Candied ginger root, sometimes called crystalized ginger, is a perfect garnish for “Buck” or “Mule” style cocktails. It also makes a delicious snack. You can buy crystalized ginger, but making it yourself is easy, it guarantees control over the ingredients used, and the by-products of the process can be used in cocktails. Ginger comes in various sizes and shapes, so we will keep the description of this technique proportional and self-referencing. This works because the process only requires loose precision for good results.
Ginger is a root that grows in flat-branching lobes. If possible, select a piece with thicker sections as this makes washing and peeling easier. Wash your ginger by scrubbing vigorously with water and rinse away any dirt clods that tend to stick into crevices between the lobes. It can help to break off tiny pieces or to separate large lobes.
Peeling ginger can be awkward and dangerous with a sharp vegetable peeler, so we use a spoon. As odd as that sounds, the edge of a spoon is sharp enough to easily scrape off the skin, yet safe and easy to manipulate. Give the peeled root a quick rinse and chop into small pieces across the grain. The thickness of slices should be kept to an eighth or a quarter inch, but a variety of shapes and sizes is common and expected.
Ginger root, peeled and chopped
Simmer ginger root submerged in water for 10 minutes. Pour off water and prepare a simple syrup. Cover ginger with syrup and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove ginger and toss with granulated sugar. Allow to dry. Store in a clean glass jar.
Place your peeled and chopped ginger into a small saucepan and add enough water to barely cover all of the pieces. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then simmer for 10 minutes. You don’t want a rolling boil here, as we are trying to cook and saturate the ginger, not reduce the liquid. After 10 minutes, pour off the infused water and save it if you like. The ginger water can be mixed with honey to make a honey-ginger syrup that is perfect for the Penicillin cocktail. Keep the cooked ginger pieces in the saucepan for the next step.
We are going to make a simple syrup and add this to the ginger in the saucepan. If you measure the water you just removed and divide that measurement by 1.5, the result is how much fresh water you should add back to the saucepan. In addition, add the same volume of granulated sugar. Stir the ginger, water and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and simmer this for another 10 minutes.
At this point, your candied ginger is done and can be removed from the syrup. Ten minutes is enough to draw the sugar into the root, but only produces a mildly flavored syrup byproduct. Still, this syrup can be used to make ginger ale or even a few cocktails, but it will not retain its spicy character for very long. Remember, our goal was to preserve the ginger with sugar, not extract its flavor into a syrup. For a fantastic ginger syrup recipe checkout this post.
Prepare a bowl with fresh sugar and toss in your wet, candied ginger as you remove it from the syrup. Roll the pieces into the sugar to coat them, then set them onto parchment to dry. The drying time will take a day or so, but you can use them immediately. They do not completely harden once dried, but remain chewy like a gumdrop. Store the dried pieces in a clean, dry jar. Slide a few pieces onto a skewer pick for a tasty cocktail garnish.