One can never have too many condiments, right? I am a relative newcomer to the relish trend. Memories of nuclear green pickle relish gave me a mindset that I don't like relishes. Commercially made giardinera with a "brine" of pure vinegar was so overwhelmingly sour I could barely stand it. It wasn't until recently, as I've begun making and canning my own relishes and quick pickles that I have learned to branch out and try new flavors.
I saw a recipe posted by a forager on Facebook, for a ramp relish, and since I am a big fan of ramps and have access to loads of them every spring, I thought this would appeal to me. A quick glance at the recipe and I knew I'd be completely remaking this recipe. Where this person used simply minced raw onions and ramps I decided to caramelize them for a better, sweeter flavor. Instead of soaking in plain white vinegar I am adding a splash of balsamic to mine, to refocus on the sweet tones of the onion and ramps instead of an overly acidic crunchy raw relish.
First and foremost, you must be able to get your hands on some ramps. Fresh ramps. For me, that means plodding about in the woods here at the lake during ramp season. For some lucky city dwellers you may be able to find them at farmers markets or gourmet shops. Fresh is imperative for best flavor, so even frozen ramps, I would pass on those. I also use both the bulb and the leafy green top in my relish recipe so make sure to reserve those tops!
Caramelized Ramp Relish
1 medium onion
10-12 fresh ramps, including the tops
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Finely mince the onion and shallots. Using only the white part of the leek, slice lengthwise. Clean thoroughly to remove any grit, then thinly slice crosswise. Finely mince the bulbs of the ramps, reserve the leafy tops for later.
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly over medium low heat until vegetables are caramelized to a nice golden brown. Chop the ramp leaves and add to the caramelized vegetables.
Add sugar and vinegars to the skillet. Cook several minutes until mixture is thickened. Transfer for a jar or plastic food container and refrigerate.
While this is a relish, it doesn't have the acidity need to make it shelf-stable in a home canner, so keep it in the fridge. It's a small batch so you won't have quarts of the stuff either. It's delicious on roast beef sandwiches, blended with butter to top a grilled steak or served with a cheese plate.