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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 Meyer Lemon Confit

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is dropping in today with a brilliant idea for how to make lemon confit. These oil-poached lemon slices produce both deeply infused olive oil and tender slivers of lemon, ready to be chopped and stirred into braises, vinaigrettes, and batches of hummus. I am planning on starting a batch of my own immediately. -Marisa

A grouping of lemons on a kitchen towel for lemon confit

Every winter, I look forward to my box of tart, aromatic sunshine from Lemon Ladies Orchard, which I first learned about thanks to Marisa’s devotion to them on this very blog.

Sometimes I ask for it as a Christmas gift and spend the week between the holidays happily preserving. But this year, I ordered up a five-pound box of their gorgeous, organic Meyer lemons to brighten things up during the long midwinter stretch in February.

Sliced lemons for lemon confit

So far, I’ve preserved lemons in salt, made lemon syrup (the classic Joy of Cooking lemonade concentrate recipe that my mom made when I was a kid is my favorite), infused vinegar with the excess peels, and dehydrated several racks of thin slices to pop in my herbal tea till these precious lemons come into season next year.

I’ve reserved a handful for lemon bars and maybe a mini batch of velvety lemon curd, too. But I really wanted to try something new this year, maybe something savory. This Los Angeles Times compilation of 100 ways to use Meyer lemons — intended to ease the burden on Californians blessed with a backyard citrus bounty — offered an idea I’d never tried before: Meyer lemon confit.

Sliced lemons in a pot for lemon confit

You’ll often see salt-preserved lemons referred to this way (“confit” comes from the French word “confire,” meaning to preserve, so it makes sense). But this method preserves the lemons in fat — olive oil, to be precise. Slice the lemons, cover with oil, and cook them at the barest simmer over very low heat for an hour.

The olive oil is infused with a heady combination of brightness from the lemon oil, tartness from the juice, and a bitter undertone from the pith. The lemon itself becomes milder, the peel tender — almost like salt-preserving the lemon, minus the long wait and without the overpowering saltiness.

Lemon confit cooking at a bare simmer
Scoop out the oil and use it in salad dressings or marinades, then top the veggies with finely-diced pieces of lemon. Puree the mixture with fresh herbs and use as a dip for crusty, fresh bread or pita. Chop the thin-skinned lemons and toss them with steamed red potatoes and herbs in a vinegary potato salad, or rub minced lemons on chicken thighs before roasting. I bet you could add a whole new dimension to a lemony olive oil cake with this infused oil, too.

Two jars of lemon confit

You could take this preparation a step further and make variations with other flavors: add herbs like thyme or rosemary, or maybe a bundle of parsley stems; another option could be bay leaves and black peppercorns.

While this recipe can’t be canned, your lemon confit will keep for at least two weeks in the fridge (or months in the freezer), so you can add a lush, lemony note to dishes long after Meyer lemon season has ended. How are you preserving Meyer lemons this winter to last all year long?

How to Make Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Confit

Ingredients

  • 6 organic Meyer lemons
  • Olive oil to cover (around 2 cups)
  • Optional: herbs and spices like black peppercorns, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, or parsley stems

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the lemons, then halve lengthwise and cut into slices between 1/4" and 1/2". Put the slices in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot or saucepan. Add good olive oil (it doesn't have to be extra virgin) to cover the lemon slices.
  2. Heat the mixture under the lowest possible heat for one hour. You're looking for a slow simmer — the occasional lazy bubble — but want to avoid a full simmer.
  3. When time's up, remove the pot from the heat. As soon as the mixture is cool, seal in jars, label with the date, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
http://foodinjars.com/2018/03/how-to-make-meyer-lemon-confit-olive-oil/

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How to Brew Bracing Homemade Fire Cider

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is dropping in today with a recipe for homemade fire cider. This invigorating tonic is said to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the winter cold and flu season! -Marisa

Ingredients for homemade fire cider

Where I am in Philadelphia, the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler after a warm start to fall, and root crops are ready to harvest.

That means it’s time to start a batch of homemade fire cider.

This spicy, bracing infusion has been used for centuries as a way to preserve herbs and vegetables that also have medicinal value. Whipping up a big batch at the end of the growing season means that you’ve got a tasty tonic to sip on or use in recipes like sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

I first tried making this recipe years ago, when I was a CSA manager tasked with finding with a handful of new and interesting recipes to include with each share of vegetables. One week, we included horseradish in the boxes, and I came upon the now familiar recipe.

I loved the ritual, the acidic flavor, and the kick — a powerful whoosh of horseradish, garlic, and onion straight to the nose. I’m not sure whether it was thanks to the homemade fire cider or something else, but I didn’t get sick that winter.

