Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Crystallized Candied Ginger

As is often the case with specialty ingredients, a recipe requires a small amount, but you must purchase a much larger portion then needed.  This is often true for ingredients like fresh ginger root or fresh turmeric. Unless you cook recipes that use fresh ginger every day, using up a knob of ginger takes a conscious effort. What to make with all that ginger? One solution is make candied ginger.

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Baby, or young, fresh ginger root

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Adult, or mature, ginger root with candied ginger

This week I found myself in this exact predicament of having more fresh ginger than I could use. I bought more ginger than usual because a couple of farmers at the market sold baby ginger. I love how baby ginger looks (also known as young ginger), and wanted to photograph it. With its’ creamy pale-pink coloring and smooth skin, it is hard to believe it is ginger. I had about a half of a pound of young ginger and needed to figure out something to make with it. It dawned on me there was no candied ginger in the house. This was a missing pantry item over the whole summer, so it was time to make it.

I happen to like ginger and often cook with it. When I have candied ginger in my pantry, I enjoy it with my breakfast sprinkled over yogurt, in granola, oatmeal, cookies, pies, crumbles, cakes and muffins, or for an afternoon pick-me-up. I found eating a date stuffed with a slice of candied ginger and a walnut, squelches any sugar cravings and afternoon munchies.

People swear by fresh ginger’s ability to soothe an upset stomach and morning sickness, and is good for digestion. I used to drink an elixir of ginger, turmeric, lemon juice and honey to reduce inflammation. With all these great health benefits, I like to always have some form of ginger available.

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Some people have a philosophy, that they won’t make a specialty food if they can easily buy it from a quality and reliable source. Not me. I am open to make just about anything. So why make candied ginger when you can easily buy it? For me, it is all about knowing what I put in my body and reducing my carbon footprint. If I make candied ginger, I can buy organic ginger at the store, or locally grown baby ginger at a farmer’s market. I also don’t use any preservatives.

You also get two by-products when you make candied ginger, ginger simple syrup and ginger sugar. Both taste great in hot or cold tea, coffee, homemade soda or drinks, or in baked goods. I particularly like using the ginger syrup in a ginger martini.

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

 

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

There are a couple of obstacles that intimidate people and prevent them from making candied ginger. You need a candy thermometer, or one that reads temperatures above 250°F (121°C), like a Thermapen instant read thermometer. Thermometers are our friends. They tell us important and accurate information about our food, especially when cooking with meats. This information lets us know our food is properly cooked, or not. There are visual clues to read, but the internal temperature of a piece of meat does not lie and indicates exactly how far along your meat has cooked. If you don’t own a thermometer, you should get one. I rely on mine all the time. You don’t need an expensive one, just one that is reliable and easy to read.

Thermometer brands I like are Thermoworks, and CDN. The Thermapen by Thermoworks is the highest rated instant read thermometer. It is also expensive. Thermoworks makes other instant read thermometers, like pocket thermometers that are less expensive. (This is not a sponsored post)

Also, making candied ginger does take some time to make. Fortunately, while the ginger simmers, cools and dries, you can work on other projects. The time between the cooling and drying, and coating the ginger with sugar is a couple of hours. Later, the sugar-coated ginger needs to air dry some more.  Fortunately, this is something you can set up and forget about until later. I believe the positive reasons for making candied ginger outweigh the negatives.

This recipe is slightly adapted from David Lebovitz recipe . I have been making this for a few years and really like it. It produces a lot of the ginger syrup too. I scaled his recipe down and only use a half pound of ginger. The original recipe specifies, one pound of ginger and 4 cups each of sugar and water. It is an easy recipe to scale up or down because the ingredients are easily divided by or multiplied by 2. Plus, the water and sugar ratio is one to one.

Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Crystallized Candied Ginger reicpe

Recipes to use with your candied ginger:

Apple muffins with Lemon Glaze

Chocolate Bark

Low Fat Granola

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Fall is here and along with the changing leaves, back to school, and colder temperatures, the holidays are around the corner. Hopefully, that means there is a lot of festivities and parties to attend. I believe a jar of homemade candied ginger is a perfect host/hostess gift. What a thoughtful thank you. Who does not like a delicious homemade treat? Attach a recipe that uses candied ginger, and your host or hostess will be more appreciative.

