Today’s guest post is from adventurer and home canner Heather Francis. She is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada but has lived and worked on the ocean for over a decade. A professional cook who’s worked on both land and sea, these days you’ll find her in the galley of Kate, the Newport 41’ sloop she and her Aussie partner, Steve, have been sailing since 2008. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines. Follow their adventures on Yacht Kate.
Fresh ginger is something that I always have in my galley; it’s peppery, citrus bite a staple in the quick, Asian-inspired dishes that I regularly prepare. However, it is not really something have room for in my fridge. I know a piece of ginger isn’t all that big, but when your total cold storage space isn’t much bigger than the freezer section of a typical domestic refrigerator you tend to be picky about what goes into it.
Years I ago I discovered that you can preserve ginger, and other rhizomes like turmeric, simply by submersing it in alcohol. The method that has a two-fold result; fresh ginger/turmeric that is ready to add to any dish, and some delightfully flavoured alcohol ready to add to your sundown cocktail. And best of all, no fancy equipment or refrigeration required.
All you will need is a large, clean glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid, enough ginger or turmeric to fill it, a sharp paring knife and a bottle rum, gin or vodka, depending on your tastes.
When buying ginger or turmeric look for pieces that are plump with tight, shiny skin. Fresh, young ginger will have juicy, tender flesh without a lot of fibrous strings, which makes it easier to grate when using it later. Stay away from anything that looks shriveled and dry.
I use a paring knife to peel the ginger and cut it into rough 1” pieces, the size I would use for cooking. If you prefer you can use another tool or a fancy gadget to peel the ginger however, I find a knife efficient and since ginger is so cheap in the tropics I am not overly concerned about the small amount of wastage. If you are using turmeric, you may want to wear gloves as it will stain your skin (and everything it touches) vivid yellow.
Then pack the ginger into a jar, leaving about a ½” head space. You may need to shake and arrange the odd-shapes pieces to get them to fit. Next pour the alcohol over the ginger, making sure to cover it completely. As long as the ginger is totally submerged and away from air it will stay preserved. All that is left it to screw on the lid and put it in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight.
You can use the ginger right away, but the flavour takes a while to infuse into the alcohol, so I generally forget about it for at least 2-3 weeks. Depending on the size of the jar it can take me a month or so to work my way through the ginger.
When your recipe calls for ginger simply fish out a piece with a clean utensil and grate it into your dish. The ginger or turmeric will soften the longer it is left in the alcohol, but the flavour will not deteriorate. And, no need to worry about the alcohol flavouring your dish, it will burn off in the heat of your skillet. If you find yourself thirsty one fine evening, make sure to top up the alcohol to prevent spoilage.
I prefer to use rum over ginger and gin over turmeric, but if you’re a vodka drinker it will work well too. Because this process ends up flavouring the alcohol it is a fabulous way to perk up a less than sophisticated bottle of booze. In fact, you can just use this technique to flavour your tipple of choice and create your very own signature cocktail.
- 1 1/5 ounce turmeric gin
- Splash of soda water
- Slice of perfectly ripe mango
- Serve over ice in a high ball glass, muddling the mango after presentation to enhance the flavour.