When I decided I wanted to candy some ginger I got to thinking about the ginger tea we always drink. It's Stash brand and it's actually ginger lemon. (I highly recommend it for when you are too lazy to make your own ginger tea. We keep a few boxes on hand at all times.) I like it a lot more than straight ginger tea because the lemon tempers some of the heat.
So I decided when I candied my ginger I'd do some lemon peel at the same time. I started researching on the internet for instructions and guess what I found? There are as many different instructions for candying ginger as there are people who've tried it. So I kind of averaged out the recipes and hoped for the best.
To start with I had to zest my lemons. Mom insisted on organic lemons (since you are using the peel which is where all the chemicals would be) so we had to shlep out to one of the local health food stores (actually we had to try two before we found them). Some instructions want you to cut the peel off and then cut off the white pith. I found that using a vegetable peeler I was able to avoid most of the pith.
On a side note I have a friend who peels all the white stringy stuff off the outside of oranges and eats it. Yuck.
So after I had my nice pile of zest (and some sad naked lemons which I had to think of a use for) I got to work on the ginger.
It seems the proper ginger peeling method is to actually use a spoon rather then a peeler. Here mom is demonstrating proper spoon peeling technique:
Once I had a couple roots peeled I cut them into approximately one inch sections. I then flipped these sections so the cut side was up (and down) and sliced them thinly this direction. It's important to cut your pieces length wise because otherwise you are running against all those little fibers and it could get very hard to cut. But luckily my ginger was fairly fresh so no fiber issues.
So those steps again are: Peel:
Cut into sections:
Flip and cut sections lengthwise:
Here is my finished pile of cut ginger:
Most of the instructions for both lemon peel and ginger said you need to boil and drain them several times to get them tender before candying them. I boiled my lemon peel once and it was nice and soft and not at all bitter.
I tasted a piece of uncooked ginger and it was also nice and tender so I decided to avoid boiling it at all. (Plus it was nice and juicy and since you boil ginger to make tea wouldn't you be losing a lot of the flavor if you did this?)
Another inconsistency I found in the instructions was that a lot of people complained that most recipes call for way too much sugar syrup. Although the sugar/water ratio needs to stay the same I think that you need just enough of the liquid that the peel and ginger could float around and get coated. I ended up with about 5 cups each of sugar and water.
You then boil it until it reaches 125 degrees on a candy thermometer. What a time I had finding a candy thermometer! But that's another story. I think it probably took mine about an hour to get to this point? Of course I didn't time it because that would have made sense.
I drained my ingredients (saving the syrup that drained off) and tossed all the lemon peel and ginger into a bowl of sugar so it could get nice and sugar crusted. I had to peel a few pieces apart to make sure they all got coated and you need to be careful here because the pieces are very hot.
Here they are drained:
I then laid them out on wax paper to dry for a little bit and they were done! They were both delicious. The lemon peel is milder but the ginger is super intense. It's definitely only for people who really like spicy ginger. The only down side is that once they were coated in sugar the lemon and ginger was fairly indistinguishable.
Those of you with an aversion to waste might be thinking: "Whatever happened to all that syrup?" I had a plan, and it was a good one. My plan was to save the syrup to use in making delicious gingery lemon sodas by combining it with seltzer. This notion was backed up by many people who suggested saving the syrup.
Of course what I hadn't thought of was that if you are candying the ginger and lemon you are also candying the syrup. So when I initially poured it out it was nice and thick:
But within a few minutes it had begun to solidify. There would be no ginger soda for me apparently. Now our only option is to reheat the entire jar to soften it or throw the whole thing out. Not a tragic loss but still disappointing nonetheless.
And the best part about candied ginger? Ginger has medicinal uses so you can just use those as an excuse when you eat some. For example: I had a tummy ache so I needed candy, I swear.