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What is Stem Ginger?
Blog / Confectionary / What is Stem Ginger?

What is Stem Ginger?

Stem ginger, a culinary gem treasured for its zesty flavour and succulent texture, stands as a testament to the versatility and allure of ginger in its most indulgent form.

This delightful ingredient, candied or crystallised ginger, is created by cooking young, fresh ginger root in a sugar syrup until it becomes tender and sweet yet retains its spicy kick.

The result is a confection that balances ginger's natural warmth and zest with a delectable sweetness, making it a favourite among cooks and bakers alike.

What is Stem Ginger?

Stem ginger, also known as candied ginger or crystallised ginger, refers to the young roots of the ginger plant that have been peeled, sliced, or chopped and then preserved in sugar syrup.

Over time, the ginger softens and absorbs the sweetness of the syrup, resulting in a tender, chewy texture with a spicy-sweet flavour profile.

Once the ginger pieces are sufficiently candied, they can be rolled in granulated sugar to create crystallised ginger, which has a slightly crunchy exterior or left as is for a softer finish.

This process not only extends the shelf life of ginger but also transforms it into a versatile confection that can be enjoyed on its own as a sweet treat, used as a baking ingredient to add depth and warmth to cakes, biscuits, and desserts, or incorporated into savoury dishes and sauces.

Stem ginger is celebrated for its ability to impart a vibrant, spicy kick to a wide range of culinary creations, making it a cherished ingredient in kitchens around the world.

Its distinctive taste and texture offer an intriguing contrast in dishes, bridging the gap between the fiery essence of fresh ginger and the comforting sweetness of sugar.

Related Post: What is Crystallised Ginger?

Root Ginger

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How is Stem Ginger Used in Confectionery?

Stem ginger is widely used in confectionery for its unique sweet and spicy taste.

It's incorporated into chocolate treats, gingerbread, cakes, biscuits, fudge, and toffees, adding depth and warmth.

It's also used in preserves, ice cream, and sorbets for a spicy contrast.

The syrup from stem ginger enhances the flavour of various sweets, making stem ginger a versatile and popular choice in sweet making.

How to Use Stem Ginger

Stem ginger, with its unique combination of sweetness and zing, can be a delightful addition to many culinary creations.

Here's how you can use stem ginger to enhance both sweet and savoury dishes:

In Sweet Dishes and Desserts:

  • Baking: Chop stem ginger finely and add it to the batter for cakes, muffins, or bread for a spicy-sweet flavour. It works especially well in recipes for gingerbread, spice cakes, and fruit loaves.

  • Desserts: Incorporate pieces of stem ginger into desserts such as puddings, custards, and crumbles. It pairs beautifully with creamy textures, adding a layer of flavour complexity.

  • Chocolate Treats: Dip stem ginger pieces in melted chocolate for an easy yet sophisticated treat. The combination of spicy ginger with rich chocolate is irresistible.

  • Ice Cream and Sorbets: Mix chopped stem ginger into homemade ice cream or sorbets. Its warmth contrasts wonderfully with the cold, creamy base.

In Savoury Dishes:

  • Marinades and Glazes: Use the syrup from stem ginger as a base for marinades or glazes for meat, particularly pork or chicken. The syrup's sweetness and ginger's heat create a tantalising flavour.

  • Stir-fries and Sauces: Finely chopped stem ginger can add a vibrant kick to stir-fries or enhance sauces, offering a sweet and spicy note that elevates the dish.

As a Garnish:

  • Decorative Topping: Use thin slices or small chunks of stem ginger to garnish desserts, such as cakes, cupcakes, or plated desserts, for an attractive finish and a burst of flavour.

  • Cocktails and Beverages: Add a piece of stem ginger to cocktails for a sweet, spicy twist, or use the syrup to sweeten teas and hot drinks.

Other Uses:

  • Salads: Add chopped stem ginger to fruit salads or mixed green salads for an unexpected flavour contrast.

  • Cheese Boards: Serve small pieces of stem ginger as part of a cheese board for a delightful combination of sweet, spicy, and savoury.

When using stem ginger, remember that its flavour is concentrated, so start with a small amount and adjust according to taste.

