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Ginger Zingiber officinale

I think that it is time to let you in on one of the Colonel’s favorite spices. It’s Ginger which is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. Today most Ginger comes from Jamaica followed by India, Africa, and then China. In Thailand there is a plant called Thai Ginger. It is actually not Ginger at all, but a plant called Galangal. Look for a future lesson on the great spice, Galangal Root or Thai Ginger.

Mistakenly called a root, Ginger is a rhizome. There are two types of fresh rhizomes, young and mature. Young Ginger, sometimes called spring Ginger, has a pale thin skin that does not require peeling. Mature Ginger has a tough skin that must be peeled away. Mature Ginger is just a little stronger than young Ginger.

When purchasing Ginger choose the heaviest and hardest rhizomes available. They will get lighter and will begin to wrinkle when they are past their prime. Fresh unpeeled Ginger, tightly wrapped, may be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks and in the freezer for several months. To use frozen Ginger, simply cut off what is needed and return the rest, tightly wrapped, to the freezer.  Want to keep peeled Ginger for up to three months? Store it in screw lid jars filled with dry Sherry or Madeira wines. The wine will impart some of its flavor to the Ginger but to compensate for this, the wine may then be used for cooking and will have a slightly Ginger flavor.

Most Ginger that we use in this country is of the powdered variety. Some cooks will tell you that powdered Ginger cannot be substituted for fresh, but if you add it very slowly and carefully it can be done. The powdered variety is somewhat stronger than fresh. This is the spice that has long lent its name to the beverages Ginger ale and Ginger beer (nonalcoholic and alcoholic)

Additionally Ginger may be found crystallized, also called candied. This Ginger has been cooked in a sugary syrup. If you have a child that is susceptible to car sickness, see if you can get them to eat one or two small pieces of candied Ginger. It should do the trick. There is also Ginger that has been preserved in a sugar-salt mixture. This is used often as a confection or in desserts. Melon and preserved Ginger is a classic combo. Pickled Ginger has been preserved in sweet vinegar and is often used as a garnish. Pickled Ginger is typically served with sushi and is considered a ‘palate cleanser’ between courses. Finally, there is red candied Ginger that has been packed in red sugary syrup.

Yes, Ginger is one of the Colonel’s favorite spices. Substitutes? I don’t think so.


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