Monday, March 17, 2014

Preservation at its Sweetest: Candied Yale Farm Ginger, Turmeric, and Galangal

Farm Product Development Specialist, Shizue RocheAdachi DC ’15 documents a Friday workday spent candying the fruits of our greenhouse-grown bounty. 

From left to right: galangal, turmeric, ginger, and Margaret (the human). 

This year we made an unusual addition to our crop plan: tropical roots. While New Haven might not be the ideal climate for such equatorial heat-loving roots as galangal, ginger, and turmeric, the Greeley Greenhouse (where we start our seedlings in the spring) had space enough to accommodate our experiment in climatic deception.

It’s not entirely accurate to call galangal, ginger, and turmeric “roots.” Technically speaking they are rhizomes: continuously growing, subterranean, horizontal stems that put out lateral shoots and roots from its nodes. Planted in the summer in wide burlap sacks using root stock (little chunks of fresh turmeric, ginger, and galangal), the roots had sprouted great towers of lush greenery by September. Though our success varied between crops––the turmeric never quite fattened up as well as the ginger and galangal––we managed to produce a formidable crop.

Over the course of the year we’ve been slowly harvesting them, carefully pulling apart the entwined roots and extracting the attempted deserters that had pocked through the burlap to wedge themselves between the grating of our seedling tables like stubborn, fat fingers. Though we’ve been consistently selling the roots at farmers market and to Miya’s, a few burlap sacks remain. As the farm’s Farm Product Development Specialist [read: preserver, pickler, tea maker and do-er or random odd jobs] I had been tasked with the duty of figuring out what to do with our remaining crop. And so, with late winter malaise weighing heavy on my shoulders, I figured a much needed pick-me-up of tropical candies would be appreciated by all.

One of our steadfast Friday volunteers, Margaret, slices the turmeric on a mandolin.

Little can be found on candying turmeric and galangal online.  I ended up basing my methods on these two sources.  Candied ginger searches yield a plethora of information but my main source can be found here.  I used them as guides, however, and so I’ve included my basic instructions for candying any sort of rhizome below.

From top left to right (and top to bottom): turmeric with cardamon pods, galangal, and ginger in syrup.

Candied Rhizomes

  1. Peel your roots using a spoon or butter knife and rinse clean. 
  2. Using a mandolin or a knife, slice your roots into thin medallions, about 1/8” thick I chose to make my ginger slightly thicker due to a personal preference. *WEAR GLOVES if using turmeric.  It dyes your hands temporarily and leaves some with an unpleasant tingling feeling in their fingers.*
  3. For galangal and ginger, in a medium-sized pot, cover the slices generously with water, bring to a boil, and let boil for 50 minutes.  Drain (and save the water for cold or hot tea, for an herbal tea kombucha, or as the base of a soup or curry)
  4. For turmeric, fill a large nonreactive pot with water, bring to a boil, and blanch turmeric for 8-10 minutes.  Empty turmeric water and repeat, blanching and straining a second time.  The roots are boiled to draw out their bitterness and soften their flavor profile. 
  5. Once strained, return the roots to the saucepan, and cover with equal parts water and sugar until the liquid rises about 3” above the roots.  This sugar-water ratio produces what is called “simple syrup.”
  6. Cook the roots over medium heat (the sugar water should be boiling continuously) for thirty minutes, or until the root medallions are soft to the teeth when bitten and the simple syrup has reduced by about 1/3rd.  *I chose to add about two tablespoons of cardamon pods to the turmeric during this process (a really good choice, if I do say so myself) but any additional flavoring, such as whole spices, citrus peel, or ground spices (less preferred as they can become scorched) could be included.*
  7. Remove the medallions from the syrup with a slotted spoon and spread on racks resting on top of sheets of parchment paper (for easy clean-up of the dripping liquid).  I didn’t have enough racks for all of my candies so I dried some just spread out on a single layer on a piece of parchment.  This worked for the galangal but the not for the ginger since it was thicker and let off more liquid.
  8. Let the candies dry on the racks for several hours or overnight if the slices are thicker. 
  9. Once tacky but no longer wet, pour sugar into a bowl and coat the medallions generously, a handful at a time in the sugar.  You can add ground spices to the sugar (I added ground cardamon to the turmeric sugar) but be sure to keep freshening up the sugar mixture as it is used up and absorbs moisture.
  10. Enjoy finished candies wholeheartedly and use the leftover sugar for cookies! 

 A note about the remaining syrup: it’s infused and delicious––don’t let it go to waste!  I cooked down some of mine to become a slightly more viscous galangal and ginger simple syrup perfect for use in cold or hot drinks or even cocktails.  The turmeric syrup I cooked down even further until it was hard-candy ready, pouring it out onto parchment paper, letting cool, and breaking up into shards perfect for sucking on or dropping into black tea.

 The farm family favorite?  The candied galangal.  Farm managers were snacking heavily on it at CT-NOFA.

Hours later, the candies are mostly dried and ready for coating.