How to Make Ramp Butter

This week, regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones swings by with a recipe for preserving spring ramps in creamy butter. Enjoy! -Marisa

Clean ramps and softened butter on a cutting board

Spring is the time of year when everything seems to speed up: plants are growing, people emerge from hibernation, things are happening.

And while I do my best to cook with each of those early foraged and farmed foods — nettles, ramps, rhubarb — at least once a season, if not more, the bustle of springtime sometimes makes it tough to cook creatively while those goodies are in season.

That’s why I love preserving what grows this time of year. There’s five pounds of rhubarb in my fridge, ready to be diced and frozen for pies later this summer. I have nettles on a drying rack in my apartment to add to tea blends once I’ve harvested other herbs later in the season. And I’m preserving ramps in one of my favorite foods: butter.

Clean, trimmed ramps

This compound butter is super simple to make, so it’s easy to fit it into a busy schedule. It’s got a long shelf life in the freezer and myriad uses once you thaw it out, too.

This batch is scaled for just one bunch — about four ounces — of ramps, which also makes it budget-friendly, as these rare alliums can be pricey at the farmers’ market. Of course, if you forage them yourself, you can easily multiply it if you come across a trove in your woodland wanderings.

Soaking ramps in a measuring cup

A note about sustainably harvesting ramps: if you’re foraging for ramps yourself, harvest no more than ten percent of the ramps you see growing in a given area. An even more sustainable way to enjoy ramps is to simply snip off the green leaf that grows aboveground and leave the white bulbs behind — because if you pull the whole plant, it won’t grow back next year. (The forager I got these from pulled their ramps out; hopefully, they only harvested a little bit and left the rest so as not to diminish the supply year over year.)

To make ramp butter, wash your ramps well — they grow on the forest floor, after all — and trim off any roots. Next, give the ramps a 30-second blanch in boiling water, followed by a dip on cold water to stop the cooking. I do this the lazy way by filling and heating my electric kettle to boiling, then pouring the water over the ramps in a heat-proof bowl.

Finely minced ramps

After you’ve cooled down your ramps, ball them up in your hand and give them several strong squeezes to get out as much water as possible — you may want to bundle them into a clean dish towel or a few paper towels to help get more of the moisture out.

Now it’s time to mince. You can do this by hand (like I did), which takes extra time and effort, or you can feel free to chop them small in your food processor. Once your ramps are minced finely, it’s time to combine them with your softened butter.

Combining ramps and butter in a stand mixer

Combine the butter and ramps in a bowl and use a silicone spatula or wide wooden spoon to mix them well; you can also do this with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I used a cultured, lightly salted butter, so I waited to finish the recipe to add salt to taste — but if you’re using unsalted, I’d add at least one big pinch along with the ramps.

Next, you can store your ramp butter in a resealable plastic tub, or, my preferred method, shape it into a roll using parchment paper. Just roll it up, fold down the sides, and stash in a labeled zip-top bag to store in the freezer for up to six months. You can also chill the roll in the fridge and then cut the butter into single-serving slices for melting over a rare steak, schmearing onto crusty bread or dabbing onto fried eggs.

Making rolls of ramp butter

How to Make Ramp Butter

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces ramp (leaves only or leaves and bulbs will work)
  • 8 ounces grassfed butter, softened (sweet cream or cultured butter will both work, as will salted and unsalted)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash the ramps well and trim off any roots or bruised leaves. Blanch ramps in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and shock with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain ramps again and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. It may help to bundle the ramps in a dish towel or paper towels to help absorb more liquid.
  2. Finely mince your ramps using a sharp knife or food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Combine with softened butter and a big pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter). Mix well using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, or combine the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix using the paddle attachment until well blended.
  3. Taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary. Portion your ramp butter into airtight reusable containers or roll and wrap it into logs with parchment paper and then store in a sealed zip-top bag. Ramp butter will last in the fridge for a few weeks or the freezer for up to six months.
http://foodinjars.com/2018/05/how-to-make-ramp-butter/

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Comestible: A Print Journal About Food

Years ago now, on a visit to Western Mass, a friend and I sat around her dining room table and dreamed of creating a scrappy journal dedicated to home cooking and eating. It was going to be in the spirit of the zines of our youth, would be published a few times a year, and would strive to build community and pay its writers.

As you might guess, we never managed to pull this concept from dreamspace into reality. However, fellow food writer Anna Brones imagined a publication along similar lines and has brought hers into being. Called Comestible and launched in 2016, it is a 100% reader supported publication, with no advertisements. Printed twice a year, each issue is 64 pages, 5.25 x 7.75 inches and printed on recycled, FSC-certified paper in the Pacific Northwest.

Each issue includes original stories, artwork, and recipes. The spring/summer issue that’s currently available (and is pictured throughout this blog post), features work along the theme of reclaiming and includes stories by Andrea Bemis, Sara Bir, and many others.