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Crystallized Candied Ginger recipe

Candied Ginger

Making your own candy ginger is easy to do and tastes a lot better than store bought. In addition to the candy ginger, this recipe makes two other by-products, ginger simple syrup and ginger sugar. So don't throw out anything. The syrup is great in drinks or used in baked goods. The total time to make candied ginger does not include the couple of hours needed to dry the ginger after it is cooked in the simple syrup and before you coat the ginger with granulated sugar. Candied ginger, also known as crystallized ginger, tastes great served with fresh fruit, like pears and apples. It is also a great addition in muffins, pies, cookies and cakes. I like to add it to my bowl of yogurt and granola. This recipe is slightly adapted from David Lebovitz recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Candied Ginger

  • 1/2 lb fresh ginger root
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • small pinch of salt

Special equipment

  • 3-4 quart saucepan
  • Candy thermometer
  • Lightly greased cooling rack or parchment paper
  • Sheet pan large enough for the cooling rack to fit in
  • Air tight container to store the candied ginger

Instructions

Candied Ginger

  1. Peel the ginger using the side of a spoon and scrape off the thin skin. Slice the ginger into 1/8-inch (3 mm) pieces with a thin and sharp paring knife or mandoline slicer.
  2. Add the ginger slices to a saucepan then add enough water to cover the ginger slices by one inch (2.5 cm). Bring the water to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes or until the ginger slices are tender and easily pierced with a fork*.
  3. Pour out the tender ginger slices into a fine mesh strainer resting over a bowl to catch the water. Measure the water and add more to equal 2 cups for a half pound of ginger.
  4. Add the water and 2 cups of sugar, pinch of kosher salt to the saucepan and add the ginger slices. (if you are concerned with the ginger syrup crystallizing add 1- 2 TB of corn syrup). Stir to help the sugar dissolve.
  5. Bring the sugar water to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-high and cook the ginger until the sugar water reaches 225°F (107°C).
  6. Turn off heat and set the saucepan aside.
  7. If you want to keep the candied ginger in the syrup, let it steep in the syrup for at least one hour, up to overnight. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about one year.
  8. If you want to dry the ginger and add a sugar coating, immediately pour the ginger into a fine mesh strainer resting over a bowl large enough to hold the ginger syrup. The ginger syrup is delicious and can be used in many different recipes.
  9. Spread the candied ginger over a cooling rack, resting on a sheet pan to catch any drips. Make sure the ginger slices are not stuck together. Let them air dry for 2 hours. You are ready to coat the ginger when it is sticky but not too wet or dry.
  10. Pour about 1/2 cup (125 ml) of granulated sugar on a plate and toss the ginger slices in the sugar to coat. Return the ginger to a clean cooling rack resting over a clean sheet pan and let it dry for 2 hours.
  11. Store in an air tight container, in a cool, dry place. The candied ginger will last for about one month.

Recipe Notes

*The time spent simmering the ginger depends on the age of your ginger root. The younger the ginger is the more tender it is. Older ginger can get a very fibrous texture. Simmer the ginger slices until it is just tender.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Why make ricotta cheese and add one more thing to do in your busy day? Is it really necessary to make ricotta cheese if I am already making a lasagna that takes too long? The answer is an unflappable yes because the taste is 100 times better than store-bought. Ricotta cheese bought in grocery stores tastes gummy, gritty, and filled with additives to prevent the whey and curds from separating. Ricotta should have a pure milk flavor, not a chemical flavor.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Another good reason to make homemade ricotta is a small gesture, but a good one. Sourcing milk from small farms will reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, milk from cows that are allowed to graze, eat a natural diet of grass, and produce hormone and antibiotic free milk, tastes better and is better for our health. Further, clean farming practices and less plastic containers in the world will ultimately make it a healthier and cleaner place.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

I wanted to share this recipe because it is so simple and quick. If you are at all skeptical about starting another project, I believe this is a great way to ease into making ricotta cheese. The recipe makes a small batch, enough to use in pancakes, or to make one of my favorite appetizers, ricotta with lemon zest, mint and honey spread on toasted bread.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Recipe

This recipe is from the cookbook, Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Additionally, Kenji is the founder of the website, Serious Eats, which I reference a lot. He is all about the science of cooking and puts recipes through rigorous testing to come up with the best practice to produce the tastiest results. This recipe will produce about 1 cup of fresh ricotta and could take 5-15 minutes from start to finish. Another easy bonus is, it is prepared in the microwave.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

However, the recipe is not without its challenges. When I first made it, the bowl I used barely fit inside my microwave. I believe the lack of space around the bowl made an unevenness in the way the milk heated up. The temperature of the milk between the top and bottom of the bowl differed by 10 – 15 degrees. This resulted in producing less ricotta from the quart of milk than the recipe indicated. The next time I made the recipe in the microwave, I used a Pyrex mixing bowl and had better results.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Keys to Success making Ricotta

You will need an instant read thermometer. Getting the milk to 165F is crucial to making ricotta. It’s important to make sure that the milk doesn’t get too hot and start to boil.

Do not use ultra pasteurized milk. The milk carton label must inform the consumer of the type of pasteurization process. All organic milk sold in the grocery store is ultra pasteurized. This is done to make sure the milk has a longer shelf life. Ultra pasteurized milk will not turn into ricotta cheese since the good bacteria needed to help create the curds is non-existent.

