Pickled ramps are a standard, and one of my favorite way to preserve everyones favorite wild leek: put them in a gimlet, chop them up and add them to stir fry, or my favorite, chop them fine and add to aioli to make the tartar sauce of the gods, the possibilities are endless.
Essentially, this is just a simple sweet pickle recipe, to which you could add various other seasonings. There are a few things to know about pickling ramps though, so I'll touch on them briefly.
First off, ramps and garlic cannot be pickled just by pouring pickle liquid over them and processing in a water bath. What happens is the onion bulb reacts with the vinegar and turns the pickles blue. The blueing doesn't affect the flavor, but it's unsightly. To prevent blueing in your ramp pickles, you will need to first blanch them in some lightly salted water.
Secondly, ramps are almost like three vegetables in one. You have the leafy green top, the pink stem, and the oniony bulb on the bottom. Each of these parts has different cooking times and properties. The bulbs and pink stem can be cooked as one for pickling, but the greens should be removed and processed separately, such as in ramp pesto (see a recipe for that here). The greens turn mushy when processed or canned with a hot method, and are better off just pickled cold, like refrigerator pickles.
Older, mature ramps, (see below) especially those whose leaves have died will be a bit fibrous. I like medium-age ramps for pickling the best, but I do often harvest older bulbs while I'm hunting scapes and flowers in the summer if I need them for something. Older bulbs are perfect for cooking down in their liquid into pickled ramp aioli.
Save That Pickle Liquid
Ramp pickling liquid tastes really good, and I like to use it in cooking, especially for making aioli. The method is simple, strain the pickling liquid of spices and herbs, then cook it down to concentrate the flavors a bit. You'll find that my pickled ramps have a bit less vinegar, sugar and salt than a lot of other recipes, and this is on purpose, since if you cook down typical pickling liquid, it can add too much salt or sugar to whatever you're making.
I like to be able to control the levels of salt and sugar, so they're light in this recipe. In the pictures here, you'll see that the spices have been strained out, which makes it easy to just pour off a bit of liquid as I need without having to strain out mustard seeds, etc.
Basic Pickled Ramps
- 1 lb Ramp Bulbs trimmed of their taproot
- 3 cups water
- 1 T kosher or sea salt
- ½ Cup sugar
- 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar, or simply white vinegar.
- 2 tablespoons pickling spice
- Toast the spices on medium heat in a saute pan until aromatic, then cool and reserve.
- Remove the leaf at the part of the stem were it turns red. Leaving the red stems on the ramps ensures you a beautiful pickle liquid with a pink hue.
- When you have trimmed the leaves, next remove the "condom" from the ramp as we call it-a thin layer of viscous tissue on the outside of the bulb. Remove this, also trimming off the taproot where it connects to the base of the ramp bulb. Save the taproots to plant in your yard.
- Save the leaves for another purpose.
- Heat the water, salt and sugar, and spices on low heat in a pot with a lid wide enough to accommodate the ramps.
- When the mixture starts to steam and is boiling, place the ramps in and cover, making sure the cover is on tight. Steam the ramp bulbs for 1-2 minutes like this (1 minute for young bulbs, 2 minutes for older ones with larger bulbs) just until they wilt a bit, but are still crunchy and raw in the middle, stir them once during the process.*
- After the ramps are par cooked, remove them to a bowl (this helps them not overcook) then add the vinegar and bring the liquid back to a boil.
- Quickly pack the ramps into canning jars, pressing them down and filling them about 60% full. Pour the boiling pickle liquid into the jars right up to the brim (you don't have to leave as much room as you won't waterbath can them.
- Screw the lids on tight, then turn upside down and allow to cool. After cooling, the ramps will be shelf stable just like if they were water bath canned.
- Alternatively, store the ramps covered in their liquid in your fridge, without canning. Provided that the ramps are always completely covered by liquid, they will last pretty much forever, at least until next ramp season.