Sprouting from the soil every spring, Ramps are the much ballyhooed and hyped allium with broad green leaves, purplish stems, and white bulbs that everyone seems to go crazy for this time of year. Why all the hype? Perhaps it has to do with their ultra-short harvesting season: about a month-long window in April, sometimes spilling over into May. Making ramps even more of a rarity is the fact that they grow wild (they’re also known as “wild leeks”) and have to be hunted and foraged (like wild truffles, morels, etc.). Add to the fact that chefs across the country sing the praises of ramps’ unique flavor—a strange cross between an onion and garlic, with a very pungent (some would even say cheesy or funky) garlic aroma.
Fresh Wild Ramps
So when I came across a pile of fresh wild ramps at my local Whole Foods, I knew I had to grab some while I could, even with its $24.99 per pound price tag. $24.99 a pound?!! For some green onion-lookin’ things?!! That’s almost as absurd as dropping $100 for a prizefight on TV. Oh, wait I’m ready to do that too.
So with my MayPac Pay-Per-View rationalization, I bit the bullet, carefully measured out a pound of ramps, and dropped $25 at the cash register. Knowing that ramps have a garlicky kick, I knew that I wanted to prepare a Filipino dish where garlic was a main flavor component. So the first thing I made was an Ilocano-style Longganisa: a Northern Filipino fatty pork sausage that is usually redolent of vinegar and garlic (as opposed to sweeter, less sharp longganisa versions from other parts of the Philippines).
I’ve been making homemade longganisa for a few years now, more or less based on this recipe I posted on this blog some time ago. For my ramp-centric version, I simply subbed out the garlic with about 5-7 ramps that I roughly chopped (leaves, stems, and bulbs). I added the ramps to some cubed bits of fatty pork shoulder, along with some Ilocano sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika.
How the Sausage is Made:
Cubed pork shoulder, chopped ramps, Ilocano sea salt, and spices
After letting everything sit in the fridge overnight, I passed the whole mess through a meat grinder, added some chilled Ilocano dark cane vinegar, then stuffed everything into hog casings. Voila, Filipino sausage with ramps.
Only Built 4 Filipino Linx
At this point, you can cook the sausages however you like: grill ‘em, poach ‘em, pan-fry ‘em. For me, I cooked the links in my sous-vide machine at 140-degrees F for an hour, then I quickly finished them on a hot grill just till they had some grill marks and a touch of char on them.
Just out of the Sous-vide Machine…
…Hot Off the Grill.
The result? A great Longganisa sausage with the traditional sour tang of Filipino vinegar, paired with the not so traditional flavors of wild ramps: a pungent mix of garlic, onion, and a sort of wild funkiness that I can’t describe other than “wild funkiness” — a definite and unique flavor profile you can only get from ramps. Add to that fact that the gentle cooking in the sous-vide machine more or less guarantees a juicy sausage.
Ramps. They’re in there.
So was it worth it? Paying $25 bucks for a pound of wild veggies? For me, yes. I definitely and immediately took a liking to the taste and aroma of ramps. And since I find myself making longganisa about once a year now anyways, I think moving forward I’ll coordinate my yearly sausage making so that it coincides with ramp season.
To make my Ramp Longganisa Sausage, you can simply follow my blog recipe here, or find my longganisa recipe in my cookbook (which is essentially the same as my blog recipe, just a bit more streamlined). Both of my longganisa recipes can be used to stuff into hog casings to make traditional links, or they can also be enjoyed in patty form without the casings. Either way, they are great baseline sausage recipes wherein you can simply sub out the garlic and sub in some chopped wild ramps. For my own ramp longganisa, I used about 7 ramps for 2.5 pounds of pork, but you can definitely adjust that as you see fit.
Oh, and by the way, a pound of ramps goes a long ways. So you can do about a bazillion things with them. Ramps are especially good in stir frys:
Ramp and Spam Fried Rice
And ramps are incredible when pickled too:
Ramps pickled in White Filipino Cane Vinegar, Ilocano sea salt, sugar, and spices.