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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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How to Make Paneer Cheese

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here today to show us how to make homemade paneer cheese with just two simple ingredients – milk and lemon juice! Reading this post immediately makes me crave dairy products! -Marisa

Slices of homemade paneer cheese

We often preserve to capture height-of-season flavors or produce we can’t get for most of the year. But oftentimes in my kitchen, preserving happens in an effort to curb food waste.

That’s how I first learned to make paneer, the springy, fresh cheese that shows up as the protein in some of my favorite Indian dishes. It’s one of the quickest dairy products to make, and also one of the easiest. All you need is milk, lemon juice or vinegar, and a little salt.

Milk and lemon juice for homemade paneer cheese

One of the reasons to make cheese like this is to use up milk that’s right at or even a tiny bit past its sell-by date. Just make sure to give it a good sniff and then use your good sense and best judgment.

That said, when the list is so short, using the best ingredients you can afford is always a good idea.  I source whole raw Ayreshire milk from a small grass-fed dairy here in southeast Pennsylvania, Wholesome Dairy Farms, for both drinking and making value-added dairy products.

Milk separating into curds for homemade paneer cheese.

I find that even when I’m pasteurizing the milk for a recipe, the yields on items like yogurt, whole-milk ricotta, and paneer are higher, and the product just tastes better when I’ve started with raw milk. We’re lucky that raw milk is so available in Pennsylvania. If you can get your hands on it from a reputable source in your state, I recommend doing so, even if you plan to pasteurize it in your recipe.

While we’re heating the milk for this recipe far past the pasteurization point, it’s still a good idea to remember that the very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems carry a greater risk when consuming unpasteurized milk products.

Pressing the homemade paneer cheese.

To start your cheese, pour one half gallon of milk into a four-quart, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my enameled Dutch oven). Heat the milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and feeling along the bottom of the pot with your spoon to make sure that it isn’t scorching. Keep a close eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over.

You want to get to a little below the boiling point, about 200oF. You can use an instant-read or milk thermometer for this, or you can watch for when tiny bubbles start to form on the surface of the milk. When you see the bubbles, immediately remove the pot from the heat.

Pressed homemade paneer cheese in the strainer.

Once you’ve reached the proper temperature, stir in lemon juice. This will cause the milk solids to immediately begin separating out. As the milk sits, the solids will continue to coagulate.

Strain the curds, then press out the remaining liquid in cheesecloth or butter muslin (I prefer butter muslin for home cheesemaking since it’s washable and reusable; cheesecloth is one-time use only). Press and refrigerate the cheese for at least a half an hour or overnight.

Homemade paneer cheese, unwrapped from the butter muslin.

Once the cheese is full drained, unwrap the bundle. Now you’re ready to add chunks of paneer to a curry or other dish, or — my favorite — fry slices up in some ghee and enjoy them with flaky sea salt and maybe a dollop of tomato jam or a slab of quince paste.

Bits of fried homemade paneer cheese.

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How to Make Fromage Fort

Happy New Year, friends! For our first post of the year, Alex Jones swings by with a recipe for fromage fort. It’s a thrifty and delicious spread that is the perfect way to use up those scraps of cheese leftover from your holiday entertaining. -Marisa

Scrapes of cheese for fromage fort

For as long as I can remember, cheese has always been a part of my holiday celebrations.

Growing up, a hunk of sharp cheddar and a wedge of Brie were must-haves leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Eve with relatives in Quebec usually meant a festive spread of nibbles centered around a raclette machine, melting slices of pungent Alpine-style cheeses over potatoes, bread, and veggies.

After scoring a cheap raclette machine of my own at my local Aldi last January, I had friends over for an evening of melted cheese, hot cider, and parlor games just before the Christmas holiday. After the revelry, a few scraps of cheese remained — and rather than tossing them into the compost, I tucked them away in the fridge to make one of my favorite thrifty, easy, cheesy recipes: fromage fort.

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Homemade Quark from Slow Cook Modern

About a month ago, I wrote about Liana Krissoff’s most excellent book, Slow Cook Modern. In that blog post, I promised to share the recipe it contained for homemade quark. I finally here to make good on my promise (I’m only a bit later than intended).

I know that some of you are probably reading this and are thinking, what exactly is quark? Well, it’s a soft set cheese of European origin that is made with acid rather than rennet. It has a bright, tangy flavor and can be cooked, baked, or spread on toast.

It’s also one of those things that seems like it should be quite complicated to make, but is quite easy (particularly if you have a slow cooker or Instant Pot handy).

You start with half a gallon of cultured buttermilk (this is the nice, thick stuff you buy at the store, not the liquid leftover from making butter). Once you’ve procured your buttermilk, you pour it into the vessel of your choosing.

I opted for my Instant Pot set to run on the yogurt setting (I borrowed a tip I spotted on the internet and ran the pot at high pressure for 1 minute with a little water in it before adding the buttermilk, to sterilize the pot and ensure that the quark turned out well). Once the buttermilk was in the pot, I set the yogurt setting to run for 8 hours and walked away.

When the time was up, it was time to separate the cheese curds from the remaining liquid. I lined a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, perched it above a bowl, and used a slotted spoon to lift the solids out of the pot.

Once all the cheese solids were in the cheesecloth, I let it drain. It was evening when I started the draining process, so I ended up letting my quark sit and drain all night. I ended up with fairly dry cheese as a result. If you want something a bit more tender, shorten that draining process.

I ate the finished cheese on toasted rye bread, and heaped on slices of cucumber. It was a tasty treat that I will most certainly make again!

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