You can order the current issue, buy back copies, and pick up prints of Anna’s paper cut art work here.

You should also head over to my Instagram account, because this week I’m giving away a 2018 subscription to Comestible. The winner will get the issue featured here, as well as the fall/winter edition (it will arrive in October).

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Spiralized Pickled Golden Beets with Ginger

I bought a spiralizer three years ago and while I enjoy the novelty of vegetables cut into shapes other than that which I can achieve with a knife, I can’t quite convince myself that long strands of zucchini or eggplant are actually noodles. Still, I find that it has a place in my overstuffed kitchen, if for no other reason that it is fun (and sometimes that is enough).

I first made these spiralized pickled golden beets a little over a year ago and they are one of my favorite things to add to soba noodle salads or heap on top of an Ak-Mak cracker spread with fresh ricotta cheese (I realize that’s an oddly specific application, but darn if it isn’t delicious).

You can certainly make these pickles without having a spiralizer at your disposal, but it does lend a bouncy, curly-fry spring to the finished pickle, which I enjoy. Without a spiralizer, you’d just cut the raw beets into thin slices and then cut those slices into narrow matchsticks (a mandoline would help with this, though I find that they are a little iffy with dense vegetables like raw beets).

The most important thing when making these pickles is to strive for thin cuts. The only cooking that the beets receive is a short simmer in the brine, so in order to keep them from being aggressively crunchy, you need to aim for narrow matchsticks or curls.

I make these pickles with an assertive volume of ginger, which I find both boosts and balances the earthiness of the beets. I tried spiralizing the ginger for one batch, and found that it didn’t do a good enough job of distributing the ginger throughout the jar of pickled beets. Instead, every so often, I’d take a bite expecting beet and get a mouth full of *ginger* instead. While not exactly unpleasant, it wasn’t what I was aiming for. A fine dice works better.

I make these pickles to keep in the fridge, because I find that I like the texture best, and it also means that I don’t have to use quite as much vinegar, rendering them a bit more mellow. They do fade over time, so if you can’t abide still delicious, but slightly grey pickles, make them in smaller batches or eat them quickly.

I’m curious if you guys are using spiralizers to prep vegetables for pickling. Any experiences you’d like to share?

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Cookbooks: Pretty Simple Cooking

I have been feeling a little lost lately. I’m in the strange place where a book I’ve written is nearly finished but there’s still nearly a year before it will be out there in the world. I am turning 39 in a few days and am finding that my life looks much different than I thought it would at this age. And, after seven years of working by myself in my living room, I’m starting to wish for a place to go and be each day.

During times when I feel out of sorts like this, one of the first things that often slips away is my grasp on useful, utilitarian, daily cooking. I still manage to make preserves and turn them into breads and bar cookies, but the alchemy of making dinner feels impossible to master.

When this happens, I find myself casting around for culinary lifelines (because one cannot live on take-out alone, even in a neighborhood as rich in fast casual joints as mine is). I shop the farmers markets. I allow myself to spend $10 on plump, purple asparagus. And I read cookbooks for hours, until I spot a recipe that hooks onto my soul and compels me to return to the kitchen.

One cookbook that has performed that trick for me lately is Pretty Simple Cooking by Sonja and Alex Overhiser. They’re the pair behind the blog A Couple Cooks and their breezy, vegetable-forward style proven to be the exact right thing to help me stitch myself back together again (Alana Chernila’s Eating From the Ground Up has also been working double-time on this front).

I think part of the reason Pretty Simple Cooking is working for me is that the food is a whole lot of stuff that I enjoy eating, put together in ways that I’d not thought of. It’s easy to love a book when you can open it, say yes to a recipe, and not have to do a lot to track down the components (I’m looking straight at you, Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos on page 190).

Another fun thing is that Joy sat down and interviewed Sonja for our podcast recently, and the episode containing their conversation went live today. Give it a listen, if you’re so inclined!

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Sponsored Post: Meet McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies

I’ve learned a lot about gear in my years as an avid home cook and canning teacher. Nothing is more useful than a freshly sharpened knife. Always bring extra jars and containers to classes. And most of the time, the best place to buy durable, portable, affordable equipment is your local restaurant supply store.

Recently, the folks from McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies reached out and asked if I might be interested in dedicating a post to some of the tools they sell that are just as useful at home as they are in more professional food settings. Of course I said yes!

First, a little about McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies. Founded in 1994, they’re based in the New York metro area and carry more than 20,000 items for restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, supermarkets, catering companies, and home cooks.

