Pickled ramps

foraging for ramps

It's this time of year when ramps begin to poke their lovely greenness up from the ground in parks and forests. They are a wild onion native to North America and are kind of like a cross between an onion and a leek with a strong garlic aroma.

If you are fortunate to stumble across a monster batch of them like the one in the photo above always remember not to be greedy. Take only a small amount as they will not grow back and quantities of wild ramps are diminishing due to over foraging. They should be sustainably picked to ensure the return of the crop the following season.

wild ramps

These little babies make the most amazing pickles which can be used on burgers, cheese plates, chopped up into salads and so much more. Their brine can be added to a small amount of olive oil to make salad dressing. Nothing goes to waste. Which is something that makes me very happy.

But what I have learned over the years of pickling ramps is that not all of it likes to be pickled. And what I mean by that is the green leafy part can turn brown and mushy when preserved in a vinegar brine. I choose to clean my ramps up, cut this part off and turn it into a ramp pesto. 

Pickle what's on the left. Make pesto with the green leaves on the right

Pickle what's on the left. Make pesto with the green leaves on the right

One of my favourite pickled ramp recipes is based on a recipe found on Front Door Organics site. I just made them spicier and determined that all of their optional spices in my opinion were required.

Spicy Pickled Ramps


2 1/4 cups pickling vinegar

2 1/4 cups water (distilled if available)

2 cloves of garlic, slivered

3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 tsp dill

1/4 tsp whole allspice

1/4 tsp cumin


Combine all the ingredients except the ramps in a non reactive pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the salt completely. Turn off the heat and remove the pan.

Pack the cleaned and trimmed ramp bulbs into hot and previously sterilized jars. Fill with the vinegar solution leaving 1/2" headspace. Be sure to burp your jars and then remeasure the headspace. The wipe the rims and place lids on jars.

Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

Yields: approximately 5-250ml jars.


Manitoba Pickles - tried, tested and true

I recently unveiled a new seasonal product at the Farmer's Market called Manitoba Pickles and the most common question I get about them is "Why are they called Manitoba Pickles?". My answer is "I have no idea." Now it doesn't just stop there, see...there is a story behind this mysterious pickle.

Last year, I was at Withrow Market and this lovely lady came up to my tent and she engaged me in conversation. We were chatting away about the different samples I had out and she asked me if I ever made Manitoba Pickles. I told her flat out that I had never even heard of them. So she said she was going to go home and get the recipe and bring it to me. To be honest, I didn't think I would see her again. No disrespect to her, but you hear quite a few things at the market ;).

But within a half an hour she had returned with the recipe in hand. Now I don't recall if it was a family recipe or something she had gotten out of a magazine or from a friend. I was still working full time and doing Manning Canning part time, so my time was stretched pretty thin and I just didn't get around to trying her recipe last year.

But this year, we planted cucumbers in our garden and they have been producing like rabbits. I have given some away to neighbours, my in-laws and we have been eating them on a daily basis and still I knew if I didn't preserve them there would be no way to consume them all.

When I sat down to think about what I should do...I remembered the recipe tucked away in my recipe box and immediately dug it out. I had my answer. Manitoba Pickles here we come.


6 cups sliced cucumbers

2 cups sliced onions

2 cups vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp mustard

2 tsp tumeric

1 tbsp corn starch

Slice your cucumbers and place in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of salt over them and give them a good stir. Let them sit for an hour and then drain and rinse.

In a medium sized pot, combine onions and cucumbers with vinegar and sugar. In a separate bowl dissolve tumeric, mustard and corn starch with a little bit of water to make a thin paste and then add to the pot with the cucumbers and onions.

Place the pot over medium heat and stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.

Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/2" headspace. If necessary, wipe rims with damp paper towel. Centre lids on jars; screw on bands fingertip tight.

Process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from pot and let them cool on a kitchen towel. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. Place any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use promptly. All sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Super Spicy Pickled Celery

It all started over the Christmas holidays. You see, my family all lives out in Alberta so my husband and I needed to start alternating where we spent our Christmas in order to keep it fair. And this year, we spent it here in Ontario. It was an amazing holiday, but there were a few days where I felt a little bit of the ol' homesickness start to creep into the everyday. For quite a few years I had been going to my Nona's house for Christmas. It was usually a small gathering, just my mom, aunt and uncle and my sister Deb. Well Deb and I started to create a few of our own traditions and one of them was the Christmas Caesar.

So I found myself thinking about family, about my nona and sisters, nieces and nephews - you know, all of the really important things. And then I started to crave my sister's Caesar's. This all led to me experimenting with pickled celery recipes, which you may have read about here within the pages of my blog. I came up with two recipes that I thought were really good. One of them perhaps a touch too spicy for the every day consumer, so I thought I would share it here on these pages. If you like spicy, then get ready!

Super Spicy Pickled Celery

3 bunches of celery

6 cups pickling vinegar

2 cups water

1/2 cup pickling salt

1 tsp dill seed (per jar)

1 garlic clove (peeled and whole) per jar

1- 3 whole chili peppers (per jar)

Sterilize your jars and warm your lids following safe canning instructions.

Wash your celery thoroughly and then chop the stalks to the desired length depending on the shape of your jar and place into jars leaving a minimum of a 1/2" clearance.

