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We enjoy cooking with fresh ginger. Fresh ginger root gives a bright spiciness to food that the dried, powdered version never can. And it goes with so many different recipes.
Whether in gingerbread and cookies, Asian stir-fries or curries, cold fizzy drinks, or hot tea, ginger is a staple in our kitchen.
To get the best out of ginger’s flavor, you’ll want to keep some fresh root around. But there are some questions about keeping fresh ginger.
How long does fresh ginger root last – out on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer? And should we worry about it going bad?
We’re here to answer those questions. Let start at the beginning, with buying the best fresh ginger.
When you buy fresh ginger root, you’re probably getting a few pieces taken off a whole big root.
The peel should be light brown and look smooth. It should be plump and firm.
Any shriveling is a warning that the root is old and will start going bad soon. The root should feel firm and heavy, relative to its size.
Bumps on the surface of the ginger root are fine. Even if you see a little green sprout on it, it’s fine.
But lots of long sprouts on a piece of ginger root isn’t OK. That’s a piece that’s better planted in a garden container than taken to the kitchen to cook.
Rotten ginger will have changed from a vibrant yellow color to a darker color. It will be soft and moist.
And of course, any trace of mold is a sure sign of having gone bad.
Best methods for cooking with fresh ginger root
Because ginger root is so bumpy, it’s easiest to peel it with the edge of a spoon or a paring knife. The skin is thin and easy to scrape off.
You can also use a vegetable peeler, but it’s likely to waste some of the roots.
Grating fresh ginger root is easiest done with a Microplane grater. Micro planes are basically carpenter’s rasps, which are made to grate very finely.
Another way is to use a lemon zester – if you have one. Scrape the zester back and forth on the peeled root.
That’s useful if you need only small quantities of grated ginger: say, ¼ or ½ teaspoon.
Slicing ginger root is a bit tricky, because of all the fibers it has. Slice the root thinly, with a knife or vegetable peeler.
Stack the slices up and cut them across. Turn the sticks around and cut crossways again to make dice.
Storing fresh ginger root
You can keep an uncut piece of fresh ginger root out at room temperature for a week or longer. If your kitchen or pantry is very hot and/or humid, the ginger will sprout or go rotten, but at a temperature that’s pleasant to you, it should stay fine.
But you can’t keep ginger root out forever. If you haven’t decided what to do with it, store it in the refrigerator.
Ginger root stays fresh for 4 weeks in the fridge, often longer. It needs to be well wrapped in plastic wrap or put into a sealable bag with all the air squeezed out of it.
Once a ginger root has been cut, it won’t last at room temperature. Then it must be stored in the fridge or frozen.
If a ginger root looks shriveled, its flavor is on the way out. If some parts still look whole, cut them away and use them up.
Freezing ginger root is an efficient way to store ginger root without risking it spoiling. Wrap the whole piece tightly with plastic wrap, or pop it into a freezer bag.
The best way to preserve flavor is to freeze whole root pieces. Frozen that way, the ginger root will last close to a year.
Ginger goes mushy once it’s frozen, but the flavor will be fine. If you’re using only part of a frozen root, put the unused part back in the freezer right away.
You can certainly peel and grate the root and freeze it. Spread the grated ginger over a strip of tin foil, roll it up, and cover the log with plastic wrap.
Then you can just break off however much your recipe asks for.
But be aware that grated ginger won’t last longer than a couple of months in the freezer, no matter how much you protect it with wrap. After 4 weeks, it’s best to thaw some out and taste-test it before deciding whether to use it.
Preserving fresh ginger root
An old-fashioned way to preserve ginger root is to slice it, place it in a jar or bottle, and cover it with sherry. Stir the liquid to get rid of air bubbles, and top up the jar with more wine if needed.
Put the lid or top on, tightly, and put the jar away in a cool, dark place. The ginger will infuse the wine with its tingly flavor.
Keep this gingery wine in the pantry for 3 weeks before using it in curries and stir-fries. It will last a long time.
You can do the same with good-quality vinegar. Ginger-infused vinegar makes spectacular salad dressings.
Ginger simple syrup adds bright flavor to smoothies and cocktails, or your cup of tea.
Boil 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar. Add 1 tablespoon grated ginger and steep ½ hour.
Strain the syrup. It will keep out of the fridge for 2 weeks, and a month refrigerated.
Blend peeled, grated ginger root with enough table salt to make a paste. Keep this paste in a sealed jar or container, in the refrigerator.
Ginger salt can also be frozen. Spread the paste on a sheet of plastic wrap, then roll it into a log.
Break off pieces as needed.
How about some ginger tea? This spicy beverage will warm you when you come indoors from the wintery outdoors.
But it might keep you awake longer than you like at night. Not because of caffeine, because it doesn’t have any, but because ginger tea wakes up your circulation and makes you feel active.
- 1 slice of fresh ginger, about ½ inch long
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 slice of lemon
- 1 cup of boiling water
Let the ginger, honey, and lemon infuse in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove the ginger and lemon, and enjoy.
Ginger in pregnancy
Although some authorities say that there’s no harm in ginger for pregnant women, we prefer to be cautious. Culinary amounts (that ¼ or ½ teaspoon in a whole recipe) should be fine, but we don’t advise a cup of ginger tea in pregnancy.
In folk medicine, it’s known that strong amounts of ginger, let’s say in tea or in soup, may cause miscarriage. Or a woman may get surprised by early menses after consuming a heavily gingered dish.