Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wild Ramp Ice Cream

My father and I went for a drive last saturday and caught the latter end of a foraging party out to pick wild ramps. Ramps are a kind of wild leek, and have become a very in-ingredient among chefs in the last couple of years. Which is unfortunate, because they take about ten years to grow full size. Even that wouldn't be so much of a problem, but when foragers take them, they dig out and damage the bulb as well, which means more ramps won't grow back, even though the bulb, stem, and leaves are all flavorful and edible. I'm told I sound like a hippie on this, but since they've become such a hot ingredient, the plant is swiftly becoming endangered because people are greedy.

So when you read this recipe, before you run out and start pulling (or buy it from a farmers market or whatever) just remember that each one will take a decade to regrow.

Ramps are a wild leek. Their flavor is a combination of the sharpness of a green onion with the aromatics of garlic. They are among the first green edibles to shoot up in the spring, which is one of the reasons for their popularity. Like all onion-types, they can be pickled, made into a mayonaisse, enjoyed in salads and sandwiches, and so on.

Well, there I found myself with a bushel of wild ramps and didn't know what to do with them. On the way home, we stumbled onto a farm selling fresh eggs and another selling raw milk.

Looking back, the rather obvious answer SHOULD have been to make ramp popovers, but I'm dumb. Instead I thought: ice cream. I figured that I had to take advantage of such beautiful ingredients, why not ice cream?

I didn't measure this out, so I'll have to just give a general idea. I took ~10-15 ramps and (after cleaning) chopped them up. About 1 quart of raw milk was placed on the stovetop on a medium heat, and the ramps added and stirred. The milk was brought to a simmer and kept there, stirring, for 10-15 minutes. A couple of leaves were tested and found to be nearly flavorless- the milk had extracted the flavor from the leaves, which made the plant parts now superfluous. The milk was sieved and the plant matter discarded. The milk tasted of sweet onions. Milk was placed into the refridgerator to chill.

To the chilled milk solution was added 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/4th cup sugar, and 2 eggs, followed by several minutes of gentle stirring until homogenous. This was added to the ice cream machine. Some milk solution was leftover and put aside for possible popover experiments. Ice cream was tested while still soft- sweet onion taste was there, but sharpness had returned with a vengeance. Ice cream was placed in freezer for the final freeze. On hardening, tested again and sharpness was once more gone, leaving a sweet and flavorful, aromatic ice cream.

It's maybe not an everyday thing. I can certainly see it as a fun and different way of adding flavor to certain hot soups- like maybe a nice borsht. Still, you could probably get about the same flavor with green onions, something to keep in mind if you don't have access to wild ramps.