By the eighteenth century, Europeans had been enjoying ginger, usually imported from the East Indies, for about four hundred years. Cooks incorporated the spice into savory and sweet dishes; perhaps candying ginger became a popular method not only of preserving the perishable root but also of taming its fiery flavor.

Ginger can certainly be candied like orange or lemon rinds (by successively boiling it in water and sugar syrup), but Martha Washington wrote a recipe that appears to more closely resemble the dragee method of candying nuts-a process that coats them with hard sugar. Washington instructed the ginger to be soaked in water overnight. She then explained that sugar was to be boiled and cooled, and the ginger added to it, stirring until the lot was "hard to ye pan." The ginger was then removed, dried, and placed again in a hot pan, where, as it cooled, one was to "stir it about roundly, and it will be A rock Candy in A very short space"

The following recipe marries both techniques, resulting in a sweetmeat that is translucent, tender, and coated with sugar.

Makes 4 cups

  1. 1 pound fresh ginger, peeled
  2. 6 cups granulated sugar
  3. 4 cups water
  4. 4 cups granulated sugar, for coating
  • Place the ginger in a medium-size saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover completely. Place the pan over high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat, strain, and rinse the ginger under cool running water. Allow the ginger to cool to room temperature.
  • Using a mandoline, or carefully with a chef's knife, slice the cooled ginger into 1/4 incht hick slices. Place the slices in a pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Strain and rinse the sliced ginger under cool running water. Repeat the boiling, straining, and rinsing process four more times to remove the bitterness from the ginger.
  • In a medium-size pot, add the sliced ginger, 6 cups of sugar, and the water; stir to combine. Using cool water and a pastry brush, wash down the sides of the pot, making certain no sugar crystals remain. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook until the syrup reaches a temperatute of 260°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Cover the pot with plastic wrap, and let the oranges steep overnight at room temperature.
  • Strain the slices from the syrup and arrange them atop a wire rack. Cover generously with 2 cups of the sugar. Turn the ginger slices over, and repeat the process with the remaining 2 cups of sugar.
  • Let the sugar-coated ginger sit out for 8 hours. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks at room temperature.

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