A good sushi experience is an experience in freshness. The more things you have that aren’t mass produced the better. There are various sauces and garnishes that I make from scratch for my sushi classes to support that idea of freshness, the most popular of which is my pickled ginger. Are you one of those people who request extra ginger with your sushi like it’s a meal on its own? Then read on as I share the secrets behind my pickled ginger.
While pickled ginger is meant to be a simple pallet cleanser, many people find it addicting. Pickled ginger is spicy - in a peppery sort of way - with a touch of sweetness. If you tasted pickled ginger blindly you would probably think of lemon and cloves.
When I first thought about making pickled ginger, I pondered on how potent I would make it. Some people simply think the spicier the ginger the better. My goal was to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and fiery personality. I wanted my ginger to have character, but also have a clean, pure feel.
The recipe I’m about to share with you is simple. You won’t spend a lot of money at the store on ingredients you’ll never use again. In fact, the most expensive part is the ginger root itself. You’ll find the root at any local grocery store. If you can make it to an Asian market you’ll likely find younger ginger that will be even better.
Start by peeling the skin from the ginger. You can use a peeler, but (chef trick alert) try using the side of a spoon. A spoon will navigate through the little crevasses of the ginger root, scraping all of the skin off without so much waste.
Next you’ll need to slice it up. If you’re brave and own a mandolin, go for it! What’s a mandolin? It’s a fancy culinary word for vegetable slicer. You can purchase one for under $40 at the Phoenix Knife House if you are in the Valley. If you are more comfortable with a blade in your hand then you can also slice away using a regular chef’s knife. Either way, you are looking for the ginger to be thin and consistent. Once you have it sliced, salt the sliced ginger generously and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Now that your ginger is peeled, sliced, and salted, you need to blanch it. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Put together a separate mixing bowl with water and ice. When the water comes to a boil, toss in the sliced ginger, and turn off the heat. Let the ginger sit in that hot water for two minutes. After that, strain the ginger and place it into the ice bath for another two minutes. Remove the ginger from the ice bath and shake off the excess water.
The recipe is smooth sailing from here! In the same pot you just finished using, bring these ingredients to a boil:
1 cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup fine white sugar
4 (1in) squares dried kelp (optional, and found at an Asian market)
Note: These measurements are for about eight ounces of ginger. Ginger is sold by weight, so check your receipt to see how much you got. You can adjust the amounts of vinegar, sugar, and kelp for the amount of ginger. Just keep the ratios the same.
Once the sugar is dissolved, pour the liquid over the ginger, making sure the ginger is completely submerged. Let sit at room temperature until cool, then refrigerate for 24 hours before using.
Pickled ginger will keep flavor up to six months when refrigerated. Share the recipe with your friends and neighbors, or give a jar full as a homemade gift!