This was a kitchen experiment that went really well, even if it did behave in a way that I wasn’t expecting. After I’d made crystallised ginger, it occurred to me that you could try crystallising other things. This is the way of it – much like after making the chili powder it has occurred to me that I can dehydrate a lot of things, once I get a new notion into my head it can be hard to remove it again. My local supermarket has recently started selling fresh turmeric, an exotic new ingredient that I’d never seen before, and it seemed a prime candidate for crystallising.
The flavour of turmeric can be overwhelming, and usually you only use a little powdered turmeric in a recipe for colour and taste. I thought, though, that in its fresh form it might be a little less pungent, since it wouldn’t be so concentrated. What I didn’t really bank on, though should have, was that the colour is just as vibrant in the fresh root as in the powder, and thus my hands and several areas of my kitchen ended up stained what I can only call a luminous yellow. When I was at primary school there was a great craze for ‘luminous’ pens, and the colour of the soap bubbles as I tried to scrub my hands and fingernails on the day of candied turmeric reminded me very strongly of the yellow one that we used to colour in smiley faces with. My face was a little less smiley. My fingernails looked like I’d been chain smoking cigars for a fortnight.
Once I’d peeled and sliced the turmeric roots, I was struck by how orange it was, very like carrots. I had a wee taste of the raw stuff. It does taste something like a spicy carrot, with a heavy, bitter aftertaste. I still wasn’t completely sure that this experiment was going to work out, but I remained hopeful.
I followed the instructions for the crystallised ginger (which are posted on Jillian’s blog), and the first step was bringing the turmeric to a boil, then draining off and starting again. I did this one extra time to try and draw out more bitterness, and then replaced into the post with a measured amount of water and sugar, just as stated in the candied ginger recipe.
When the ginger has absorbed all the syrup, you tip it onto an oven tray and put it in a low oven to dry out. I expected to have to do the same with the turmeric, but I was in for a surprise. As the last of the syrup was soaked up or evaporated away, I was left with sugar coated turmeric and, mysteriously, a powdery, exclamatory yellow sugar residue. I didn’t have to dry the turmeric out at all, and the texture of it was very different to the ginger. The candied ginger had been chewy, lie a jelly sweet, but with a crunchy outside and a fiery taste. The turmeric was soft, yes, but not really chewy, and the surface felt more dusted in sugar than rolled in it.
I let it all cool down and then packed it straight into a clear cellophane bag, to put in my Foodie Penpals parcel. However, I couldn’t very well send it off without having a taste. The carrotty, spicy and bitter flavours all remained in the pastilles, but they’d been softened and merged together by the sugar syrup. This is the kind of sweet that you really can just have one or two of, and feel satisfied. They are unusual, and refined, and exotic, and they even come with a big load of turmeric flavoured sugar which I’m sure would have many uses. Turmeric also has many health benefits, though whether those remain through a coating of sugar I’m not positive…