Updated: Jun 14, 2018
There lurks in microeconomic theory a concept known as “sunk costs.” These are costs that cannot be recovered (like spilt milk). If one were truly rational, one would avoid incurring sunk costs, because they can be considered, by definition, a waste of money.
Alas to my extreme embarrassment, I often purchase too much of a good thing at a nice price only to be faced with the dilemma of having too much of good thing that will spoil unless I use it up—soon. Especially when I go to Costco. Twenty pounds of onions for $5.99 seems like a great deal, but if you can only use three pounds before they start growing and rotting, the cost per pound increases significantly. At this point, your sunk costs becomes something far less desirable.
The good and the bad of Costco is that things come in super-sized packages, resulting in a lower cost per ounce/pound/gallon/whatever than if you purchased the same said item in a regular store. But soon after you finish congratulating your smug self on your frugality, comes the realization that you have WAY TOO MUCH of said item. And if you do not use it in a timely manner, your cleverly-gotten savings goes into the garbage…unless you are buying paper towels, in which case you are simply challenged to store the rolls until you use them up after a year or two.
This is my way of sidling up to my story of recently purchasing a huge amount of fresh ginger (for a very good price) at you-know-where. Ginger is a marvelous and ancient spice, with miraculous healing properties. It is wonderful grated or chopped, using a tablespoon or two at a time in dishes such as miso chicken (see my Miso Magic blog). But, at that rate, I would still have had several years of ginger root to grate through.
Of course, the most obvious thing to do with ginger is to stick the ginger root in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer along with other objects of unknown origin (otherwise known as “sunk costs”; see above).
So, to convert a sunk cost into an asset of greater value, I turned to methods of preservation.
The first thing I decided to make was candied ginger. This is so easy that you really don’t need a recipe. Just peel the ginger by scraping it with a spoon, chop it into bite sized pieces, and simmer them in a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar for 20 minutes or so. Fish the ginger pieces out of the syrup (more about the syrup soon) and dry on a rack for a few hours. When the ginger pieces are reasonably dry, toss them around in a bag of sugar until they are coated. Voila.
What to do with all that candied ginger? Let them eat cake!
Candied ginger can make a nice little hostess gift and is really nice to chew on when your tummy is a little unsettled. It has a longer shelf life than fresh ginger, and you can place it on a shelf for some time to display your domesticity, which would then make it either an intangible asset or a sunk cost.
But I discovered the most wonderful Dutch Butter Ginger Cake recipe in Rozanne Gold’s awesome cookbook, Radically Simple. Just chop two cubes of soft butter into two cups of flour. Add a cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, half a beaten egg, and about six tablespoons of chopped ginger. Mush it all together with your clean fingers, plop it into a greased pie tin, smooth it out and use the other half of the beaten egg as an egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for a half hour. THIS IS SO GOOD!
Ginger Syrup and Domaine de Canton
The byproduct of candied ginger is a yummy ginger syrup. You can use it as-is to put into soda water for homemade ginger ale, or you can put it on your pancakes. Instead, I created a base for a liqueur called Domaine de Canton. To do this, I added a tablespoon of vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon of orange extract. To make the liqueur, simply combine equal parts of the syrup and brandy, put it into a beautiful bottle, and use it for various cocktails or as a soothing after-dinner drink. I cannot vouch for the quality of my version against the genuine Domaine de Canton, which currently sells at about $40 a bottle, but it’s still quite good (and much cheaper).
This website links you to some pretty fancy cocktails: http://www.domainedecanton.com/cocktail-recipes/.
My friends Sarah Guisti and Linda Crayton are quite the mixologists. But I would probably just make a ginger martini shaken with equal parts vodka and ginger liqueur.