Pickled ginger can usually be found on the side of your sushi dish, tucked right next to the powerful green wasabi... it is refreshing to nibble on one of those thin slices of goodness between bites of raw fish and rice -- but I I like it just as an invigorating mid-afternoon snack (the kind you eat when you're bored rather than hungry). It wakes up my taste buds and gives me a welcome jolt.
Step 1: Ingredients
Fresh ginger root
2 parts Rice vinegar (unflavored)
1 part sugar (parts measured by volume)
Coarse sea salt
Optional: red food coloring
I happened to have a ginger plant, so I just reached into the dirt and snapped off a piece -- doesn't get fresher than that! But you can find ginger root in the fruit and vegetables section of any grocery store. It's still considered fresh, even though it might be several weeks old.
Regarding the food coloring: some of the commercial pickled ginger is pink, which, according to various unscientific internet resources, happens when the ginger is very fresh when pickled. Mine really could not have been any fresher, and yet it kept its beautiful creamy yellow color. Maybe, just maybe, some varieties of ginger might turn pink naturally, but I've been examining the food labels on all the jars of pink ginger I've come across over the past few month... and they ALL contained food coloring. So if you like pink ginger, just add a few drops of food coloring to your vinegar.
Step 2: Preparation
Peel fresh ginger and slice as thin as possible. Cut it lengthwise rather than against the grain. You can use a vegetable peeler to get paper thin slices, though I found it easier to use a knife as the ginger got smaller. Watch your fingers and use a very sharp knife! It will be MUCH safer to use. A dull knife requires more pressure to cut. The more pressure you need to apply, the higher the risk your knife will slip and slice off the wrong piece of flesh...
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the sliced ginger (rinse off the blood first, if necessary), and mix till the salt is spread all over and mostly dissolved. Place in a bowl and let sit for at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge. Rinse, and pat the slices dry.
Mix 2 parts unflavored rice vinegar (enough to cover the sliced ginger in your jar) with one part sugar. Bring to a boil (microwave is probably easiest) and mix to dissolve the sugar.
Place the ginger slices into a clean (or, better, a sanitized) jar, and pour the vinegar and sugar mix to completely cover ginger slices. Cover and store in refrigerator for a couple weeks before using. This will keep for at least 6 months.
UPDATE: Even though I LOVE pickled ginger I stopped making it because slicing it was too hard and time consuming.... until I bought this mandolin cutter! It's cute, it's relatively cheap, it's easy to clean and you can slice the ginger super fast and super thin, and without even cutting your fingers if you also buy these gloves....
Step 3: Notes and Alternate Preparations
Allowing the ginger to sit for a few weeks will improve the flavor and remove some of the ginger's bite.
If you would like to use the ginger immediately, blanch the salted slices in boiling water for about 30 seconds, dry and cover with the hot vinegar and sugar mix. Let cool and enjoy!
If you have left-over vinegar and sugar, cut it with water and drink, it's very refreshing!