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making sushi ginger?

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the question about what to do with lots of ginger reminded me that i've been meaning to ask: does anyone have a recipe for the pickled pink ginger that they serve with sushi? we make sushi at home a lot, but i've been buying the ginger in tubs (for $4 each!!!) and would love to know how to make my own.

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  1. Mix four parts rice vinegar, three parts sugar and a little salt in a saucepan. Warm and stir just enough to dissolve the sugar (no more!). Slice your ginger and let it sit in the syrup, refrigerated, overnight.

    There are probably more exacting recipes out there, but that's pretty much the basics.

    As for the pink color, the ginger will sometimes do that naturally (I've never been clear on exactly what triggers it), but the store-bought tubs are most likely dyed.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Dmnkly

      I think I read somewhere that the pink color comes from red shiso leaves (vs green shiso leaves that are used as garnish) that used to be included in the pickle mixture. Now, of course, I'm sure they just use red dye!

      1. re: PamelaD

        Not necessarily. I've made pickled ginger that turned pink without any assistance whatsoever. It CAN happen on its own. I just don't know if it has to do with the length of time it's left to pickle or some other part of the process And it was a much paler pink than you see with a dye.

        1. re: Dmnkly

          The acid itself turns it a light, but variable pink. I always slice it heavy-paper thin and it turns quickly, so presumably it's a function of how quickly the vinegar completely perfuses the ginger. (Basically, I think it's a litmus sort of effect, I think vinegar does the same thing to raw garlic too, but that might be green.:) ) The color varies a fair amount, which may be why they started dyeing it at all. Personally, I like it less sweet than the ratios posted so far, maybe half the sugar? But if you're stuck using something other than young ginger, you would probably want more.

          Oh, and it's the sort of thing you wouldn't expect, but a lot of the commercial stuff contains saccharine. They do use sugar, too, but saccharin's usually right there along with the food-dye (presumably in pretty tiny amounts). Apparently the Japanese public-at-large developed a taste for that characteristic bitter-astringent bite, I think I remember reading as the result of pre- through post-WWII food shortages. It does sort of complement the bite of the ginger in a weird way, but I like it better without. (For me it was one of those things where once I knew where that flavor came from, it suddenly became much less appealing; but if you want to reproduce the commercial flavor, keep it in mind.)

          BTW, there's also another pickled ginger I see once in a while in stores - I think one of them is called 'gari', but I don't remember which -- that's whole pieces of rhizome and is a scarily garish red. I assume they're used for different purposes, but maybe not. don't know what it's like, the color alone is too off-putting to bother trying it. ;)

          I noticed one recipe calls for blanching in salt water. I've seen references to rubbing it with salt (presumably coarse) and then rinsing briefly; I don't recall whether I do it or not, honestly, but I think you'd only want to blanch if the ginger is mature or unusually hot-tasting and I'd go really light on the salt if blanching, or rinse it mostly off if rubbing.

      2. re: Dmnkly

        question -
        why the emphasis on how long you stir?

        what could possibly happen if you stirred it more? not that i can think of any reason why anyone would stir more than that, either?

        1. re: thew

          I think it's more about not heating it too much. Here's a "more exacting" recipe (can simplify as convenient - not a huge difference from the basic vinegar/sugar).

          rehydrate 1" piece of kombu

          dissolve
          3 T sugar
          1/4 t salt
          in
          1/2 cup rice vinegar

          blanch sliced ginger in lightly salted water, drain, and put in sauce w/ the kombu resting on top.

          1. re: thew

            It's not the stirring, it's the heat. I think the vinegar loses its bite if you cook it too much.