If you visit their 25,000 SF showroom in Brooklyn (open M-F, 7am – 7pm; Sat, 8am – 2pm), you’ll find professional cutlery, food prep tools, kitchen hand tools, mixing bowls, cookware, and extra-sturdy commercial grade dinnerware (great for households that are hard on their dishes). Home mixologists will find shakers, muddlers, cocktail prep tools, and kits that can help raise their cocktail game to the pro level.

Now, on to the gear!

  1. Giant, polycarbonate measuring cups – These big, indestructible measuring cups are amazing tools for canners. You can easily see how much produce you’ve prepped, they’re relatively light, and they can go in the dishwasher. For maximum versatility, get both the 2 quart and 4 quart versions.
  2. Stainless mixing bowls – They come in a huge range of sizes, but I like the 8 quart for holding produce and mixing salads.
  3. Stainless steel skimmers – These are the best for lifting foam from the top of your jam and scalding tomatoes and peaches for peeling.
  4. Rasp-style zesters – These are a quarter of the price of the name brand zesters and work just as well.
  5. Large, polycarbonate food storage containers – I use glass in my kitchen wherever I can, but there are times when nothing serves quite as well as a really large, plastic container. I use my 4 quart square poly tub for leftover soups and stews all the time. It may well be the hardest working vessel in my kitchen.
  6. Waterproof digital thermometers – I reach for my thermometer on a near-daily basis and use it to test for doneness in jams, loaves of bread, roast chicken, and even the honey syrup I use to hold my homemade granola bars together. So useful, and when bought from a restaurant supply store, so cheap!
  7. Jars – McDonald Paper carries some cute jars that I’ve not seen at other outlets. I think there’s a road trip to Brooklyn in my future!

That’s just a short list of some of my hardest working gear from restaurant supplies stores. Do you guys have any favorites?

Disclosure: McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies is a Food in Jars sponsor and contributes to the upkeep of this site. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

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How to Make Dandelion-Infused Honey

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is dropping in today with an inspired yet simple idea – honey infused with bright dandelion blossoms! It reminds me of the lemon verbena honey I made back in the very early days of this site. -Marisa

I pride myself on knowing all sorts of unique preserving methods and recipes that make the most of each season. I’m also incredibly thrifty, preferring (with food, at least) to make, grow, barter, or glean what I eat rather than buying ready made.

So it was shocking when some amazing culinary artists in my neighborhood announced that they had made a limited-edition product that had never even occurred to me before.

Frances Rose and Acorn of K Is for Kitchen offer lots of different culinary services in our West Philadelphia neighborhood, and one of those is making ethically sourced value-added products. They make all manner of sauces, butters, pestos, and other treats, rotating with the seasons. And they has a little stash of a very special honey, a summertime wildflower honey infused with (wait for it)…dandelion blossoms.

Such a simple idea! How had I never seen or heard of this before from any farmer or forager I’d worked with? I had to try some — luckily, I was able to get my hands on a jar.

My first thought is that the flowers might add some bitterness to the honey — not unwelcome in such a sweet food — but I was wrong. The dandelion blossoms add a bright floral quality and a depth to the honey’s sweetness, creating complexity by combining two utterly simple ingredients.

To make this delectable treat, find a field or lawn where you can be sure that the plants haven’t been sprayed and the soil is not contaminated (the front yard where I live fits the bill here, but there are plenty of urban green spaces with dandelions that I wouldn’t use for food — so select your site carefully). The dandelions should be in full bloom, big and fluffy and bright yellow.

Then, simply snip or pick the heads of the flowers off and collect them in a clean bag or basket (I cheated and used my straw gardening hat). Leave the stem behind, but the green calyx just beneath the flower is ok. I collected three or four big handfuls, which were enough to mostly fill a pint jar.

When you get back to the kitchen, go over your blooms carefully to make sure you’ve removed any bits of grass, leaves, or stems and any hitchhiking insects. It was too early for spring honey, but I had a jar of local wildflower honey (probably from last fall’s harvest) on hand to infuse.

Then loosely put your flowers in the jar. You don’t want to pack them too densely or else the honey won’t penetrate. Pour over the honey and then give the mixture a few stirs with a knife or chopstick to make sure the flowers are submerged and remove any bubbles that may be trapped.

Then, simply pop a lid on your jar and set it in a cool, dark place to infuse. Give it at least two weeks, then taste; leave it longer for a stronger flavor. The flowers will take up less space once they’re suffused with the honey; if you have room in the jar and want to add another handful or two, you can do that, too.

When you’re ready to use the honey, there’s no need to strain the flowers out — I find they look really pretty in a jar or even in a pinch bowl for serving, and I just add them to my herbal tea when the rest of the honey is gone.

Dandelion honey is less of a recipe more of a reminder that in a long-coming, cool spring, even the humblest of weeds presents an exciting opportunity for beauty and flavor. Spring is ephemeral, and this is one way to capture a really special part of it. Your honey will keep for up to a year.

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