Keeping Ramps Out of Season
Ramps are extremely seasonal and highly perishable and the season is quite short (perhaps only 2 weeks in the Northern Appalachian regions of Southern Ohio). Saving them for year round use presents a serious problem. I’ve found 2 acceptable solutions but NOT as good as having fresh ramps. Here are our solutions to keep ramps out of season.
Remove the roots, rinse and bundle your ramps in handfuls in ziploc bags in bunches about the same as scallions come in from the store. Squeeze as much of the air out of the bags as possible before sealing but don’t squeeze so hard that the ramps are crushed. Date the bags and toss them in the freezer.
These frozen bunches can be “shaved” or chopped as needed for cooking without any need to thaw them first. (You’ll be needing a SHARP knife with a sturdy blade for cutting frozen ramps). These work great in those scrambled egg dishes I referenced earlier. They are not as great as fresh ramps but still darn good. When placing your ramps in the bag to freeze them keep them all facing the same way, bulbs on one end and leaf tips on the other. This way when you take out a bunch to shave off some for a recipe you may more easily choose between bulb or leaf bits as best fits the application at hand.
Kept solidly frozen your ramps should easily last until next spring when it’s time to go get more. I’ve never had them last that long myself as they get used up very quickly.
Freeze Those Rubs
Prepared rubs are also are easily frozen in 1 quart ziploc bags. A bit under 1/4 cup of rub in the bottom of the bag can be rolled out to something like a thin cigar along the bottom of the bag. Then roll the bag up from the bottom to remove the air as much as possible and when rolled completely the top can be zipped.
They can be quickly thawed as needed then the meat to be rubbed can be tossed in the same bag, rubbed, then re-zipped and marinated for as long as desired. A few minutes is usually enough to thaw the rub, especially if you crack the bag open and give it a little mushing up then a few hours of marinating your meat will work and overnight is even better.
Keep the marinating meat back in the fridge during this time. Kept solidly frozen I have kept rubs for several years although they do lose some of their potency over time.
The second method for saving ramps long term is PICKLING. Pickled ramps are an Appalachian mainstay although many picklers only bother with the bulbs. I first tried to pickle the entire ramp, less roots. This did not work out as the vinegar could not penetrate the bulbs leading to losing the entire jar of ramps. I now pickle the bulbs, leaves, and stems all separately. Pour a few tablespoons of salt on top of them, fill the jar with cheap white vinegar and screw down the cap. It doesn’t hurt to give the jar a good shaking to dissolve the salt into the vinegar and get everything evenly distributed.
You may leave this in the fridge (I don’t bother refrigerating mine until after I open the jar and start using them) and draw off them as your culinary needs dictate. The vinegar from these is also culinarily useful for deglazing pans or for adding to recipes requiring acidity. The infused pickling vinegar carries the ramp flavor very well.
How long can you keep the pickled leaves and bulbs? Until they go bad, as in the lid of the mason jar puffs out. We started drawing off of the whole ramps after about 4 months of sitting in the cellar without refrigeration then moved the rest of them to the fridge and are still using them. This jar of pickled leaves is two years old. The leaves are probably mushy, but still useful to add to a sauce or reduction.
If the straight vinegar method renders your ramps too sour for your taste, replace 1/3 of the vinegar with water. I would not dilute it more than that unless they will be kept refrigerated. Even in the fridge, the less vinegar you use, the shorter the shelf life of your preserved ramps.
Pickled ramps remain more pungent than frozen ramps but the pickling process does change the flavor as one would imagine. You’ll still know it’s a ramp though.