To every time (and to every fruit, flower, herb and vegetable) there is a season.
Back in 2011, it was my pleasure to join a small but excited group at Windcrest Farm in Monroe, NC for the first harvest of a new crop of organic baby ginger! Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton, owners and farmers at Windcrest, a certified organic farm, grow all kinds of cool and unusual herbs and veggies, but this first crop of baby ginger was something special. Fast forward and the annual every growing ginger crop at Windcrest has become an occasion to celebrate!
Roberts and her team start the ginger from organic seed from brought in from Hawaii early in the year and then transferred the tender young plants to their home in the ground in one of Windcrest’s many greenhouses. As the tubers grow beneath the ground, the stalks and leaves shoot up to heights from 4-6 feet tall. The joy here is that the whole plant can be used from stem to stern. The leaves can be dried and crumbled for tea, to add to various dried spice, salt or pepper mixes and the roots can be candied, pickled, stewed, sautéed, simmered – the list goes on and on.
Here’s How recipes are Born…
The ginger glaze in the rib recipe below was inspired by one of my favorite cocktails made with bourbon, a ginger-honey simple syrup, orange and ginger ale, and believe me, its a keeper! What I love about it is that it’s not too thick, so while the gingery glaze adds a fabulous sticky sweet and spice flavor, it doesn’t overwhelm and one can still taste the meat.
I recommend using local pork – lots of choices at any one of Charlotte’s several Farmers’ Markets, and if you can’t find pork ribs, use chops instead. The key to make the recipe move along faster cut the rack of ribs into double chops. The recipe also works well on chicken, seafood and tempeh ( although cooking times will vary slightly) – see my variation notes at the end of the recipe.
Several recipes to share here – Candied Ginger and as a result a Ginger Simple Syrup to use in cocktails or to make your own ginger ale. The recipe for the ribs I cooking on television this week and a fun recipe for the Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing we all love each time we eat at a Japanese steakhouse.
The lovely thing about cooking with baby ginger is that when it is harvested it comes without the hard, heavy skin grocery store ginger always has – the ginger develops that skin as it ages – and has a light and delicate flavor plus tons of health benefits as well.
Now, inspired by the work at Windcrest lots of local farmers are growing organic baby ginger. I’ve also bought fresh ginger from A Way of Life Farm at the Charlotte Regional Market and at Garden Window Farm at Charlotte’s Uptown Farmers Market
Classic Japanese Steak House Ginger Salad Dressing
3 Tbsp. minced onion
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
3 Tbsp. finely minced baby ginger
2 Tbsp. organic ketchup
1 Tbsp. Mushroom-flavored soy sauce
1/2 clove minced garlic
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
Combine onion, oil, vinegar, ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and process until combined.Spoon over a plate of your favorite mixed greens.
Homemade Candied Baby Ginger
1 pound fresh baby ginger, thin sliced
4 cups organic granulated sugar
4 cups water, plus more for the initial cooking
pinch of salt
Put the thin baby ginger slices in a large stainless steel pot, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for ten minutes. If you are making this recipe with older store-bought ginger you will want to repeat this precooking process one more time.
Mix the sugar and 4 cups of water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F measured on a candy thermometer
Remove from heat and let the ginger stand in the syrup for at least an hour while the mixture cools.
Remove the ginger from the syrup, reserving the syrup, and place the sliced ginger on a cake rack fitted over a baking sheet with sides. Drain the ginger and then sprinkle with additional sugar to coat both sides of the ginger. As the ginger cools more sprinkling sugar may be necessary.
For your own Ginger Ale
1 to 2 Tbsp. of ginger syrup left over from making the candied ginger
Juice of one lime
Fill a tall glass filled with ice, add ginger syrup and the juice of a half of a lime and top with soda water. Adjust flavor adding more ginger syrup or lime as needed. Stir to blend and garnish with lime wedge or a sprig of fresh mint
Heidi’s Local Honey and Organic Baby Ginger Baby Back Ribs
One of my favorite honey-centric cocktails is with bourbon or aged rum, honey, orange and ginger ale – take the same flavors mix them with the baby ginger and apply then to a glaze or marinade and viola…
What make the ribs tender enough to saute is parboiling them first. Bit be sure that the Parboiling Liquid has plenty of flavor – for the parboil, combine
2 Tbsp. your favorite EVOO
4 thick slices of Organic baby ginger, minced
1 cup toasted baby ginger leaves – simply crisp them up in a 200 degree over for 10-15 minutes to concentrate their delicate flavor
¼ cup fresh Italian leaf parsley
1 bottle of pale amber beer
2 cups mushroom broth
1 rack local Baby Back Ribs, cut into double ribs
2/3 cup teriyaki, ponzu or hoisin sauce
¼ cup dark sesame oil
¼ cup minced fresh Organic Baby Ginger
1 cup aged whiskey or aged Rum ( I love to use local NC spirits here – so many choices – just pick your favorite!
Juice and zest of two oranges
½ cup local honey – so many choices, use your favorite variety
Condiments to serve – Texas Pete (if you’d like to spice it up a bit!)
Combine parboiling ingredients in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer of 30-40 mins or so.
While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining all of the ingredients, except the honey and ginger in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by one third. Remove from heat and stir in honey and ginger.
Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Bathe the ribs in the glaze and place the ribs on a saute pan or grill pan, basting with the glaze until it just starts to brown on the meat, or place in a roasting pan under the boiler for 2-3 mins on each side.
To make a vegetarian version of the same – use tempeh, my favorite brand here is Smiling Hara Brand from Asheville NC. No parboiling needed – just cut the tempeh into quarters and saute squares EVOO until nicely browned. Then bathe in the glaze and cook down until the glaze has thickened slightly. Same method will work well for your favorite seafood.
For chicken – no parboiling needed – simply season bone-in ( this adds more flavor) pieces with salt and pepper and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven in a covered roasting pan for 30-40 minutes. Remove the lid of the pan and add the basting liquid. continue to bake for another 5 minutes or broil the chicken for 2-3 minutes until the glaze starts to brown.