My grandmother was very traditional, and yet quite progressive at the same time. She was one of the first female lawyers in the 1950’s when many women didn’t hold those positions. She thought everything was ‘marvelous.’ She went against the grain at times – being married 3 times and divorcing three times, which again was not a social norm – but she loved everything and everyone around her fiercely, even when she didn’t say it all the time. Whenever I feel a little black sheep-ish, or that is not fit in, I think of her proudly.
She lived here in Maine for a time in her life after her first marriage when my aunt was very young. Her father was born in Lincolnville, the town over, but retired here in Camden after being a chemist. She practiced law and later, met my grandfather who was visiting his parents, the next door neighbor. With these roots, I feel her presence around me quite often.
Candied ginger was my grandmother’s favorite candy, and while she was alive, it was way too strong for my young taste buds. Now, it’s not and a very satisfying and potent bite on a cool fall day.
This recipe isn’t hard, but is time consuming so allot an afternoon or time after an early dinner to do it right. I promise it will be worth it!
5 ounces baby ginger*
about 4.5 ounces maple sugar, plus more for dusting
4 cups water
To prepare, place a cooling or drying rack onto a piece of parchment and oil the rack with a small amount of coconut oil.
Gently peel your ginger with the back of a spoon. With a mandolin, shave the ginger into 1/8” slices. Place the slices and the water into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, cooking for 35 minutes until the ginger is tender.
Strain the ginger from the water – keep the water as it’s ginger tea – and weigh the ginger slices. Now place the ginger back into the pot and add equal amounts by weight of maple sugar and the ginger tea. For example, I had 136g of ginger after boiling so I added 136g of maple sugar and 136g (or 2/3 cup) of ginger tea.
Stir the mixture together and bring that mixture to a boil again before lowering to a simmer. Cook, stirring every so often until the sugar syrup has mostly disappeared, about 25 minutes. Strain the ginger slices from the syrup – save this too for a cocktail or pancakes – and place onto the drying rack.
This is the most tedious job, but very carefully, separate the ginger slices and place them in one layer on your drying rack. Yes, they’re slightly sticky, but I promise it won’t take as long as you think. Listen to a podcast, dance to some music or watch your guilty pleasure TV show and it’ll be done in no time.
When they’re all separated, let them dry for 1 hour. After the hour is up, fill a wide, shallow bowl with maple sugar. Place a few pieces into the bowl, coat them in sugar and then place them back onto the rack. If you eat a few slices while you do this, I won’t tell. Once they’re all coated in sugar, let them dry for 8 hours or overnight until they’re fully set. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months!