Fresh ginger, also known as ginger root, adds a flavorful punch to many foods and beverages. However, usually only a small amount is needed to season and that leaves one with, “what do I do with the rest?”
To begin, 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger is the equivalent of 1/8 tsp dried ground ginger. Keep this equivalency in mind when purchasing fresh ginger. Since it is usually sold by the pound, choose a rhizome that fits your needs as closely as possible. That aside, the piece that you have may still be more than needed. Ginger will be okay on your kitchen counter for a day or two but it is better stored in the refrigerator. To store in the refrigerator, place the rhizome in a storage bag or container; it will keep 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator. Do watch the rhizome for molding, softness, discoloration or off smell or appearance; these are signs of spoilage and if detected, the rhizome should be disposed. Like other fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh ginger contains enzymes that break down its starch and pectin over time.
If longer storage is needed, fresh ginger can be frozen. To freeze, peel the skin off the rhizome if desired (peeling is done more for aesthetics than need). Removing the skin may be easier by scraping with the edge of a spoon or knife rather than with a vegetable peeler due to it’s gnarly and irregular shape. Ginger may be frozen in pieces, grated, or finely chopped. Pieces should be wrapped tightly in foil or a freezer bag with as much of the air removed as possible. Grated or chopped pieces freeze better by making small piles on a parchment lined baking sheet or in an ice cube tray and placed in the freezer for a couple of hours; once frozen, put the small piles in individual freezer bags or into a freezer bag, again removing as much air as possible. Fresh ginger will maintain its best quality in the freezer for about 3 months but will remain safe well beyond that time; in fact, ginger that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep indefinitely.
Another method that some use to preserve fresh ginger is to submerge pieces in alcohol. Cooks Illustrated experimented with this process by using vodka and sherry and compared the flavor and texture to frozen ginger. After four weeks, the submerged samples were grated and cooked in a stir-fry. The samples retained their ginger flavor and grating ease as well as the frozen ginger; however, the ginger stored in sherry picked up sherry flavor. The takeaway on the experiment was that fresh ginger stores as well in vodka as freezing. A note of caution here as the same may not be true beyond the four weeks used in the experiment.
Even though we have ginger year-round in our markets, ginger has a season. Young ginger is usually more readily available in the spring (April and May) and is not as strong flavored or as tough and fibrous as ginger that has been stored for year-round availability. It is juicy and plump, has a fresh lively taste, and a pink blush; the skin is so thin that peeling is generally not necessary. If you are a fresh ginger fan, this would be the time to pick up a large quantity and freeze it for future uses.