Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Home-made candied ginger

In my childhood recollections, candied ginger is a Proustian madeleine. [If you don't know what I mean, look up the last pair of words in Google.] This delicious foodstuff is associated, in my memories, with Xmas celebrations in the house of my paternal grandparents in Oliver Street, Grafton.

Anne, Don and me at our grandparents' home in Oliver Street

Often, when I drop in at an organic-foods store in St-Marcellin, I buy a bag of candied ginger... and I generally end up eating it all before I get home. You see, I really seem to be addicted to candied ginger. Recently, my Choranche neighbor Tineke gave me a jar of fine candied ginger in syrup from the Netherlands. Recipes on the Internet suggest that it's quite easy to prepare. So, I gave it a try. First, you peel the ginger roots and chop them into pieces.

From that point on, it's basically just a matter of boiling the pieces, three or four times, in a sugar syrup. Here's the end result:

My home-made candied ginger is delicious... but there won't be much of it left by the time this blog post is published. The chunks are soft and tasty, but they're slightly stringy, which simply indicates that the raw ginger rhizomes (roots) that I purchased in a local fruit and vegetables store were not quite as fresh as I would have hoped. If the rhizomes had been younger (as seems to be the case for the abopve-mentioned Dutch product), there would have been no stringiness whatsoever, and the boiling operations would have rendered the chunks quite transparent.

Incidentally, when I drained the ginger chunks, I set aside the precious syrup in which they had been cooked. I then used this syrup to flavor chilled Perrier, obtaining a liquid madeleine from my childhood in South Grafton: ginger ale.

Maybe the ideal way of obtaining fresh ginger rhizomes would be to actually grow the plant here in my vegetable garden at Gamone. For me, though, there's a problem. Experts state that the ideal constant temperature for ginger plants is around 25 degrees Centigrade. That more-or-less rules out Gamone... unless, of course, I were to install a small greenhouse. And, to heat it in winter, I could use a solar panel. Now, that sounds like a pretty complex project aimed at resurrecting my madeleine. Maybe I should choose the relatively simple strategy adopted by Marcel Proust, and write a book on the subject.


  1. I like it when the ginger is yellow skinned, not brown and hard - that's fresh! But I've never been a fan of crystallised ginger, I prefer it as a curry ingredient...

  2. Annie: Thanks for providing me with the elusive adjective "crystallised", which was on the tip of my tongue when I was writing this blog post. I'm wondering whether this term can be applied to the product in both its wet (immersed in syrup) and dry states. As I indicated in my recent blog post about walnuts [here], I'll soon be needing an appropriate name for young walnuts cooked in sugar syrup. Incidentally, even though I've adopted US spelling (which appears to me as more logical and less heavy-handed than English/Australian spelling, in spite of being further removed from the French origins of many words), I squirm when using the terms "candy" or "candied", which evoke images of spoilt overweight American kids in a world of hamburgers and Coca-Cola.

  3. I'm a daily snacker of the supermarket variety of prepackaged ginger ...Buderim Naked Ginger Uncrystallised, which has always had me wonder why it was "Uncrystallised" as it seems to be coated in sugary crystals. A friend suggested eating raw almonds with the ginger and its a delicious combination.

  4. Narelle: Click here for a short but informative Wikipedia article on the method of fruit preservation designated as either candied (USA), crystallized (UK and Australia, written locally as "crystallised") or glacé (France). Of the three terms, the American "candied" is probably the least ambiguous. The problem with "crystallised" is that we start looking for visible crystals, which simply don't exist. (It's a microscopic process that takes place inside the fruit.) The macroscopic sugar crystals that you mentioned were simply obtained by rolling the candied ginger in powdered sugar, but this has nothing to do with the preservation process. Is it possible that the people who produce "Buderim Naked" ginger might be totally confused when they describe it as "uncrystallised"? As for the French adjective "glacé", I find it most complicated, because the verb "glacer" is used with several quite different meanings in French cooking terminology. I was interested to hear of your suggestion of combining ginger with raw almonds. Quite by chance, I got into the habit of eating ginger along with dried figs... simply because I often purchase both these fruits in the same organic-foods store. It's a fact that the pleasure of eating ginger is enhanced by some accompanying foodstuff. Bizarre, no? The other day, I found a French brand of ice cream containing macadamia nuts, no doubt from Australia. I'm enthusiastic about all the foodstuffs that we're talking about: candied fruit, dried fruit and nuts of all kinds. And fresh fruit, of course...