I pickle with a purpose. Maybe I want to extend a fleeting season, or punch up piquant flavor, or introduce complexity to food preservation. Maybe I want the probiotic benefits of natural fermentation, or the simplicity of a brined pickle. Whatever the mission, it’s important to match the natural characteristics of the fruit or vegetable with the preserving process.Take ramps, for example. Early signs of spring, these broadleaved alliums line creek beds and moisture-laden woods in the Northeast US. Foraged and not farmed, they pose an environmental dilemma when over-harvested. Although I remember picking them in a creek bed with my grandfather when I was a kid, it wasn’t until I started seeing vast piles at the Union Square Farmers Market in New York that I had an “uh-oh moment.” Since they don’t readily grow where I live, I always quiz the sellers about locale and foraging practices.
For me, the purpose of pickling ramps is simply to make the crop (and the season) last more than a week, since harvested ramps lose their oomph in a matter of days (or maybe hours). I made a hot brine and poured it over trimmed ramp stalks and a small chili pepper standing up in a sterilized jar, cooled and capped the jar and let it cure in the refrigerator for a week before using. For the brine, I used 1/3 c rice vinegar, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 c spring water, ¼ c sugar and 1 tbsp pickling salt (or Kosher salt). This is loosely based on Joshua McFadden’s formula in Six Seasons.Green garlic, the next allium to be harvested, is stronger than ramps in texture and flavor. Green garlic resembles a scallion and is simply the whole garlic plant before the scapes emerge and the bulb forms. In my mind, this needs a more robust treatment but since the flavor is relatively delicate, I did not want to overpower it with vinegar. Because of the thickness of the stalks, I lightly poached them just before crisp-tender stage. I also slit the bulb end so that the pieces would be of even thickness. Poaching compensates for the relatively light brine. The brine that works here has 1 c white wine or Champagne vinegar, 2 c water, and 1 tbsp sugar. (The sugar tempers the vinegar but you could do without.) I added a few fennel seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns to the jar. The green garlic takes a couple of weeks stored in the refrigerator before being perfectly ready to eat.