where the wild things are. no.16. quick pickled ramps.

I have been on a bit of a pickling binge lately. I have had some successes and some failures. I was "knot" so psyched about the Japanese Knotweed pickles... Knotweed is an invasive wild plant, similar to bamboo and it grows everywhere upstate. The red shoots are edible in the early spring and have  a rhubarb like flavor. I thought it would be interesting to pickle them. It was not good. The rhubarb- ness  that people talk about was a bit of a stretch for me. The pickles ended up tasting like swamp water! In order to combat such failures I simply move on to the next thing. In this case, it is pickled ramps.There is no going wrong with pickled ramps. I made a few batches  last year but the season is so short and they are so tasty, they never last more than a week or two in our house. I am into small batch; make that VERY small batch canning. I can't deal with the jars sitting around for months. I know that is the whole idea, but I tend to overdo it and make 200 jars of blackberry jam at a time so I have been attempting super small batch these past few years and pickling and canning has been a lot more reasonable. My secret pickling ingredient is juniper. I have been loving the wild, herby pine forest taste of juniper. It has become a regular addition top all my pickles. 

You can use this brine for any quick pickle.

 

 Quick Coriander Juniper Pickled Ramps

 

Makes roughly 1 quart jar

1/2-cup sugar

2 cups white wine vinegar

1-teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1-teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon dried juniper berries

1/2 teaspoon crushed juniper berries

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper fkes

1 teaspoon black Malabar peppercorns

1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

2 bunches of ramp about roughly a half a pound

 

Rinse the ramps under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.

Gently peel back the  outer most layer of the ramp and discard.  This outermost transluscent membrane can be a bit slimy, this is what you want to peel off.

Cut the hairy root ends off the cleaned ramps and discard.

If you are using the bulb end of the ramps for pickling, cut them just above where the pink stem ends. This will give you the bulb end for pickling and the greens for sautéing. 

 

 To Make The Brine:

Add the spices and sugar to the 2 cups of white wine vinegar

Heat to a boil in a non-reactive pot

Turn off and allow steeping for 20 minutes for the spices to infuse

In the mean time, prep the ramp.

 

After 20 minutes, reheat the brine to a slow simmer.

Divide the ramp into thirds and drop into the brine for 20 seconds.

Remove after 20 seconds with a slotted spoon and set aside.

The ramp stems will turn a more vivid pink.

When all the ramps have been run through the brine, turn it off an allow it to cool.

Place the pickled ramps in a 1-quart, sterilized Weck or Ball jar or some other  sterilized airtight storage container.

 When  the brine has cooled, pour the remaining brine over the ramps.

Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least a day before eating!

The pickled ramps will last for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.

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where the wild things are no. 9. wild pantry

The first time I saw mushrooms drying in great abundance was in Northern China in the Shanxi Provence. We stopped for some tea at a tiny morning market where the women had piles of wild mushrooms laid out on cloth drying in the morning sun. They had collected the mushrooms from the peaks of the Wutai Mountain, a luminous, foggy, pine and temple covered wonder. Though i don't speak their language, they managed to explain to me perfectly their continuous pilgrimage to collect the mushrooms from the mountain during the different seasons. I will never forget it, it was such a beautiful moment. I dried many wild mushrooms in the summer and fall of this year inspired by those women. It was my first time doing so and I am really happy with my stockpiled pantry of little treasures. Wild mushrooms are easy to dry. Though there are different ways of drying mushrooms I sliced most of mine thinly with a very sharp knife and laid them out to dry on a board. The oyster mushrooms I tore gently in long tin strips. Depending on the weather (if it was very humid for instance) I sometimes put a fan on the mushrooms or used a clip light to speed the drying process. In the end you want the mushrooms to be cracker dry before you put them up for storage. I know our children's friends thought us fairly insane with mushrooms drying all over the place but for the most part I think they kind of liked it, especially when I make them late night pizza or breakfast pizza with mushrooms and a fried egg on top! They are willing to put up with almost anything for pizza.

Some mushrooms dry and store better than others. Some of the varieties that dried well for me were; Black Trumpets, Chanterelles, Chicken Of The Woods, Hedgehog, Porcini, Yellow Foot, and Oyster mushrooms. Dried mushrooms should be soaked in water to re-hydrate them. Some mushrooms need to soak longer than others. Save the water that you soak the mushrooms in, never throw it away, it is like flavor gold! Once the mushrooms have plumped up from the water, Gently spoon them out of liquid and give them a rinse. Set them aside for your recipe. Put the remaining mushroom liquid through a sieve to get any bits out of it. You can use that liquid to flavor soups and broths. Dried mushrooms can also be pulverized in a food processor in order  to make a powder to use in soups and stews and other recipes. I recently made a gin drink with wild ginger syrup and used a mushroom salt for a little flavor on top. I am already fanaticizing about next mushroom season! In the meantime I am going to invent some new ways to use all these dried beauties.

When the mushrooms are cracker dry, I put them up in sealed weck jars for storage.

 A good source for wild mushrooms on line is wildgourmetfood.com

Recipes to come!

 

to see a gallery of wild mushrooms click here