Even before I open my eyes in the morning, when senses are at their dullest, the first thing I’ve been noticing lately is the pungency of ramps. I’m not sure whether it’s my breath, clothes, or skin pores, but I’m guessing that pouring a boiling red pepper broth over wild leeks is enough to trump Febreze freshness.
Did it sound like I was complaining? I’d pickle a truckload of ramps in this way if I could. The smell isn’t anything that Axe and Listerine can’t fix anyway.
The sweet, sour, and spicy pickling brine retains the crispness of the ramps from leaves to bulb. Most of the heat comes from shichimi togarashi, an aromatic Japanese seasoning comprised of seven ingredients. The particular blend I used, one of many variations, had orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, red peppers, sansho (better known as Sichuan peppercorns), ginger, and seaweed.
As fiery as the Korean crushed red pepper (gochugaru) looks, it’s actually rather sweet. It gives the pickling brine a menacing kimchi-red hue even if it barely adds any heat. Any of the milder ground red peppers, such as unsmoked Spanish paprika, will do in a pinch.