stirring it in. That way it steams as the vegetables cook, and doesn’t burn by coming into contact with the skillet before the vegetables are done.
At home I like it brewed into a hot toddy. Who wouldn’t?
You can also slice it thinly for adding to tea or simmering in a hot broth. And a spoonful of grated ginger heated with a bit of raw sugar and a squeeze of lemon in a cup of water makes a light syrup to toss with apples or pears, or even bananas, adding a bit of zip while keeping the fruit from turning brown. It’s also good on oranges.
We’ve played with making candied ginger at the cafe, layering it in a little jar of raw sugar, and letting it dry. If you leave it in the sugar long enough to crystallize, you can then put it into a spice grinder to make ginger sugar. Why not?
Fresh ginger keeps for a couple weeks in the fridge, but it’ll dry out if it’s not wrapped well. Buy pieces that are relatively smooth and firm. It’s perfectly okay to break off what you want from a big root, but get more than you think you’ll need, so there’s some left over to experiment with.
Ginger toddies, y’all. ‘Tis the season.