If you have read any of my past blogs you may know I am from a little town in Iowa, Fort Dodge to be exact. Growing up in a rural area, in a small Midwestern town in the 70’s, I had little exposure to ginger.
My first recollection of ginger was more of an unpleasant mishap. I was about three years old, and I know this mishap occurred largely because I couldn’t read yet. I was up early one morning before my mother and was hungry for cinnamon toast. I remember popping my toast in the toaster and climbing onto the counter to look in the spice cabinet for the cinnamon. I found a can that looked like the cinnamon my mom used and grabbed that. I buttered my crispy toast and sprinkled some sugar on it, next I sprinkled my “cinnamon”, it looked and smelled funny, not like cinnamon, but I had already sprinkled it so I was fully committed. It took one bite to know this wasn’t cinnamon, and it wasn’t good. My mom informed me it was ground ginger; all I knew was my toast was spoiled and ground ginger was the reason for it. I avoided ground ginger even as I later developed a true love of fresh ginger, candied ginger, stem ginger, pickled ginger and everything ginger!
That’s me in the middle at about 3 or 4 years old. My mom is on the right and sister Debbie is on the left.
I’ve come full circle and fully embrace ground ginger. The main reason for this conversion is that I now make my own. Ground ginger can be found in pretty much any spice isle of every grocery store in America, so it certainly isn’t availability that has me make my own. It is because making your own is so much better and it's really fun!
I find the stuff in the grocery stores to be rather musty and dull. Ginger is an incredibly lively spice, bright, hot and almost effervescent. I find when I dry and grind my own, it retains more of these qualities. Just like grating your own nutmeg, a very simple step that elevates the spice from murky to bright and almost lemony. If you are on a roll and really feel like taking your baking to the next level grind your own cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice at the beginning of baking season and it will be ready to go for the whole season. You will be shocked at how much more flavor and more alive your spices will be. Get a little electric coffee grinder and commit it just to grinding spices; it will make quick work out of this process. In a matter of seconds, you’ll have the freshest spices you have ever tasted!
I love ginger so much I am growing it this year in my garden!
The first step to making ground ginger is to dehydrate it, or dry it. I have dried my fresh ginger in the dehydrator, and I love my dehydrator and use all the time. But I really find dried ginger comes out better and dries a lot quicker in the oven. It’s also nice that you won’t need any special equipment other than a blender or coffee grinder and a cooling rack to make ground ginger. If by chance your oven bakes unevenly you may prefer a dehydrator. You can also try sticking an earthenware pizza stone in your oven, just leave in there all the time…it will help regulate the heat in your oven.
2 pounds Fresh Ginger, Peeled and sliced ¼” thick (you can really do any quantity you want, but this will give you a small jar, enough for me for one baking season)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Peel the ginger and slice thinly, about 1/8” thick.
3. Place the ginger on sheet pans fitted with a cooling rack.
4. Dehydrate in the oven approximately 3 to 4 hours. It could take longer; this will depend on how thick you slice the ginger. The thicker it is, the longer it will take. Most likely your ginger will be sliced at slightly different thicknesses so some pieces will dry before others. After about 2 hours check your ginger and remove the pieces that are dried, if any. Keep checking every 20 to 30 minutes or so and remove the pieces as they dry. You will know they are dry when they are brittle when you try to bend them.
5. Once dry, remove all from the oven and completely cool. I give the ginger a good four hours to cool. You do not want any moisture in the ginger so I like to ensure they are completely cool before grinding. Additionally, if you for some reason leave them out for too long, they can absorb humidity from the room and get a little soft. Just pop them back into the oven until they crisp up again, shouldn’t take more than 20 or 30 minutes.
6. Put the ginger in a blender or coffee grinder and process until finely ground and store in an airtight jar.
Ground ginger is a no-brainer to make your baked goods scream with flavor but when in a pinch the quality of this ground ginger can be used anywhere fresh ginger is called for. It is wonderful added to your homemade seasonal rubs and marinades: think sesame, ginger rubs and marinades for your fish on the grill. Smoked pork loin with plum and ginger glaze! I’m thinking I might do a sequel to this blog on how to make candied ginger or ginger stem ginger. Let me know if you would be interested in that in the comments below, because with these recipes you can achieve the perfect ginger trifecta!
Learn how to work with fresh ginger in tomorrow night's (Saturday, August 29 at 6pm CST) virtual Date Night Cook Along: Moroccan Chicken featuring:
- Moroccan-Braised Chicken with Ginger and Apricots
- Warm Couscous Salad with Orange Zest and Fresh Herbs
- Roasted Green Beans with Almonds