Whether you grow ginger, or buy it in the store, making your own gari – sweet pickled ginger slices, famously used as a palate cleanser between different pieces of sushi – is a breeze. You won’t believe how much better the flavor and texture is when you make your own and eat it fresh. It has an actual crunch to it, unlike the stuff in the store bought sushi packs (and probably a lot of restaurants too). Homemade also won’t contain all the weird chemicals I am seeing in just about every jarred option, including aspartame; potassium sorbate; FD&C Red #40 and more.
You’re only going to need: ginger (duh! – but you may not have known baby ginger is preferable if you can get it), sugar, salt, and rice vinegar. Given these ingredients, it would be very easy to make this organic too. Ditch or reduce the sugar if that’s an issue.
Since this site is mostly about fermentation, I’ll say up front this is not a lacto-fermentation recipe. Yes, ginger can be lacto-fermented, and likewise a lacto-fermented version of gari is possible. In fact, I’ve been experimenting with this and provide some details at the bottom if you wanted to try. In the main though, this post is for classic gari. It is easy to prepare, ready relatively quickly (ready in a few days), delicious, and it certainly still qualifies as a health food without lacto-fermentation.
I also want to make a quick comment about baby ginger and how easy it is to grow. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it in stores; I’ll have to start keeping an eye out, especially in Asian and international markets. But my supply of it comes from the ginger I grow in pots, which is also super easy. Basically you can just buy organic ginger in the store, put it in loose, sandy soil in a pot, place it in a hot (but shady) place during the spring and summer. Make sure it gets plenty of water, and by the end of summer or fall (it’s up to you), you’ll be harvesting your own baby ginger. I usually harvest after about 9 months. Separate most of the baby ginger from your original ginger (by hand or with a knife), and the original ginger will regrow each summer for years. You can of course just grow it in the ground in these same conditions, but most places in the US get too cold in the winter to keep it in the ground safely.
Now on to the recipe!
This is for a pound of gari. You might not need that much. Adjust quantities as needed.
You will need: a mandoline slicer; mixing bowls; quart jar; paper towels; spoon (to peel mature ginger; baby ginger shouldn’t be peeled)
Do you have your gari & soy sauce dishes? So many great options here.
- 1 lb. baby ginger (preferred); if unavailable, organic ginger is a good substitute but it will not produce the pink color (note you can add a TBSP beet juice, or a slice of beet, to the final product when you jar it, if desired, to impart the desired color)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 cups rice vinegar
- 6-8 TB sugar
- Slice the ginger into thin strips with a mandoline slicer. If unavailable, you can use a knife, and try to cut as thin as possible. (A mandoline slicer is more effective and certainly quicker.)
- In a bowl, salt the ginger and massage it into the ginger so that it is evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand for one hour.
- Meanwhile, combine the sugar and vinegar and bring to a low boil. Make sure sugar is fully dissolved. Allow to cool.
- When the ginger is ready, thoroughly dry it with paper towels. Repeat pressing out dryness and turning the ginger to get it as dry as possible.
- Place the ginger in a clean jar. (A pound of ginger fits a quart jar perfectly.)
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the ginger. Seal and place in the refrigerator.
- You can begin eating within a couple days but for best results, wait 5-6 days. It should stay good in the fridge for at least six months.
What I did to create gari with healthy probiotic bacteria is lacto-ferment sliced baby ginger in a 3% salt brine. Once you add sufficient vinegar, the continued production of this bacteria will cease, but it won’t lose what was already developed. Given this, I fermented the ginger for a month in brine, but as with anything lacto-fermented, you could put them in the fridge within just a few days and still have some probiotic bacteria. This alone could be put in the fridge and used as a gari substitute. However, to achieve a taste closer to traditional vinegar gari, I added some rice vinegar and sugar before refrigerating, and let it sit there for about a week before trying. This was a small concoction and unfortunately I don’t have exact measurements but down the line hope to have a full recipe. Though it had a different color (more cream/yellowish) and flavor from the pink gari, it really was delicious and certainly passed as a gari-like palate cleanser. It is shown here with a small sushi meal I put together to sample and compare them.