Wild onions, ramps, allium triciccum, wood leek— different words for the same pungent and fragrant spring gift from the forest floor. Ramps made an appearance at nearly every meal for weeks until Ted looked at me and asked for a ramp hiatus. I had to agree, it was time to take a break but I still had two or three pounds of those lovely wild onions in the fridge and I was not about to waste them. Since I dug those babies up with my own two hands, I felt a responsibility to make sure they were re-incarnated as something wonderful.
Pickling was the perfect way to preserve my foraged wild onions and since I have yet to meet a pickled thing I don't like, I knew it would be a fitting re-incarnation for my harvest. As I stood at the sink, trimming and washing the last of those oniony bad boys, my mind wandered back to the day the kids, George, Ted and I went out to harvest the ramps near a rushing creek in a lush forest. Charlie scouted out the best ramp patches, Will wandered around with his camera, Sadie was trying to embrace the gnats swarming around her head, Meg and Ted were exploring and George awed and amazed us with his ability to scamper across a fallen tree over the creek. I bottled up that warm spring day with my family in each jar of wild onions I sealed. Food is love, plain and simple.
Pickled Wild Onions
2 pounds wild onions, cleaned and green leaves removed (I left some of the smaller onions leaves on)
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. mixed peppercorns
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 bay leaf
8 - 10 springs of thyme (depending on how many jars you are using)
Bring the canning jars and lids to a boil in a stock pot, remove from heat and set aside. Bring salted water in a large saucepan to a boil over high heat and add wild onions and cook until crisp-tender (about 45 seconds). Remove the onions from the boiling water and immediately place in an ice bath. Drain and divide the ramps and sprigs of thyme between your sterilized canning jars.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and then pour the mixture over the wild onions and seal jar. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 2 - 3 weeks.