How to Cook with Fresh Gingerroot

Ginger in its freshest form is called gingerroot, and this pungent and spicy hot substance is very versatile. Pale-yellow or ivory in color, Gingerroot can be used for medicinal purposes as well as for cooking. Asian cultures use gingerroot to flavor a variety of foods-from desserts to meats and even wine. The tan skin should be peeled to release the sweet peppery flavor inside (too much of a sniff and you'll sneeze), and then sliced, minced or chopped for use in your favorite recipes. Try these tips to increase your success when cooking with fresh gingerroot.

Freshness is very important; so choose succulent and firm gingerroots with smooth skin. Avoid any that look shriveled or dry. Check for a pungent and spicy fragrance.

One gingerroot can provide seasoning for many recipes; therefore it is in your best interest to slice off only what you need at the time (a knob or small piece), and store the remainder.

To store gingerroot, consider these alternatives:

a) Wrap it in a white paper towel and place in a plastic bag. It can be refrigerated for up to three weeks.

b) Place unpeeled piece in a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to one month. When using the freezer method, slice off a frozen piece and return the remainder to the freezer.

c) Store ground or candied ginger in a cool, dry, dark place.

Always remove the skin with a vegetable peeler or small paring knife. Then you can slice, mince, chop or grate the ginger root as the recipe requires. If you use a lot of ginger in your recipes, consider purchasing a ceramic ginger grater.

To know how much to use in a recipe consider these facts:

a) Ground ginger should not be substituted in recipes that specifically require fresh ginger root.

b) Minced fresh gingerroot has the most pungent flavor.

c) One tablespoon of grated fresh gingerroot is equivalent to 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger.

Use fresh gingerroot in stir-fry (especially with beef), sauces, curry dishes, salad dressings and steamed vegetables.

For sweets or as a topping for fresh fruit, try using candied or crystalized ginger (cooked in a sugar syrup and coated in granulated sugar) or preserved ginger (marinated in a sugar-salt mixture).

Dried powdered ginger, because of its more intense flavor should be used in baking breads, desserts and cookies (gingerbread and gingersnaps).

Pickle peeled slices of ginger root by placing them in a jar and pouring dry white wine or vinegar over them; then tightly seal. Refrigerate and store for up to six months. Use the ginger flavored wine as a salad dressing or meat marinade. Pour additional wine in the jar to keep remaining ginger moist and return to the refrigerator. The pickled slices can also be used as a condiment especially when serving Sushi or other Asian dishes.

Enjoy a glass of ginger tea. Not only does it taste good; but it also calms an upset stomach, aids in digestion and gives you an energy boost.