For the last several years, I have examined my food purchasing carefully. I’ve done everything I can to embrace living locally, knowing and supporting my farmers. I’ve joined CSAs, gone to farmers’ markets in snow and rain. I’ve held fast against Trader J’s styrofoam and plastic wrapping. And refused to buy at Whole YouKnowWhat when they offered only apples from Argentina – in August – during local apple season. Being part of the lower carbon footprint food chain makes me feel as though I am participating in something bigger than me.
They are intoxicating and I can’t quit them. Please believe me. I have no end of support for local farmers, I am completely committed to my farmers. My friends. And, yes, I disdain Blueberries from Chile. But then the mangoes appear. And I falter. They are in season now …in Mexico and Central America This is the time of year the champagne mango is available. As are papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, citrus, and ginger.
Each year I make a batch of champagne mango chutney. I’ve written about it here. And published the recipe here. But there was one issue with the chutney that frustrated me. The ginger. I loved the fresh taste the ginger coins – fresh, peeled, 1/8” thick rounds of ginger – provided, but wished they were more edible. The ginger just wasn’t cooked long enough to be pleasant to eat. And while many substitute crystalized ginger, it just melts away leaving more flavor than texture, and sugar in a way I can’t control. It’s texture I want the ginger to give me, in addition to heat and sweet tones.
Christine Ferber has a wonderful (French) cookbook Agrumes and Fruits Exotiques, and since I picked it up last summer in Alsace, I’ve been dreaming of that heady mango flavor in preserves . Many of the tropical fruit recipes mention confit de gingembre. And the more research I did, the more I understood. Confit of ginger – very like making candied citrus – it’s not quite candied, not too sweet, and infinitely more edible than those ginger coins.
In fact, now that I’ve made it, I understand it even more. It’s an extraordinary condiment, all ginger, spicy, sweet, and then incredible heat. I can’t wait to serve it with chana masala. Lunch today was homemade ricotta, champagne mango and confit of ginger. I’m so happy.
I will be using the confit to add the ginger flavor to preserves. I’m trying out some new flavors for the tropical fruit season that I will be posting soon, so start scouting around for good looking fruits. In the meantime, I suggest you make this ginger confit. It’s a nice little bit of heaven to have on the shelf.
But, just to be clear, I put all the blame on Christine Ferber and her adorable book for this falling off the local-produce-wagon. I’ll jump back on in a minute, I promise. But this year, for some reason, the lure of fruits exotiques is just too much for me.
And by the way, even though peeling and matchsticking half a pound of ginger is possibly the worst task I’ve ever struggled through in the kitchen, I’ve started another batch, this time with Kaffir lime leaves (4) and a small bird chile, seeded and slivered. A spicy ginger confit will be the perfect addition to chutneys this summer.
*In the interest of truth in the blogosphere, we also enjoy avocados, artichokes, lemons, limes and other citrus. French cheese. Italian olive oil. English tea. Peet’s coffee. And wines, beers and spirits from around the world.
Four day process for three half pints plus a little extra
1/2 lb. fresh ginger
4 c sugar
4 c water
Peel and matchstick the ginger. This is a hateful task.
Soak the ginger in ice water overnight.
The next day, drain the ginger and put it in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then pour off the water, cover with cold water and bring to a boil again.
Strain off the water one more time, then cover with cold water and bring it to a boil one more time. Strain off the water and set the ginger aside.
In a 3 quart heavy saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil.
Add the ginger, and let it steep in the sugar syrup overnight.
The next day, strain out the ginger and bring the syrup to a boil. Add back the ginger and let it steep again for twelve hours, or the next day.
Once again, strain out the ginger and bring the syrup to a boil. Add back the ginger and let it steep again for twelve hours, or the next day.
The final day, make sure you have your sterilized jars, canning pot filled with water, and all that jazz set up.
Bring the ginger and syrup to 220°, using tongs, pack the ginger into jars, then divide the syrup.
Clean the top of the jars carefully, place the lids, tighten the rings, and process for 10 minutes.