May 16, 2011

pickled ramps and asparagus


It's a rainy Monday here in New York, and I'm downtown serving my first day {ever -- a momentous civic occasion!} of jury duty. While I'm sitting and waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . I thought this might be a good opportunity to tell you about some fantastic pickles I made over the weekend. 

These are truly pickles of spring: ramps, those delicious and stinky little wild leeks with a fleeting season that's by now almost at an end; and asparagus, whose green spears are popping up in markets everywhere lately (I was finally able to set aside a batch for pickling that didn't go straight into a hot skillet).







Though I like fresh ramps just fine -- especially sauteed in butter and olive oil and tossed with soba noodles -- I've discovered that I actually like pickled ramps even better. Briefly blanched, they retain a fresh crunch, and their pungency stands up to an assertive spice mixture including mustard and fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and Aleppo pepper. These would made a great addition to a potato or whole grain salad, and would also be killer in a bloody mary -- maybe even a dirty martini? For now I'm just eating them plucked straight from the jar.






With its crisp, dense-fleshed stems, asparagus is also an ideal spring vegetable for pickling. The spicy and tangy pickling mixture complements but doesn't overwhelm its distinctive, sweet-savory-umami flavor.  I might tuck a few spears into a sandwich, add them to pasta and salads, or use them to spice up a cheese plate along with rich marcona almonds and some dried or fresh fruit. {Seems to me that the bloody mary and dirty martini remain viable options here, too.}

Are you pickling vegetables this spring? Any favorites or tips you've gathered along the way?


pickled ramps and asparagus
adapted from sassy radish, natural health magazine, and food in jars
yield: one 20-ounce jar of asparagus pickles and one 16-ounce (pint) jar of ramp pickles

For the pickling liquid:
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar {or sucanat, rapadura, natural cane sugar, etc.}
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp Aleppo chile flakes {or any crushed red chile flakes}
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
the remaining ingredients:
  • 3 bunches of ramps, leaves removed and reserved for another use, bulb ends trimmed and washed well {yield is about 2 cups of bulbs}
  • 3/4 pound of asparagus, washed well and tough bottom stems removed {I trimmed them to a height that would fit in the jar I was using and saved the tender sections that had to be removed for another time}
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 stalk of spring garlic, cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch segments {or 2 mature garlic cloves}
  • One tall, 20-ounce jar and one 16-ounce {pint} jar, sterilized in boiling water

Combine all ingredients for the pickling liquid in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the ramps first {for 10 seconds} and then the asparagus {for about 1 minute}, transferring each to an ice bath.

Place a slice of lemon at the bottom of each jar. Arrange the ramps in the pint jar and the asparagus in the taller jar, tucking in a few slices of spring garlic as you go along.

Pour the cooled pickling liquid into the jars {I used about 1 cup of liquid for the ramps and 2 cups for the asparagus}, placing a bay leaf and a thyme sprig in each jar and evenly distributing the spices between the jars.

Seal the jars tightly and refrigerate. The pickles will be ready to eat in about 2 days and will keep for weeks in the fridge.

4 comments:

  1. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to try my hand at pickled ramps. I need to hurry, before they're gone!

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  2. thanks, Kimberley :) hope you get to pickle some ramps this season -- those little guys were born to be pickled if you ask me !

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  3. I really wish I could get wild ramps here in Sydney too! They are just so amazing and versatile and this pickle sounds like a great way to enjoy them!

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  4. I like the combination of pickling ingredients, and the simplicity of the recipe. Ramps are gone from these parts, but asparagus is still plentiful.
    Nice work!

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