The second spice-related potluck that I attended for the Spiced-Up Meetup group that I recently joined featured ginger. As with any theme-related activities in which I participate, I like to look for dishes that stretch my culinary skills and challenge my creativity. Often, that means I look for savory uses for those ingredients most closely-associated with sweet, and vice versa.
Ginger is one of those spices that straddles both sides of the sweet/savory spectrum quite evenly, so I was having a hard time choosing between sweet or savory. I finally decided to focus more on stretching my skills than on challenging my creativity and concentrated on finding something with which I had little experienced. I remembered that I had seen Nigella Lawson pull out some ginger marmalade for a dish she was preparing on her show and I was immediately intrigued by that, and just as immediately forgot about it. But now that I was racking my brain trying to think of something new to try with ginger, it popped back into my memory and I decided to take a stab at ginger marmalade.
When I started looking up recipes, though, I realized that I am not ready to tackle actual marmalade yet. I do see jams and jellies in my future, but I am just not there yet so I decided to make a quick ginger jam. There weren't a lot of recipes out there, but the one I found at livestrong.com looked viable. So I bought about a pound of ginger and got to work.
I peeled and chopped the ginger. I chopped it as finely as I could, but was not sure how fine it should be, as the recipe was not specific about that. I put it into a saucepan with the lemon and sugar and turned on the heat.
And it became almost immediately apparent to me that it was not going to turn into jam. Unlike fruit, ginger does not break down as it cooks. I realized then how much I rely on the breakdown of the fruit to determine the consistency of the few freezer jams I had made so far. So I cooked it, and I cooked it, and I cooked it some more. Because the ginger held its shape, I couldn't really get a sense of how thick the liquid was getting. By the time I realized that it was never going to come together in the way that I had been expecting it to, the liquid had cooked almost completely down and I was not sure what would remain. And there was a LOT of it. I had no choice but to put it all into a bowl and pop it into the refrigerator.
Once it had cooled and I could taste it and analyze it, I realized that what I had made was more candied ginger than ginger jam. Super sweet and biting hot, it was one of those times where it was a happy event, however, and I realized that I could still use it with my intended dish, just not exactly as I had intended it.
I had planned to make ginger scones and top them with a dollop of creme fraiche and the ginger jam. I couldn't really use the ginger as a jam, but I realized I could combine it with another fruit, so I threw together a batch of strawberry jam to which I added about a tablespoon of the ginger. It was quite tasty, and a big hit at the potluck. It was such a big hit, in fact, that it disappeared before I could put one together for a picture.
I did have scones left over, as I had made a double batch), so I was able to enjoy the scones with creme fraiche and some of the candied ginger by itself, which was delicious as well. I was able to manage to snap a photo of that, as you can see.
I am so happy that I have discovered how easy it is to make candied ginger. I had a lot of it, but there is so much sugar in it that it stores well and I can dole it out in small amounts whenever I want to indulge in a little sweet treat. I also was able to gift a few fellow bakers with some and still have enough to last me a while. It's a huge payback for such a small effort.
1 lb ginger root, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook until the liquid has basically boiled down and just covers the ginger. Let cool.
10/27/14 based on recipe found at http://www.livestrong.com/article/449479-how-to-make-ginger-jam/