The syrup it's preserved in can also be utilised to sweeten and flavour dishes, offering another dimension of ginger's warmth.

Whether incorporated into recipes or used as a garnish, stem ginger can bring a delightful twist to your culinary creations, showcasing its versatility across various dishes.

How Long Can You Keep Stem Ginger?

Stem ginger, when preserved in sugar syrup, has an impressive shelf life due to the preserving qualities of sugar, which acts as a natural preservative.

Stem ginger can be stored properly for several months without losing quality.

Here are some guidelines for storing stem ginger to maximise its shelf life:

1. In the Refrigerator:

  • Unopened: Commercially jarred stem ginger in syrup that hasn't been opened can be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or cupboard, until the best-before date on the packaging. After opening, it should be kept in the refrigerator, lasting up to 12 months.

  • Homemade or Opened Commercial Stem Ginger: Should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Ensure the ginger is fully submerged in syrup to prevent it from drying or becoming mouldy. Properly refrigerated, it can last for about 12 months.

2. In the Freezer:

  • Stem ginger can also be frozen in the syrup or after draining (though freezing it in the syrup might help retain its texture and flavour better). When freezing, ensure it's in an airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Frozen stem ginger can last for up to 18 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator before use.

3. Tips for Storage:

  • Airtight Containers: Whether storing in the fridge or cupboard, ensure the container is airtight to prevent the introduction of moisture or contaminants.

  • Check Regularly: Even with proper storage, it's a good idea to check the stem ginger periodically for signs of spoilage, such as an off odour, discolouration, or mould growth, especially if it's homemade or has been opened for a while.

  • Syrup Level: If the syrup level has decreased and the ginger is not fully submerged, add a simple sugar syrup to the container to ensure it remains covered.

Following these storage tips, you can ensure that your stem ginger remains fresh and flavourful for as long as possible, ready to add its unique spicy-sweet taste to your culinary creations whenever needed.

What is the Best Way to Store Stem Ginger?

The best way to store stem ginger, which is ginger root preserved in sugar syrup, is to keep it in its original syrup in an airtight container.

This method helps maintain its moist texture and flavour.

It should be placed in the refrigerator for long-term storage, where it can last for several months.

Ensure the ginger is fully submerged in syrup to prevent it from drying or crystallising.

If the syrup level is low, add more or boiled and cooled sugar water to cover the ginger pieces.

What's the Difference Between Stem Ginger and Root Ginger?

Root ginger is the fresh, raw rhizome of the ginger plant, used for its strong, spicy flavour in various dishes.

Stem ginger, in contrast, is root ginger that has been preserved in sugar syrup, offering a sweeter, milder taste and is often used in baking and confections.

The main difference between them lies in their preparation and culinary uses.

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Some Notes From an Expert Chocolatier

The creative journey of blending diverse ingredients with chocolate to craft unique confections is both an art and a science.

One ingredient I particularly cherish incorporating into my chocolate creations is stem ginger.

The intriguing interplay between the spicy warmth of stem ginger and the rich, velvety smoothness of chocolate offers a sensory experience that is truly unparalleled.

The key to successfully marrying stem ginger with chocolate lies in balance.

The intense flavour of stem ginger, with its sweet yet fiery profile, must be carefully calibrated to complement the chocolate without overwhelming it.

I've found that using stem ginger in small, well-defined pieces within chocolate bars or truffles allows for bursts of flavour that punctuate the chocolate's taste without dominating it.

Final Notes On Stem Ginger

Stem ginger is a remarkable ingredient that brings a vibrant burst of flavour to both sweet and savoury culinary creations.

Its unique sweetness and spice make it versatile for various dishes, from confections and baked goods to marinades and stir-fries.

The process of candying ginger not only preserves its spicy essence but also transforms it into a tender, chewy delight that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a component in more complex recipes.

For confectioners and chocolatiers, stem ginger offers an exciting opportunity to experiment with flavour profiles, adding a warm, spicy kick that complements the richness of chocolate and the sweetness of baked desserts.

Its ability to bridge the gap between different taste sensations—combining the heat of ginger with the comforting sweetness of sugar syrup—makes it a beloved favourite among culinary professionals and home cooks alike.