This is the first of a semi-regular series of posts tackling how to make some of the things that we often end up buying instead of making themselves. Things that we think of as basic ingredients, that aren’t ‘ingredients’ at all but are actually processed in some way for us. Things like bread, jam, butter, ketchup, baked beans and pickled ginger. Not everything is cheaper to make than buy (e.g. it only costs me 18p for smartprice ketchup), yet when you make it yourself, you know what’s in it. I doubt any of us will get to the stage where we make absolutely every single thing ourselves – but hopefully these posts will inspire you to try a few new things.
I love pickled ginger. I’ve never experimented with it in recipes before – I’ve only ever had it with sushi – so I’ve previously only bought it once or twice a year, when we have a sushi-and-tempura meal, usually to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Since it’s a special meal, I never really look too closely at the price tag.
This week, Dave asked me to try a meal from Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals, a sort of Asian steak salad (my take on this will be on the blog tomorrow) which has pickled ginger as one of the ingredients. Our local Morrisons doesn’t sell it, so I had to go to Sainsbury’s. Standing there, I really looked at the price for the first time and realised that a) it’s a total rip-off and b) that there must be a way to make it myself. I put the packet down, and when I went home I checked the other supermarkets online for their prices.
The packet in Sainsbury’s was 110g, and cost £2.75 in-store. You can buy a 190g jar in Asda for £1.63. However, the Sainsbury’s ginger is all-natural and organic, while the Asda version has two E-numbers instead of vinegar and three in place of the sugar. Safe to say neither option appealed.
The recipe below makes roughly the same amount as the Sainsbury’s packet and is E-number-free, using just ginger, vinegar, sugar and salt, but costs only 32p, which is under 1/8th of the price of the packet. If that doesn’t convince you that it’s worth making, I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s really, really easy to make and tastes amazing. The one trick is apparently that it’s best to use young, fresh ginger, which is less fibrous and also goes an attractive pale pink when pickled. If it stays yellow (like mine), it’ll still be good but your ginger wasn’t as young.
Pickled ginger (makes the equivalent of one of those packets Sainsbury’s sell) 32p
- Around 50g fresh root ginger, as fresh as possible, peeled 11p
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar 17p (98p / 250ml, Asda)
- 2 tbsp sugar 4p (£1.74 / 2kg, Asda)
Slice the ginger into the finest possible slices. By far the easiest way to do this is by using a mandoline (as featured in Monday’s post on my favourite kitchen tools), but failing that, you can use a good, sharp vegetable peeler. If you need to, use your sharpest knife, but you won’t get the slices as thin. (If you really like pickled ginger and want to make it a lot, buy a mandoline, they are cheap and very useful).
Arrange the slices on a large plate or board and sprinkle salt all over them. Leave them for about an hour.
When you come back to them, they will be quite wet, as the salt draws the moisture out. Using kitchen roll (preferably) or a very clean non-fluffy tea towel, dry the slices and pack them into a small, sterilised jar.
Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pan until the mixture is hot and the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the salted ginger slices and put the lid on the jar. Leave to cool and store in the fridge for a few days before using.
Not sure how long you can keep this, but it should be safe for a wee while in the fridge as it’s pickled. You can serve with sushi, in stir-fries or in the steak salad I’ll post tomorrow (you’ll need about half of what you’ve made to serve two people).