Distilled vinegar produces the cleanest taste. Lemon juice will give the ricotta a distinct lemon flavor. Regardless of which acid you use, the flavors in warm and freshly made ricotta were more pronounced. The flavors mellowed after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. The ricotta became drier overnight as well.

A microwave safe bowl with a wider mouth had better results than an 2 quart liquid measuring cup. Additionally, remember that this won’t work exactly the same across all microwaves.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta reicpe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe
What to make with fresh Ricotta?

Mix one cup of ricotta cheese with zest of one lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint. Spread the cheese on toasted baguette and drizzle with honey. It is a creamy, bright and slightly sweet appetizer plus it is easy to prepare.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

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Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

A simple recipe for homemade ricotta and finished in about 5 - 7 minutes. It produces a creamy ricotta, perfect as a spread on toast. (See blog post for ricotta spread recipe). It is a great recipe to use and get familiar with the ricotta making process. This is a recipe from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Servings 1 cup ricotta
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 4 cups/ 1 liter whole milk not ultra-pasteurized
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup distilled vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice about 2 lemons

Instructions

  1. Line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the strainer over a large and deep bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Gently stir. Use a bowl with a 2-quarts capacity. Place the bowl in the microwave and turn on high for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Check the temperature of the milk, if it is not 165˚F / 74˚C, continue to microwave checking every minute or 30 seconds until the milk reaches 165˚F / 74˚C. You will see the milk curdle and the liquid (whey) become clearer and separate from the curds. If the liquid is milky and without a clear separation between the whey and the curds, the ricotta is not finished. There is a 165˚F/ 74˚C to 180˚F / 82˚C temperature window to work in.
  4. Once the milk/ricotta cheese reached the desired temperature, take the bowl out of the microwave and lightly stir for a few seconds.
  5. Use a spider or slotted spoon to scoop out the curds into a cheese cloth lined strainer. Scoop out as much of the curds as possible, then gently pour the remaining liquid into the strainer. Drain the ricotta to your desired texture. 5 minutes will have the creamiest and moist texture. 15-20 minutes will produce a texture that is spreadable and slightly moist. 2 hours or refrigerated overnight, will produce dry and crumbly curds.

Recipe Notes

This recipe can be made on the stove top in a large saucepan. Add all the ingredients into a medium saucepan with the heat set at medium to medium-low. Stir the milk constantly and gradually heat the milk to 165F / 74C. Continue as directed to drain the whey.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Salt of the Earth and Sea

Know your Salt

The Pantry | March 6, 2016 | By

Salt is a mineral, sodium chloride that comes from the sea. Even the salt we mine in the ground, originated from oceans that have evaporated and buried eons ago. Each type of salt has a distinctive taste and texture dependent on its processing and where it originated, (McGee, Harold, On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of The Kitchen 2004).

Kosher Salt vs Table Salt

I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt as my all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. What I learned is, not all brands are alike. Some brands are flaky, some are granular, Also, the size of the crystals changes from brand to brand as well. Size and density of each granule affect the total weight and volume. Therefore, for consistency, I only use one brand.

At first, Diamond Crystal Kosher salt was the only brand available at my local grocery store. It was just the luck of the draw. Over time I continued using this brand because prefer the size and shape of the crystals. Diamond’s crystals are smaller, and I find the smaller crystals dissolve faster and give me more control when I sprinkle salt on my food. Feel free to use what brand you have but if you are not sure how it compares to Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, start with a little less, taste and add more if needed. It is easier to add more salt than take away. Also, I recommend weighing your ingredients. Use a scale with metric and US measurements.

I prefer Kosher salt to table salt because of the flavor. Because Kosher salt does not have additives in it, I believe it has a cleaner taste. An additional bonus is, I also use less when cooking with kosher salt without sacrificing on flavor. The weight of a teaspoon of table salt is not equal to the weight of a teaspoon of Kosher salt, or a teaspoon of sea salt. On average, a teaspoon of table salt weighs 6 grams. Whereas a teaspoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt weighs 3 grams, and a teaspoon of Maldon sea salt weighs 4 grams. That is a big difference and will greatly influence the flavor of your finished meal.

If Kosher salt is specified and you only have table salt, use half of the specified amount of salt in the recipe. If needed, you can add more salt throughout the cooking process. This precaution is only necessary when the recipe gives ingredients in volumes, such as a teaspoon or tablespoon. If a recipe provides a weight measurement, usually in grams, use the same weight of Kosher Salt for the table salt.

Sea Salt

I use Maldon sea salt for my finishing salt. Maldon is available at good grocery stores and at a reasonable price. I prefer its’ pyramid and flaky shape. The crystals are not chunky and will easily break apart if needed.  Also, I am not a fan of large salt crystals that are chunky small pebbles. The granules are too big, have a dominant taste, and feels like you are eating course sand.

 

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© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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