September 12, 2008
Pickled Ramps, etc.
posted by Nadia

Pickled Ramps.jpg
- Copyright Reserved - Rachel Hulin - 2008 -

It's nearing the end of the summer, and naturally my thoughts turn to pickles. The farmers' markets are flush with tiny eggplants, okra, cucumbers, and I'm already envisioning myself come January, plucking them with my fingers out of a mason jar of brine.

Full disclosure: I am talking about refrigerator pickles here.

I am ashamed to say that, although I like to imagine myself as One Who Puts Up, I have never learned to can, and haven't yet been brave enough to try fermenting my own kosher dills and sauerkraut.

I know, I know ... I am an embarrassment. A fraud. I deserve no claim to culinary triumph. But, I ask you, how is a girl with approximately 0.0005 of an acre of arable rooftop garden supposed to grow enough to put up for the winter? And where, pray tell, is she to find an Agway that sells Ball jars, jar racks, and pectin? "Pish posh," the reader may say, knowing full well that the author's mother is an expert canner, and that her father actually owns a sauerkraut/pickle crock. "But," I protest, "he uses the crock for decoration, and resists all my efforts to put it to its intended use."

Don't toy with my emotions, please. Until some pickling knight in shining armor arrives at my doorstep bearing canning supplies, a crock, and some expertise, I am resigned to refrigerator pickles.

The photo above is of some ramps I pickled this spring that we've been using to make pickled ramp martinis, a la Dan Barber. Below, you'll find a recipe for this most delicious beverage, as well as two recipes for quick refrigerator dills and spicy pickled eggplant. Enjoy.

Pickled Ramp Martini
(technically a Gibson, but let's not quibble here)

2 oz. gin
1 Tbsp. dry vermouth
2 Tbsp. brine from the pickled ramps
A pickled ramp for garnish/snacking

First, don't you dare substitute vodka for the gin. How many times do I have to drill this into your head? A martini made with vodka is not a martini. End of story.

Also, don't scoff at my tablespoon of vermouth. I like these wet, and you really need the vermouth to cut through the rampy vinegar-ness.

Quick Dill Refrigerator Pickles

8-12 Kirby or other pickling cukes, quartered
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups distilled water
2 Tbs. salt
4 cloves of garlic
A nice fat fistful of dill, washed
Dill seed and maybe a touch of pickling spice

Note: Even when I'm making refrigerator pickles, I first put a big pot of water on to boil so that I can half-sterilize my jars. I don't leave them in there for the full recommended sterilization time of 10 minutes, but usually just until I start getting impatient. This is why I can never work in a laboratory.

Combine vinegar, water, salt, and spices, and heat, stirring until the salt dissolves. In the meantime, curl up your dill in the bottom of your jars and add the garlic and cucumbers. When the liquid is dissolved, pour over the cucumbers in your jars and close them up. Keep in the fridge for at least a week before you start nibbling.

Pickled Eggplant (Torshi Betingan)
Adapted from Claudia Roden's "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food"

2 lbs. small eggplants (about 4 inches long)
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic
2 dried red hot chilies
2 Tb. salt

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Wash the eggplants, keeping the stem ends intact. Using a small knife, cut a long slit lengthwise into each eggplant. Boil them for 5-10 minutes, then drain and cool. When cool, press them gently between paper towels to get some water out, and remove the stem ends.
In a pan, combine vinegar, water, and salt, and heat, stirring until the salt dissolves.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chilies together until they form a paste. Stuff each eggplant with a small spoonful of this paste. Place the eggplants in your jars (see note re: quasi-sterilization above), and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Close your jars, and let sit in the fridge for at least a week before eating.