Bright pink and smelling of woodsy garlic, ramp scrap vinegar is one of the first things I ever made with ramps. Back then, when the ramps would come in the restaurant when I worked at Heartland in St. Paul, the line cooks would fight over who got to use them on the menu first. When we’d clean them, typically the bulbs would be separated out for pickling, a few for cooking fresh, and the leaves used for various things. One year, even though the ramps weren’t going to my station, I helped out with the cleaning process, with the idea of bogarting some for my own projects. I remember noticing the red stems of the ramps some still attached to the green leaves, and thinking that I should save some to make mignonette, a sort of infused vinegar with shallots and black peppercorns–a classic condiment for oysters. No one will miss the little red part of the stem, right? Right.
I took my tax of red stem from all the leaves we processed in a day, packed them in a jug of vinegar and waited. After a few hours, I was pumped to see that the red color had bled into the vinegar and turned it a beautiful shade of red/pink. After a few days, the smell had completely taken over the vinegar, and I started cooking with it in simple dishes where I’d like the flavor of ramps. Coleslaw was one of the first things we did with it, and it’s excellent, after that, we added crushed black peppercorns and herbs and used it as a condiment for fried fish–ramp stem scrap and all–like a sort of rustic, broken sauce for dipping and spooning over instead of lemon juice. Eventually, when I was running my own restaurants, I made ramp vinegar by the gallon, and we used it as the base of our house-pickled ramps, which is another good idea.
There’s tons’ of things you can do with your ramp scrap vinegar, but the best things will be simple ones. Here’s a few ideas.
- Use it to season something simple like cabbage slaw, coleslaw, etc.
- Add some hot chilis like habaneros or hot garden peppers and use it to season wilted greens, a la southern hot pepper vinegar.
- Add some coarsely crushed black pepper and it turns into mignonette–perfect for seasoning fried fish and oysters.
- Reduce it with a good pinch of sugar, honey, or maple syrup for a tart, rampy glaze.
- Use the ramp vinegar to season chicken stock, then add some unsalted butter and reduce until syrupy for a tart pan sauce, preferably with some of the ramps in it.
- Use the ramp-infused vinegar to pickle ramps, for some ramp-on-ramp action.
Ramp Scrap Vinegar
- 3 oz roughly 1 cup ramp trim, preferably from the middle stem
- 10 oz white vinegar 1 1/4 cups
- 2 oz living apple cider vinegar 1/4 cup
- Wash and dry the ramp stems, then slice thinly and combine in a jar with the vinegar.
- Store in a dark place away from light for a week to mellow before using.
- ½ cup diced ramps
- 1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt