I love pickled ginger. I mean I love it. When I eat sushi, I shove the whole little pile of it in my mouth all at once before eyeing my dining companions’ plates to see if they want theirs. I try to always keep some in my refrigerator and eat it after meal. Oh sure, I justify snacking on the vinegary slices by insisting it serves as some sort of dietary aid. But mostly I love the sharp flavor.
There’s a vendor at the local farmers’ market that makes a pretty good version. The ingredients read: ginger, red pepper flakes, and apple cider. I love the inclusion of the red pepper flakes as it increases that spicy burn; I love the exclusion of sugar as I don’t eat pickled ginger for its sweetness. I’m fascinated that the label says apple cider and not apple cider vinegar – all the recipes I’ve ever read have called for vinegar so I don’t know if the cider is fermented along with the ginger or what.
I remember this pickled ginger being much more delicious when I lived here before. Now that I’m back from New York, where I would purchase pickled ginger in vast quantities from the deli counter at H Mart, I’m not sure I’m as happy with this SoCal version as I was before. The ginger seems stringier. The taste isn’t as sharp as I recall.
The H Mart pickled ginger was crisper and perhaps fresher. (I tried both the white and the pink from H Mart, and I think that the latter was dyed rather than made with younger ginger.) The H Mart pickled ginger was less sweet than what you find a lot of places – a plus, in my book – although there was some chemical aftertaste to it that I couldn’t place. (The ingredients were all in Korean.) The little plastic cartons, sitting in the sushi section, often stunk like fish.
So I’m going to try my hand at pickling my own ginger, so that I can dial in the right level of sweet and spice. There’s a little joke in that phrase “try my hand” as I bought a mandolin slicer. Hopefully all my fingers will remain intact.
Here are the ingredients for my first experiment:
- 8 oz fresh ginger
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
I peeled the ginger, sliced it, and put the pieces in a half-pint mason jar. I sprinkled the red pepper flakes on top. In a saucepan, I brought the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a simmer, stirring until the sugar was dissolved. I then poured the liquid over the ginger and secured the lids. This isn’t a “proper” can, so once cooled, I put in the fridge.
I’ve got a little bit of pickled ginger left from the farmers’ market, and I’m heading out of town soon. But I’ll probably crack this jar open fairly soon and think about what needs to be changed. (I’m also heading out of town for a week, so I want to taste it before and after to see what difference sitting in the sugar-vinegar makes to the flavor and consistency.)
Stay tuned for more attempts at this…