This is one of the world's premier confections. It is wonderful by itself
as a sweet. Given a bittersweet chocolate coating garnished with chopped macadamia
or hazelnuts it is an elegant candy. Chopped or julienned it garnishes pastries,
custards, pumpkin pies, stewed fruits, cookies and many other desserts.
This is not a difficult, but it needs to be watched, and the heat regulated carefully,
so that all goes SLOWLY and that the cooking is stopped at the proper time.
Choose about 10 ounces of young, tender ginger, as fresh as possible. Ten ounces
will give you about 6 ounces of cleaned and sliced ginger root. The characteristics
you want to look for are:
Thin, tender and even brown skin
Firm flesh with minimal "give"
Well shaped main body with minimal extraneous protrusions
A fresh and pleasant odor
Carefully peel off the outside brown skin of the root. Remove the secondary knobs,
and freeze them for another use. Cut out any discolored or dried out spots. Cut
the root into 2-inch lengths and slice lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices. Punch holes
in the slices with a needle or fork (somewhat like you would tenderize a steak).
Toss the slices in a bowl with 2 cups granulated sugar.
Add 1 tablespoon of water to a 6- or 8-inch cast iron frying pan or a heavy wok.
Pour in the ginger and sugar, and bring very slowly to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally
for one hour.
Lower the heat to a minimum and let very slowly simmer, stirring occasionally
and separating the slices, until the syrup starts to get thick and crystallize.
There will be a rim of sugar that crystallizes out around the edge of the pan, and
the mixture will become quite thick and syrupy, and will have a lot of sugar crystals
in it. Soon the mixture will bubble slowly all over the surface, and when gently
stirred will crystallize more and more. (This last phase only takes a few minutes,
so watch carefully toward the end. If it caramelizes, it's ruined.) Soon the
syrup is mostly crystals, and the whole mass will start coming together when stirred.
When you can make a pile of it in the middle of the pan, and very little syrup drains
out, remove from the heat, and toss gently while it cools. Make sure the slices
remain separated. If done right, the crystallized ginger slices will separate from
the sugar at this point. Spread everything out on a tray to cool and dry.
Store airtight where it is dark and cool. Use the sugar in coffee, bread, cookies,