How To Make Pickled Ginger

The take-out sushi standby has nothing on your skills

Pickled ginger is arguably the most crucial part of a sushi platter—its palate-cleansing role allows you to flawlessly switch gears mid-meal from that California roll to the spicy tuna.

The condiment—also known as gari—balances out the nasal-clearing wasabi, but it's too often laden with food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup and other less-than-ideal ingredients. Now that wasabi is getting real, it's time for ginger to follow suit: Here's how you can DIY pickled ginger.

Gari is technically made with young ginger, which is lighter than the knobby beige type you might be used to, and features pink tips on its fingerlike projections—almost like it's wearing nail polish. A few years ago, NPR reported that young ginger was increasingly grown in the United States; now, you'll most likely find it in Asian grocery stores. But since it can't be shipped too far without losing its quality, try to keep an eye out in local markets.

But if all you have is your typical geriatric ginger, you can still proceed with the following steps. In his book, Bowl, Lukas Volger suggests a tip for taming standard ginger. Once peeled, cook the ginger in boiling water for five minutes, then drain and shock it with cold water. Repeat if needed, until the slices are tender.

When buying ginger, remember that the smoother the skin, the younger the ginger (just like with humans). Now that you know what kind of ginger to look for, here's an easy four-step way to make pickled ginger:  

Peel ginger using a vegetable peeler or the end of a spoon.

Use a mandoline to slice it thin, then place 8 ounces in a jar.

In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup of sugar, 1 cup of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt until  boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the warm pickling liquid over the ginger, let it cool, then place the lid on the jar and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The longer it sits, the sweeter it'll be. Use any extra rice vinegar to make a soy-sesame-vinegar condiment that goes on everything, and you're ready for an at-home sushi night.