Texas Living

4 Ginger Essentials for Your Spice Cabinet

By Celia Bryan-Brown 1.4.19

We all know that a well-stocked pantry is the key to great cooking — but it’s amazing how many people have five different types of olive oil while completely neglecting their spice cabinet. Start the year with a cabinet packed full of delicious spice blends to give these gray January days a bit of a kick.

4 Ginger Essentials for Your Spice Cabinet

Photography by Catherine Downes

Crystallized Ginger & Syrup

Crystallized ginger is a key element of your spice cabinet. The heat from the ginger gives this sugary addition some oomph — drop it in a cup of hot tea instead of your normal spoonful of sugar; grate large pieces over melon and berries to give fruit salads a bit of zest; or liven up baked apples with a light dusting. Work this versatile pantry staple into your dinner, too — dice and fry with green onions and lemon juice to spoon over chicken and rice, or sub in for ginger and sugar in Asian recipes that call for both.

Try this recipe from pastry chef and cookbook writer David Lebovitz:

1 pound ginger
4 cups sugar, plus extra for coating at the end
4 cups water, plus extra for boiling
A pinch of salt

Peel ginger and slice as thinly as possible. Add to a pot with enough water to cover it and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat, then drain again. Add sugar, 4 cups of water, and salt, and cook until your candy thermometer reaches 225 F. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Gently reheat your mixture and strain the ginger for half an hour to an hour, draining the ginger syrup into a bowl. Toss the ginger slices in granulated sugar and spread on a baking sheet until dry.

Store your syrup in a jar once cool and break it out to pour over waffles or use to sweeten your iced teas. You can store your crystallized ginger at room temperature or refrigerate for several months.

Pear-Ginger Chutney

Chop up some of your crystallized ginger with pears to create a lightly spiced chutney. Simply decant in mason jars and tie with twine to create gifts. Or store it up in your fridge — the sweet, subtle spread makes a great, mellow accompaniment to white meats and cheeses.

Try this recipe from New York Times staff writer Melissa Clark.

4 Ginger Essentials for Your Spice Cabinet

Photography by Catherine Downes

Chai Tea

This Indian-inspired brew transforms a simple cup of black tea — or chai — mixed with spices and milk into a heady, warming mug of tea. Making up your own personal blends means you can tailor it specifically to your tastes. The key spice is cardamom, but feel free to experiment with cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves, fennel seed, coriander seed, and black pepper.

Try this recipe from Bon Appetit:

2 inches of crystallized ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
6 cups water
6 bags Darjeeling or other black tea
2 cups whole milk
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar

Combine spices in a mortar and pestle, if you have it, and lightly crush (you can use the back of a spoon if you don’t). Add to water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and add milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Strain into a teapot and serve hot.

4 Ginger Essentials for Your Spice Cabinet

Photography by Catherine Downes

Mulling Spices

These are essential to have on hand during cooler months. The neat little sachets make it so easy to whip up a batch of mulled apple cider, and make nice gifts, too. All you have to do is drop one into a pot of apple cider and simmer. The key spices are cinnamon and cloves, though again you can really blend these to your taste. Other great additions include allspice berries, star anise, cardamom pods, dried orange peel, peppercorn, and chunks of your crystallized ginger.

Yield: 15 sachets

15 cinnamon sticks (1 each)
15 star anise seeds (1 each)
1 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
½ cup cloves
¼ cup allspice berries
¼ cup cardamom pods
2 tablespoons peppercorns
15 tea sachets

Start with one cinnamon stick and one star anise seed in each sachet. Mix the rest of your spices together in a bowl and add about 2 tablespoons into each sachet. Add one sachet to a liter or jug of apple cider in a saucepan and simmer. Discard the sachet when the desired flavor is there. Serve warm!

Try stocking your pantry with barbecue sauces and backyard jellies.

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