Zingy Zingiber

I’m leaving tomorrow to work a fair in Cincinnati this weekend. Sitting at my desk, I’m trying to remember all the things I need to take with me (one of the reasons I always pack the car up the day before – there’s always a last minute addition or two). I’m also thinking about how pretty the first part of the trip is going to be.  To get northbound from our house, we need to go through the Ocoee Gorge – where “Deliverance” was filmed and the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition.  Although kind of a pain to drive, it has some gorgeous views.  That led me to thinking I’m really glad Mother’s not coming with. She gets motion sickness easily and even Ginger doesn’t help her nausea.

Ginger Zingiber officinalis is one of my favorite herbs. Its taste and smell remind me of Gramma’s kitchen – pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and ginger snap cookies. Little did I know back then that the sweets had something healthy in them (if you discount all the white sugar, that is).

Ginger is a good winter herb but I like it year-round. It has therapeutic properties for colds, coughs, sore throat, nausea, appetite loss and some women’s monthly problems. Don’t eat/take Ginger if you have gallstones and severely limit your intake if you’re on anti-diabetes or anti-coagulant drugs (the small amounts in cookies shouldn’t pose a problem but ask your doctor).

Ginger is very yummy and warming after being outside in winter. Since it’s a root, you want to make a decoction instead of an infusion. Take one teaspoon dried Ginger (used the dried root – the powdered stuff you cook with works but will leave a mud at the bottom of your cup), put it in 1½ cups cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and simmer until 1/3 of the water has evaporated (leaving you with 1 cup). Strain and add honey if you like it a little sweeter.

If you see Ginger fresh & sliced on a buffet at an Asian restaurant, be sure to eat a couple of slices for their healthful benefits. A friend (in Philadelphia) gave me some ginger beer years ago that was really good but I haven’t been able to find it in Georgia. (My attempt at making my own failed miserably, too.) Candied Ginger, while a pain to make, keeps well and is great to have on hand to fight a cold or the flu. Most good grocery stores will carry fresh Ginger root in with the more exotic vegetables like shiitake mushrooms.

Peel ½ pound of fresh Ginger root and slice 1/4″ thick. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 2½ hours. Drain, simmer in fresh water for another hour or so until tender and drain again. Boil 1½ cups sugar, 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup for 2 minutes. Add the Ginger slices. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. Bring to a boil again; reduce heat & simmer 1-3 hours until the Ginger begins to clear. If it thickens too much, add a little hot water. Remove from heat and dry the slices on a wire rack for a few hours. Lightly coat the slices with a little granulated or confectioner’s sugar and store in an airtight container, preferably glass. Depending on how fat your root was to begin with, which will determine how big your final candy pieces are, 1-2 pieces 3 times a day is a pretty good dosage if you’re sick, or 1-2 pieces once a day for preventive measures. It’s so tasty you can even get most kids to eat a piece – they won’t know you’re giving them “medicine”.

I won’t be posting a blog next week. Instead I’ll be overeating and then taking a nap to take my mind off the stuffed feeling. (If you don’t have time for a nap, a couple of drops of Peppermint essential oil in a full glass of water will help.) Have a wonderful holiday!