Have you ever wondered why that pile of pickled ginger next to your sushi roll is dyed pink? It’s obviously an artificial addition, but did you know that there is a natural reason why it is even done in the first place?
It turns out pickled ginger, or gari, will develop a natural pale pink tint when made with fresh baby ginger.
I had no idea!
But when you see a chunk of freshly harvested baby ginger, it’s obvious why.
Baby ginger, with its paper thin skin and distinctive dark pink tips, is harvested in the fall when it is still young and tender, compared to mature ginger (the kind you buy in the grocery store) which is left in the ground for up to a year, during which time it develops a much thicker skin and a tougher, more fibrous texture.
It’s those distinctive pink tips that turn the pickled ginger a pale blush pink without any added coloring. Many brands of commercially produced gari are colored pink with artificial color or with beet juice, to intensify the color or because the ginger used is too mature to turn pink upon pickling. Obviously no pickled ginger, even pickled baby ginger, is THAT bright pink, but at least now you know the reason why it is dyed pink instead of, say, green or blue.
You can see in the comparison above that one of my jars has a delightful blush pink tint to it: for the jar on the right, I sliced the ginger all the way up through the pink tips. The longer it pickles, the pinker it’ll get. For the other jar I just sliced the main body of the ginger, which didn’t have much pink on it (the pink tips will fade to brown the longer the ginger is stored), and the result is a natural ginger color. There is absolutely no taste difference between the two jars, but you have to admit that jar on the right is looking awfully pretty in pink.
I bought 4 glorious pounds of organic baby ginger from Windcrest Farm in North Carolina, and if you hurry, you can get your hands on some too. This precious rhizome is only available for a few months in the fall. Baby ginger is also sweeter and juicier, with less sinus-burning heat, but it is mainly the thin skin and less-fibrous texture that makes it perfect for homemade pickled ginger.
The skin is so thin you don’t even have to peel it; I simply scraped a spoon around the rough/thick parts to remove any papery bits, and then shaved it with a vegetable peeler (I like this ergonomic PalmPeeler). You could also use a mandoline or a super sharp knife if you have ninja-level knife skills. The goal being to slice the ginger against the grain as thinly as possible.
Yes, you can use mature ginger here if you’d like, though it won’t be quite as tender. You will need to fully peel the ginger before slicing, and you may want to boil the ginger slices for 5 to 10 minutes to soften them further. Baby ginger, on the other hand, is tender enough that a quick soak in boiling water is all you need.
I did do some looking into whether this recipe would be safe for canning, and couldn’t find much. As far as I could tell, most readily available rice vinegar is not the necessary 5% acidity vinegar required for safe canning, it’s usually more like 4-4.5%. If you can find some 5% rice vinegar, this recipe should, in theory, be safe for canning. You could also substitute another type of vinegar, such as white or cider, which is easy to find in a 5% strength, though I don’t think the flavor would be quite as nice in the final product, and the heat of the processing might affect the final texture as well (the same as the difference between refrigerator pickles, which are crunchy and crisp, and processed pickles, which are much softer).
The fact that this gari will keep well for up to 6 months in the fridge is more than enough. I seriously doubt these two jars of mine will even last that long.
Homemade Pickled Ginger
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) fresh baby ginger
- 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Wash and scrub ginger well to remove any remaining bits of dirt or soil. Use a spoon to scrape off any thick or papery bits of skin. If using mature ginger, you will want to fully peel it.
- Thinly slice ginger across the grain using a vegetable peeler or mandoline (please watch your fingers)! You want the ginger to be as paper thin as possible, and I found the peeler to be the most effective way to do this.
- Place sliced ginger in a bowl. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over ginger and let sit for 5 minutes. If using mature ginger, you might want to blanch the ginger in a pot of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes to soften it further.
- Drain well, then pack ginger into one pint jar or two half-pint (8 oz) mason jars. Be sure jars are thoroughly washed or, even better, sanitized in boiling water prior to using.
- In a saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, and salt to a simmer, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Pour hot liquid over ginger in jars. Secure lids and allow the jars to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. The pickled ginger, which is ready to eat after several hours, will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Adapted from Linda Ziedrich via NPR.All images and text © Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
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I will continue to check you out
Yes, both the onion and ginger pickled was great
I grew ginger (for the first time) and getting ready to harvest it. Do I need to dry out the ginger after harvest or can I make pickled ginger right after harvest? Also can I mix 5% white vinegar and rice vinegar to allow for shelf stable canning? Also plan to make candied ginger. Both will make great gifts.
I used fresh baby ginger here, no need to dry it or anything. In fact, for this recipe, the younger/fresher the ginger the better (it’s less fibrous I find).
I have not tested this recipe for canning, so I cannot attest to its safety (I do not think rice vinegar is 5% unless it explicitly says so, which would mean it is NOT safe for home canning). If you want to can it, I’d recommend seeking out a recipe from a trusted source like the USDA or Ball Canning resources.
So we just made it and it smells Devine. Thank you so much for the recipe. We decided to make our own pickled ginger because we made some marinated chicken with the left over juice from a jar of pickled ginger we had. Oh my! The chicken was so delicious!! So we figured we would make our own,, can’t wait to try it out. Oh and I kept the juice from the boiled step, didn’t throw anything away.If you try it, Enjoy
It sounds like the one I buy, now I can make my own .SAVE MONEY TO MAKE MANY. . . sounds GINGERLY
YUMMY FOR LITTLE MONEY, LOL
I found I needed twice as much vinegar to cover the 8 oz of ginger. Very delicious though!
What is the purpose of sugar in the recipe? And can I make it with out the sugar
Can I leave out the sugar from the Homemade Pickled Ginger recipe? If not, can I use stevia?
Tried it with mature ginger and blanched for 10 minutes. It looks like shredded rope but actually tastes delicious. Not the same as baby ginger but definitely edible plus. The boiled water made a great tea, too. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Yum! I love pickled ginger, and have been known to take it from my dining companions to save for “dessert.” I love that you not only share fabulous recipes, but also information behind products. (I had NO clue baby ginger was pink.) Thanks for sharing, I’ll definitely be utilizing this in conjunction with some of your other recipes!
OH GEE WHIZ. I’m the one who always asks for a quadruple serving of pickled ginger so you are speaking directly to me with this recipe. I too had no idea that the pink color was natural!! Not that I ever mind pink in my food, it often matches my outfit. :-)
Very cool! I always assumed that the pickled ginger was dyed. I had no idea that the fresh baby ginger has that pink tint. Thanks.
Four pounds made only 2 jars? Wow. I would have expected a lot more. Thanks for including the link to purchase the baby garlic, I’ve never seen it anywhere. I’m definitely going to get some. I love pickled ginger.
No, 8oz made 2 jars. :) I’m doing a few other ginger-y things with the rest of it!
Why have I never thought to pickle my own ginger?? I am one of those people who will clear my plate and everyone else’s of pickled ginger when enjoying sushi. That baby ginger is the prettiest!!
I knew I liked you. :)
Ginger lovers unite!
ooh i feel like i’ve seen bright pink and white pickled ginger, but never the gently, subtly pink one that you’ve made! i tried making pickled ginger once with mature ginger, but didn’t boil it, and it was very…. hearty and intense. will have to either boil it or track down baby ginger!
It really is amazing how different the baby stuff is. Wish I could get it year round!
Ah that’s awesome! So good to make homemade!
This is fantastic. I love pickled ginger, but it isn’t easy to find here in the south of France. I won’t be able to find baby ginger, but I’m going to try this with what I can get.