Here’s what happens when the first ramps arrive: the leaves and bulbs get separated, but there’s a much larger volume of leaves than bulbs when all the ramps are cleaned and processed. Needless to say, when I cook with ramps at the restaurant I regularly see the bulbs used faster than the leaves, especially if there’s an enthusiastic line cook or two working.
A couple years ago, staring at a couple deep hotel pans filled with leaves and no ramp bulbs left to add to the dishes, I did the most prudent thing I knew: I blanched the leaves en-masse and froze them. After blanching and freezing, the leaves keep their green color when they get made into a puree, or whatever I’m feeling like making, it also helps to save space in the cooler. One of the things I ended up making with all the frozen leaves was hot sauce, delicious, fermented, green hot sauce.
Last year I shared a recipe for a sriracha style hot sauce made with fresno chilis and ramp bulbs. This year, I thought I’d share it’s hot cousin: a green sriracha-style sauce made with jalapenos and ramp leaves, minus the bulbs. It took me couple tries to get the proportions right, but the final version here has a great amount of balance between heat/chili flavor and rampy-ness.
Green Ramp Leaf Sriracha
You may read the recipe and wonder why I say to throw away half of the seeds of the jalapenos and keep the rest. I found that I got a decent amount of heat from only using half of the seeds from the particular jalapenos I was using, but if you like it really spicy, or if the peppers you’re using are more mild, use more seeds or supplement with cayenne for a spicier hot sauce, by all means.
If you have some ramp bulbs laying around too, they add great flavor to this, but I don’t include them in the formal recipe since the point is to focus on the leaves. If you want to use whole ramps in this, add a few tablespoons of chopped bulbs to the jalapenos when you toss them with the salt and sugar before fermenting.
Feel free to experiment, is you’re sriracha too spicy for you? Add some more pureed ramp greens. Do you like it sweeter? Add some more sugar/sweetener. Want it even rampier? Again, add more pureed ramp greens, just remember to adjust the seasoning for salt and sugar at the end.
As well, I know plenty of people like to use non-sugar based sweeteners like maple or honey, which is totally fine, just remember that they contain more water than granulated sugar, I would cook down the jalapenos a bit longer if you use a sweetener with more water in it.
Yield: roughly 3 cups
- 3 lbs jalapenos
- 1/4 cup salt
- 3/4 lb ramp leaves
- 1/2 cup +1 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup flavorless oil, like grapeseed
- Wearing gloves, trim the jalapenos, and remove the white pith and seeds from half of them and discard.
- Coarsely chop the jalapenos, then combine with the salt and sugar. Place the mixture in an air tight container, like a mason jar, then cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface to remove excess air and cover the jalapenos with their juices.
- At the restaurant, I weight down the mixture while it ferments too, just like sauerkraut. We do this by weighing down containers filled with jalapenos with bags full of cold water, at home, you might double- wrap 2 freezer bags inside of a mason jar, then pour in water and press down to remove all the air from the jalapenos. Allow the mixture to ferment for five days in a cool, dry place away from light and heat, remove the weight and stir the jalapenos once a day or every other day, replacing the weight each time.
- After five days, Remove the jalapeno mixture and all the accumulated juices and cook on medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally until very soft and most of the juice has evaporated, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and blanch the ramp leaves just for a moment to wilt. Immediately transfer the ramp leaves to an ice bath to chill and preserve their color, then remove and chop.
- In a high-speed blender, combine the ramp leaves and slightly cooled jalapeno mixture. Process the mixture, gradually adding 1/2 cup of the flavorless oil while it’s pureeing to help make the sauce extra smooth.
- Strain the sauce through a chinois strainer, pressing down with a 2 ounce ladle to speed up the process. (This step is optional, but recommended)
- Chill the sauce as quick as possible (I spread it out in a wide pan to cool with plastic wrap pressed on the top to prevent oxidization). When cooled, transfer the finished sauce to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed.