This is a terrific item to have on hand, both for the zippy slices of ginger and the sweet and tart juice. Even if you were never to cook a specifically Chinese dish, you would find the juice a great addition to salad dressings and the minced pickled ginger a novel refreshment in a meat patty. If you are a Chinese- or Asian-inclined cook, you will quickly find that you cannot do without this condiment.

Pickled ginger, like any pickled product, begins with impeccably fresh produce. Look for hands of ginger that have a thin skin stretched taut over the tuber, with no soft or moldy spots. If it is the season for young, fiberless ginger and you can find some in stellar shape—its translucent yellow-gold skin is as perishable as it is delicate and deteriorates rapidly—by all means use it. If not, the typical fibrous ginger is just fine as long as you slice it to paper thinness against the grain. A super-sharp thin-bladed chef’s knife or Chinese cleaver will help you on your way, as will the nifty plastic-housed Japanese mandoline called the Benriner.

For best flavor, let the pickled ginger sit for at least a day before using. It will keep for months in the refrigerator, although the juice is likely to become cloudy, which is not important to taste but is a slight aesthetic loss.

If you are making a large batch and have to divide it among several jars, be sure the ginger in each jar is covered with liquid.

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Ingredients

Small Batch

  • ½ pound peeled fresh ginger, sliced crosswise against the grain into paper-thin coins
  • 1⅓ cups unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Large Batch

  • 3 pounds peeled fresh ginger, sliced crosswise against the grain into paper-thin coins
  • 2 quarts unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt

Method

  1. Cover the ginger with boiling water. Let stand for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander. Put the ginger in a large, impeccably clean glass jar or plastic container.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-aluminum pot. Stir over moderate heat just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour over the ginger.
  3. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.
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