Everyone likes to pickle ramps. If you get a bunch during the season, you want to make sure you can mete them out for all their worth, and pickling is a great way to preserve your harvest. But, after they’re pickled people often tell me they don’t know what to do with them. There’s plenty of uses, but I have a favorite: pickled ramp aioli.
99% of the time when I crack open a jar of pickled ramps, or dip into a cambro of pickles in a restaurant fridge, I’m not going to slice them and put them on a plate raw, or sprinkle them on something, or toss them on a salad. To stretch the ramps, I mix them with a few other ingredients to make an aioli, what you end up, in my opinion tastes a bit like pickled ramp tartar sauce, fit for the gods. You can use it interchangeably wherever you’d use a nice, sharp mayonnaise based condiment, especially with fried or roasted fish or chicken.
Late season ramps have big bulbs and can be tougher than younger ramps, if I’m using them, I’ll make sure to chop them pretty small.It’s a condiment that tastes like concentrated, creamy pickled ramps, a little sweet, a little sour, a bit salty, but most of all: rampy to the max.
The importance of stretching ramps
Brief tangeant here. It goes without saying that ramps are expensive. I’ve basically stopped digging them myself for lack of time, but also because I want my purchasing dollars to go to places I know that are harvesting ramps sustainably, like Dragsmith Farm and Footjoy farm, two of my favorite Midwestern Farmers I’ve been working with for years. Now, I generally just clip the leaves since I can harvest very large amounts in a short amount of time. This does mean that I generally purchase some ramp bulbs, over the course of the season, since I’m only one person.
At the beginning of the season, you’re going to pay about 10$ a lb wholesale in the Midwest, 13-15$/lb if you order out of state or buy from a coop. I can usually finagle 7$ a lb at the end of the season when the ramps are fat and huge, as well as stringy, which means they need to be chopped fine. When the ramps are younger and at their best, you’re going to pay for them.
The real cost of putting pickled ramps on a plate is much higher than whatever you pay outright though, not least of all, remember the leaves are where most of the weight is. After trimming the leaves you’re left with less 50% yield by weight. Of course you can use the leaves for plenty of things, but they’re not quite as punchy as the bulbs. That means the price of those pickled ramps bulbs just went up, to be conservative and allow some profit from using the leaves we could say 20$/lb, and that’s on the low end. I don’t care what kind of food you’re buying or what dinner you’re planning, 20$ a lb for anything is expensive.
Basically what I’m getting at here is that since ramps are spendy, you want to make sure you stretch them as far as possible. Ramp aioli allows you to do just that, and I’ll tell you my secret to it.
The Importance of Ramp Pickling Liquid
As I’ve said before, the secret to pickled ramps is all in their pickling liquid, I never throw it away, it’s their essence, a concentrate of their flavor. For pickled ramp aioli and flavored sour creams, I always cook down the pickling liquid a bit and then add it to the finished product to boost the flavor. But, most pickle recipes contain a ton of sugar and/or vinegar, reducing the liquid down can protect against the finished product being overly vinegar-y, as the potency of vinegar is subdued by heat, but too much sugar or salt can be ruin your aioli, fast, which is why I developed a pickled ramp recipe made especially for reducing down. See the original recipe here.
Pickled Ramp Aioli
- 1/2 cup chopped pickled ramps and 1 cup reserved ramp pickling liquid or use 1 pint jar of pickled ramps
- 1 tablespoon each chopped tarragon, cilantro and chives or 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (optional)
- 2 cups thick mayonnaise preferably homemade, but high quality store bought mayonnaise or heavy duty restaurant mayo will work.
- Cook the ramp pickling liquid down until only about ¼ cup remains, do not allow the liquid to caramelize or scorch.
- Tasting as you go, gradually add the syrup-y pickle liquid to the mayo, since your pickle liquid may be slightly different than mine, you want to be double sure to add it to taste, to avoid over-salting or sugaring the finished product.
- Afterwords, fold in the herbs and chopped pickled ramps.
- The end result should taste a bit like tartar sauce, double check one last time before transfering to a lableled container and refrigerating until needed.
- The ramp aioli will keep for two weeks under refrigeration, longer if you use pre-prepared mayonnaise since it uses pastuerized egg product.