Candied or Crystallized Ginger

Candied or crystallized ginger, my method
Recipe/method developed by Andie

Following is my recipe for candied ginger.
I know it seems long and complicated, but the end result makes up for the time expended.
It is the steaming that makes all the difference. I have a large couscouserie that allows me to steam big batches at a time, but anything, even small stacked bamboo steamers work just fine.

I try to get the largest pieces of ginger I can find and you MUST SLICE ACROSS THE GRAIN, OTHERWISE THE RESULT WILL BE STRINGY.
THIS IS A PHOTO OF SOME OF THE LARGEST PIECES FROM A BATCH I MADE A FEW YEARS AGO. I went to an Asian market and they had huge “hands” of ginger.

I used to make this in 10-pound batches because I had a lot of friends who liked to take it along while traveling. Ginger is an old, old remedy for
motion-sickness. It seems that everyone I know travels a lot.

I use it in cooking a great deal. Apricot/Ginger scones are a favorite.
I also make ginger ice cream – 1/2 cup of finely chopped ginger added to
a regular batch of vanilla – I actually simmer it in the milk/cream
mixture for a few minutes.
You can also use the syrup in which the ginger is cooked, in or over ice
cream, in fruit salads. I beat it into sour cream (Daisy or Alta-Dena
because they are thicker) to make a dipping sauce for strawberries.
Sweetened sour cream is so much more flavorful than whipped cream in my
estimation. The contrasting flavors are superb. It is also a lovely addition to marinades for chicken, duck, pork and lamb.

I am not going to give exact amounts for the ginger because you may wish to begin with a small amount and work up to larger quantities once you learn how easy it is to produce a delicacy that is far superior to any commercially produced product.

Ingredients to begin: Fresh Ginger root, sugar, water and 7-Up or similar citrus soda or you can add citric acid to the water (1 teaspoon per quart) to make it acidulated.

General preparation: You will need a way to slice the ginger.
A sharp knife is o.k. for small batches.
For larger batches use a V-slicer or mandoline or other method, see below.

Also you will need a steamer, and you should have a crock pot (preferred method) or an enamel, glass or stainless steel cook pot.
You will need a wire rack on which to drain the candied ginger and allow it to dry – this may take up to 3 days depending on humidity.

Choose roots that are fairly large as they are easier to peel.
Break off all the smaller “buds” and store in a plastic bag in the fridge – these can be used for pastes, grated, etc.
Peel the ginger with a vegetable peeler or you can use the rounded end of a spoon and scrape the skin off. Blanching will make this even easier.

Drop the root sections into a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 7-Up or similar citrus beverage or acidulated water until you have all the pieces peeled.

If you have a mandoline or other adjustable slicer, set it to 1/8 inch and slice all the pieces, CROSSWISE or on a diagonal to obtain the largest slices possible (You can also use a rotary slicer, powered or hand-held, use the medium attachment or use a slicing blade on a food processor). However you want to be sure that you cut across the fibers that run lengthwise in the rhizomes.

Return the slices to the liquid until you are finished slicing all the ginger and are ready to proceed to the next step.

Drain the ginger and make stacks of the slices and place the slices on edge in a perforated steamer tray or flat colander so the bottom is solidly covered – then do the same with a second layer and a third if necessary. If there are a few loose slices on top they may lay flat.

Place the steamer over simmering water, cover and steam for 30 to 40 minutes – or until the ginger is quite tender.
Older, larger, more fibrous roots may require an additional 10 to 20 minutes. (This is the “secret” of tender, moist candied ginger which is ideal for eating, cooking, baking).

Remove a slice from the steamer, allow it to cool a bit and “taste” it, that is, bite into it to see if it is tender. If it resists, steam it some more.

In a crockpot prepare a “light” simple syrup. For each cup of sliced ginger you will need 1 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar. (Regular simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, i.e., 2 cups sugar dissolved in 1 cup water)
If you do not have a crockpot or slow-cooker, be prepared to keep an eye on the ginger to make sure the liquid does not boil away and there is enough liquid to cover the ginger.
Bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil – crockpot set on high. Add the ginger, when the liquid again comes to a boil, reduce heat to “Low” then cover and allow to simmer gently for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional “syrup” if needed to keep ginger covered.
Note: If you are cooking on a stovetop, you may turn it off, leave at room temperature (covered) and resume cooking later. It is the total time of cooking that counts.
After 6 hours, remove a couple of slices, allow to drain and cool completely – the ginger will be very sticky at this point.
Taste and test the tenderness. The ginger should be very tender and slightly translucent, if it is still a bit too “al dente” or it is totally opaque, continue simmering – test again after an additional 2 to 4 hours.

(Note that if you run short on time at any point in the process, you can turn off the heat and allow the ginger slices to steep in the syrup for a couple of days. There is no need to refrigerate.
When ready to resume just bring the syrup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and finish cooking.)

