Ready for Ramps!

Despite that dastardly snowfall this morning, I’m thinking spring. Word on the street is that fresh, local ramps will be making their seasonal debut at local co-ops this weekend. Hooray! Ramps!

What are ramps?
Ramps are tasty, wild leeks. Their small bulbs have a pungent, onion-like flavor and they have broad, green leaves that smell like onion as well. They emerge in spring around the same time as daffodils and tulips. They can be foraged in the wild near water and on hillsides in sandy soil, or you can grab a bunch at your neighborhood co-op.

Cooking with Ramps

As with so many ingredients in our kitchens, ramps pair well with bacon.

• Half a pound of ramps, trimmed and cleaned
• Half a pound of bacon, chopped
• Salt and pepper

1. First, separate the leaves from the bulbs.
2. Gently parboil the bulbs in water while you chop and fry some bacon in a pan.
3. Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside.
4. Once the bulbs are tender, transfer them to the bacon pan and sauté them in the bacon pan with the drippings.
5. Add the chopped ramp greens to the bacon pan with the bulbs and cook until they are wilted.
6. Grab the bacon you set aside earlier and crumble it over the top of the bulbs and greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preserving Ramps

Can’t eat all of your ramps? Take a crack at preserving them for later use.

Make a ramp compound butter. Compound butter is butter that has been modified with additional ingredients. Herb butter comes to mind as a popular compound butter served at restaurants. Compound butters are great on broiled fish, bread, and are even good for making sauces.

• Half a pound of ramps, trimmed and cleaned
• 2 pounds of unsalted, cubed butter at room temperature
• 1 lemon, zested and juiced
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Parchment Paper (or wax paper)

1. Trim and clean the ramps.
2. Blanch the ramps by boiling them in water for a minute and then plunging them in ice water.
3. Drain the ramps and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
4. Slice the ramps into very small pieces.
5. In a large bowl or mixer, combine the butter, ramps, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
6. Create logs of compound butter and wrap them in parchment paper. Store in container in refrigerator or freeze.

Not in the mood for butter? Try pickling your leftover ramps using a recipe from Twin Cities’ own Chef Shack rock stars. Read up on canning if you’ve never canned before. The University of Minnesota Extension has everything you need to know to get started.

• 1 lb cleaned, fresh wild ramps
• 1 cup white vinegar
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 tsp. each of hard pickling spice (cinnamon, coriander, juniper berry, star anise, and cardamom)

1. Clean and soak wild ramps in cold water.
2. Trim root ends and scrub free of soil. Leave whole.
3. Place the raw, prepped ramps in jars while you prepare the pickling liquid in Step #4.
4. Pour vinegar, sugar, water, and spices in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring the mix to a rolling boil for 3 minutes.
5. Carefully pour the hot liquid mix over the ramps in jars and place self-sealing ring and top on each jar.
6. Cook the sealed jars in your canner for approximately 15 minutes. Keep a minimum of 2 inches of water boiling over the jars during cooking time.
7. Remove the ramp-filled jars from the hot water. Cool for 24 hours.

Just as quickly as ramps appear on shelves and menus around the city, they disappear, so grab some of these tasty harbingers of spring while you can!