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How to Make Fresh Tulsi Tea

Even though 2017 isn’t over yet — and it’s been a pretty big year already — I know I’ll remember it as the year I met tulsi.

I was introduced to this mesmerizing plant through the yearlong monthly herbal medicine class I’m taking with a clinical herbalist and teacher here in West Philly, Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary.

I meet with her and around 15 other students one full Sunday per month at historic Bartram’s Garden, where we also maintain raised beds and learn to grow herbs from wilderness gardener (and herbalist) Mandy Katz from seed to harvest.

I think it was the second class, sitting outside with our notebooks on a balmy day this April when we studied the nervous system. We learned about adaptogens, plants that contain compounds that can help the body and mind deal with stress.

There are several, like ashwagandha root, as well as some fungi, like prized reishi mushrooms. But tulsi — also known as holy basil — piqued my interest, since I already dry and brew my own blend of culinary basil varieties for tea.

Kelly has said that if she could recommend one herb to everyone, it would be tulsi — that if everyone just got their daily dose of heady, stress-relieving tea, we’d all feel a little better.

And after taking it daily as a tea made from the dried herb (purchased through Mountain Rose herbs), I have to agree with her: during difficult, stressful times, my regular tulsi habit did seem to help make life a little brighter, a little easier to deal with.

However, tea made from dried tulsi, while pleasant to drink, is somewhat unremarkable: dark in color, earthy and tannic, and only slightly reminiscent of the pungent, bubblegum-sweet essence of the fresh herb.

It wasn’t until I was regularly harvesting it from my garden this summer that I really got to know this herb — and I had to learn to remake my daily tea all over again.

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How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a how-to post designed to help you make tonic water syrup! A fun DIY project for an August weekend. – Marisa

When hot weather comes to Philadelphia, that’s my cue to pick up a bottle of gin — because there’s no better quencher at the end of a long, hot bike commute or gardening session than a bright, herbaceous gin and tonic.

In recent years, I’ve started investing in better, locally produced gins to make my favorite summertime cocktail: bottles of Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat and Palmer Distilling’s Liberty Gin are made in the city; Manatawny Still Works’ Odd Fellows Gin is produced about an hour outside Philly in Pottstown. All three are delicious in a crisp G&T.

With quality craft gin, homemade seltzer (thanks to my secondhand SodaStream), and fresh-squeezed lime juice, I found myself just one ingredient away from a truly bespoke cocktail: homemade tonic water.

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Meyer Lemon, Garlic, & Cilantro Salt

This hand chopped Meyer lemon, garlic, & cilantro salt is quick to make, easy to use, and offers a simple way to keep from throwing out expensive herbs. You could just as easily use a bundle of parsley, a few sprigs of rosemary, or leaves from a package of fresh sage. And it’s an ideal project for the February’s Mastery Challenge topic – salt preserving. 

Ingredients for Meyer lemon, garlic, & cilantro salt

Last week, I bought a bag of cilantro. I needed just a few sprigs for a batch of soup I was making and didn’t have a good plan for the rest (so often the death knell for fresh herbs). Yesterday, with this month’s salt preserving challenge top in my mind, I went looking for that bag. It was a little wilted and a few leaves had gone slimy, but plenty was still useful and salvageable. And so I made a little batch of flavored salt.

half chopped ingredients for Meyer lemon, garlic, & cilantro salt

I cleaned the useable cilantro, gathered up a few cloves of garlic, grabbed a precious two Meyer lemons (from the batch that I got from Lemon Ladies last month), and pulled down a jar of salt. A big cutting board and a sharp knife and I was ready to go. I started by peeling and chopping the garlic, because it was the most dense of the ingredients I was working with. Once it was chopped down into manageable bits, started chopping in the cilantro (stems and all).

Once those two were well integrated, I grated the fragrant zest off the two lemons and added that to the pile. Finally, three tablespoons of sea salt. Chop, chop, chop – gather – and chop some more.

Finished Meyer lemon, garlic, & cilantro salt

Once I liked the consistency of the ingredients (not too fine, but relatively uniform and well-integrated), I spread it out on a plate and set it in the corner of my dining room to dry for a few days. Right now, it’s still damp, but after 48 hours, it should be quite crunchy and crumbly (and if it’s not, I’ll either let it sit for another day, or I’ll finish it off in the oven).

In small batches, hand chopped flavored salts like this are incredibly quick to make and a pleasure to use. You don’t need to dirty the food processor, or even be particularly precise with your measurements. It’s about extending the useful life of ingredients and making something that will bring easy flavor to basic cooking.

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