Allow to cool for 30 to 40 minutes, it should still be warm but not hot enough to burn. Using a skimmer or tongs, remove the slices from syrup and place on a wire rack over a tray or sheet pan so the slices do not overlap.

Strain the remaining syrup into a jar and save. This is now ginger flavored and
may be used in cooking, in drinks, fruit salads, etc.

Allow the ginger slices to dry on the rack until just “tacky” – it
should feel just slightly tacky but should not stick to a finger pressed
onto a slice then lifted.
Place 1/2 cup of regular granulated sugar (or the coarser sanding sugar if you can find it) into a shallow 1 quart covered plastic container. (Tupperware,
Rubbermaid, etc.)
Drop several ginger slices into the container, cover and shake to be
sure the slices are well sugared. Place on a clean rack.
Continue until all the slices have been sugared, adding more sugar as
Leave the slices on the rack overnight, depending on humidity. If you
are in an area of high humidity, you may want to use a fan to speed up
the final drying time.
If you have a dehydrator use it, or you can use your oven if you have one with a standing pilot light.

Test by squeezing 2 slices together. If they do not stick together you
may now place them in airtight containers (screw or snap-top glass jars,
food storage containers – do not use re-closable plastic bags).

Ginger prepared in this manner will keep indefinitely. If it does dry
out after a time, do not discard, simply chop finely and use in cooking
or baking.
Or you can dry it in a very low oven and grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder.
I prepare candied ginger in very large amounts and cook it in a
40-year-old Westinghouse electric roaster. For smaller batches I use a 6 quart
crockpot. One of my neighbors uses a 2-quart crockpot to cook 1 or 2
cups of ginger. A friend who has a 1950s electric stove uses the
“deep-well” cooker built into that stove. You may find something else
that works for you. The trick is the long, slow simmering and of course
the initial steaming which tenderizes the ginger without extracting too
much of the flavor which happens with parboiling, which is the usual process.

You can use the ginger syrup in many ways, including candying fruit or citrus peel and if cooked long enough, to the hard crack stage, make hard candies which can be tinted with food coloring, dropped by teaspoon onto a Silpat sheet to make candy “drops.”

I grow much of the ginger I use. Ginger is super easy to grow – I grow it in big “window-box” type planters (plastic) using a mix of 1/2 perlite and 1/2 sterile potting soil. You can just buy the ginger at a grocery store, break it up, each section will sprout a new plant, bury it in the soil about 5 inches deep. Keep moist until you see the shoots appear then water every few days, use diluted fish emulsion fertilizer about every 3 weeks or so. If you start it in April or May it will be mature in October or November.

4 Responses to Candied or Crystallized Ginger

  1. Darcie says:

    I have always enjoyed your posts on eGullet. Your blog is fantastic! I love the idea of making my own crystallized ginger and giving it out at Christmas.

    I have a question – have you ever tried microwaving the ginger instead of steaming? I know many people swear by it for cooking veggies without losing flavor, nutrients, etc.

  2. asenjigal says:

    I have indeed tried microwaving ginger and ended up with a leather-like result that was impossible to even cut with a knife.

    I know steaming works, it doesn’t change or lessen the flavor of the ginger and the end product is exactly the way I like it.

  3. Carolyn Ellertson says:

    May I suggest using a pressure cooker for the steaming operation? I have five different sizes of them. They cut cooking time of anything. Can make the toughest old roast fork tender. I suppose you could use the canning size for huge batches like you make, but I have all sizes in addition to the canners, from about a quart or two up to six quarts to the big canners, and also have a pressure skillet of heavy metal. I’ve had them for years, and used them all my life. I understand they now have ones that are programable and do all sorts of things all with the same appliance. You could probably cut your time cooking the ginger (ie, steaming till tender) by about 2/3. I also have at least a half dozen dehydrators of different sizes and kinds, and have been dehydrating all sorts of vegetables and fruit for half a century. I will love trying your recipe with the combination I am referring to at some later date. Maybe this summer during canning season.. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and techniques. Remember, pressure cookers (or pressure saucepans) use very little water, so the water left after your ginger is tender will be very strong flavored. Could be diluted with water if desired. Let me know if you try it, and how it might work.

    • asenjigal says:

      I’ve been using pressure cookers all my adult life. and used to do a lot of canning. I have several PCs, from the biggest 41 quart All American to a little 4 quart “broaster pressure skillet” (born and raised on a farm so I learned about canning as soon as I was big enough to help)
      And a couple of electric ones, a new programmable one with 7 functions.

      I have tried pressure cooking the ginger many times and it either produces a mushy, limp, end product that is not suitable for candying or it will not absorb the simple syrup and when dried it is like leather, and without the “crunch” that is most desirable.

      I have attempted it with different times and pressure levels and have not been successful. I’ve been using the technique I describe since the early ’80s and it works.

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