Saturday, 29 January 2011

Pickled Ginger (with added thumb goodness)

A few days before Christmas I took delivery of an Asda grocery order. In amidst the festive items was supposed to be one piece of fresh ginger. Foolishly, instead of asking for one piece I asked for one kilo. D'Oh! This is what one kilo of ginger looks like.

Even that picture doesn't do it justice. If you consider how little you need to flavour, say, a stir-fry, that's a lot to use up. It was stuck in the corner of my potato basket getting wrinklier and more fibrous by the day.

My original thought was to make ginger jam, but at the time the nation was still covered in a blanket of snow and ice. Quite frankly, it's a flipping miracle I managed to get my hands on any shopping at all, let alone preserving materials. I left it a couple of weeks but by mid-January I either needed to make use of these knobbly chunks of heat or get rid. I was tempted to turn it into ginger beer, which I'm pretty much addicted to anyway. But the Nigel Slater recipe I'd been given called for Cream of Tartar, which I definitely didn't have and seemed to be a pretty important component. I eventually settled on pickling. 

I'd never pickled anything before, but how hard could it be? It's just vinegar, a bit of sugar and a few other bits.  I asked everyone's best friend, Google, to help me out and chose the simplest recipe I could find. 

The first thing I needed to do was peel it. If you're not a fan of potato peeling, I suggest you delegate the peeling of the ginger to a lesser human being. It's hell. Especially when it's turned as fibrous as mine had and the skin has begun to resemble that of a coin-operated sunbed addict. It was a fiddly job, but I got there in the end:

If I thought the peeling was fiddly, the best was yet to come. It was time to thinly slice. Time to bring out......the mandolin! *HITCHCOCK SCREAM* Having only recently started using this (very cheap) mandolin, I had been quite chuffed with the fact that I'd used it a few times without a single injury. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had told me to be careful when using a mandolin. Me? Clumsy? Never. I'll be fiiiiiiiiine. 

I happily went on my merry way, swiftly guiding the ginger across the blade. I was displaying the precision of Tai Chi but with significant speed. Then I came across an especially slippery piece of ginger. It was determined not to allow the guard to puncture it. I gave it a good push and all seemed well until the guard slipped and I dragged the top of my thumb straight into the blade.

Cutting yourself with a very sharp knife or blade is a bit like stubbing your toe; it hurts so much you can't even make a sound for a few seconds. I gave it a look and realised I'd made a pretty hefty incision into my right thumb. And OH GOD did it bleed. I grabbed a tea towel and gradually changed it from white to red while whispering "Don't faint." I'm not good with my own blood. Other people's is fine. My own makes me feel a bit light-headed. I pulled myself together and eventually found a plaster that would actually stay on while I finished the slicing. 

It doesn't look like much but under that plaster my thumb was a squidgy, open mess.  I'm a trooper, so I managed to get the job done and transfer the ginger to a bowl of salted water to soak for an hour. 

After the ginger has soaked it need to be drained and dried thoroughly. The recipe suggests using a salad spinner, but I found draining it with a colander and squeezing tightly in some kitchen roll did the job. Now on to the actual pickling. 

I boiled 500ml of rice vinegar with some brown sugar. I worked on the rule that however much vinegar you use, you should use 2/3rds the volume of sugar. While the vinegar warmed I sterilised a 1ltr Kilner Preserving Jar with boiling water, drained the water, then filled it with the ginger. According to the recipe, very young ginger should turn pink on contact with the vinegar. As we've already established that mine was collecting its pension, I wasn't expecting any change when I poured the vinegar and sugar mixture over the ginger in the jar. Still, I was a little disappointed when it stayed the shame shade of potato it had before and didn't change to pink on dunking. Like a litmus test. Or a pregnancy test. Actually, ignore that last one. It might make this next image look a little dubious. 

The vinegar needs to cool completely before putting on the lid. This will avoid any build-up of steam in the jar.  How I'll ever make enough sushi to justify having this much pickled ginger, I have no idea, but it's got to be better than throwing it away. And it looks pretty in the cupboard amongst the unpronounceable squid sauce and Sarsons.

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