Combine the water, vinegar and salt in a non reactive pot, stir well and cover. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil ensuring that all the salt dissolves.

Place dill, garlic and chili peppers in each jar with the celery and pour the vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Run a plastic knife down the inside of the jars to release any trapped air bubbles and then wipe the rims and threads with a damp close and seal with your already warmed lids.

Place the jars in your hot water bath and process at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the hot water bath and allow jars to cool completely on the counter. This will age nicely in approximately 2 weeks.

For your reference I used 2 whole dried chilli peppers in mine and they were what I would consider super spicy. Yields between 5-7, 500ml jars.

Spicy Pickled Tomatoes


So it is time to deliver some new items to my taste testers and I am pretty excited about this round. One of the main reasons for my excitement is because I HATE to see good food go to waste. My garden is FULL of green tomatoes and I know deep in my heart that there is not going to be enough warm weather to make all of those green tomatoes turn red. Summer is over. I know it, even if I have not yet accepted it.

Last month I put some of the green tomatoes to good use in some green tomato salsa and I was pretty pleased with the results. So today I decided to make some spicy pickled tomatoes. My mother in law gave me recipe from her mother in law and I took the liberty to make a few minor changes. Most of them were simply to add some spice and with the rest I remained true to her recipe.

But I have to wonder what my taste testers will think. If they had a garden full of green tomatoes, which item would they choose to make? And if they are not the 'making' kind, which item would they choose to spend their hard earned dollars on.

In the next few weeks each taste tester will get a jar of the salsa and the pickled tomatoes and we will let them answer the questions for us.

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes


  • 3-4 pounds green tomatoes. If using cherry tomatoes, no need to slice.
  • 3 medium cooking onions, sliced
  • 1 small red sweet pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup seeded and finely chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 4 ½ cups white pickling vinegar
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 5 tsp whole white peppercorns
  • 2 tsp celery seed



Wash tomatoes. If you are using cherry tomatoes and you don't want them to float in the jar, prick the bottom of each tomato with a sterilized needle. Slice larger tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. Combine the tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, and jalapeno peppers and set them aside.

In a large saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, peppercorns, and celery seed; bring to a boil. Turn off the burner and set aside.

Meanwhile, pack tomato mixture into hot, clean pint jars. Then pour hot vinegar mixture over mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with rubbr spatula or plastic knife and add more vinegar mixture if required. Wipe jar rims; hand tighten lids. Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes.

Yields – 5 to 6, 500ml jars


Simple Pickled Cauliflower

The first time I tried pickled cauliflower I was in Lisbon, Portugal in the mid 90's. I had quit my job and taken 6 months to travel around Europe on my own. My mom had decided to meet up with me for a few weeks and we rented a car and travelled through Portugal and Spain together. It was a welcome respite from trains and buses, hostels and cheap meals.

We had heard about this restaurant from some locals that we had run into earlier in the day and I can tell you I was looking forward to a hearty meal. My chicken dish came with a side of pickled carrots and cauliflower. Now I am not a fan of cauliflower in general. I rarely make dishes that include it, much to my husband's disappointment. So when I first received my meal I had kind of shuffled them to the side and determined I would leave them on my plate.

But then I took my first bite of the carrots and the flavour was amazing. You could tell these pickles had not been made recently, that they have been allowed some time for all the flavours to come together before someone opened that jar. The vinegar was tangy but not overwhelming, they were slightly spicy yet through it all you got the subtle flavour of the carrots. I decided I needed to know what this amazing brine had done to the cauliflower. WOW! Was I ever in for a treat. Yes, you could still taste the cauliflower, yet somehow the marriage of the cauliflower with the vinegar and the spices used brought it to life.

My mom and I went back the next night so we could have the pickles once more - and that is no lie. We even ordered them as a side to our meal so we could have more. I raved to our waiter about how great they were and told him that my mom made pickles and I would love the recipe. He politely smiled and said thank you and at the same time managed to completely deflect my request for the recipe.

The following recipe is the closest I have come to replicating the flavour of the pickled cauliflower I had all those years ago. It comes pretty close in my estimation and after leaving the first jar sit for 8 weeks it was opened for the first time this weekend and my husband and I had to put the lid back on and physically push the jar out of arms reach or we would have finished it in one sitting.

Pickled Cauliflower


  • 4-5 medium to large heads of cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp crushed pepper flakes per jar
  • ½ tsp mustard seed per jar
  • ½ tsp dill seed per jar
  • 1 whole garlic per jar
  • 5 cups vinegar (1150 g)
  • 5 cups water (2520 g)
  • ½ cup salt (115g)


Wash and pat dry the cauliflower and cut it into bite size pieces. Place cauliflower pieces into your jars and fill tightly. Add spices and garlic.

Meantime, pour the vinegar and water into an 8 quart stainless steel pan over medium high heat. Add the salt and bring to a boil.

Ladle the hot syrup into the jars leaving ½” headspace. Using a spatula or plastic knife remove any air bubbles, and if necessary add more syrup. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth and cover with the hot lids and apply the screw rings.

Process 500ml jars in a 180-185F water bath for 30 minutes.

Yields – 5 to 6, 500ml jars

Dena DePaoli's Pickled Silverskin Onions

This recipe is my Auntie Dena's and just reading it brings back memories from my childhood. I remember thinking these pickles were perhaps the most disgusting thing on the planet. Oh how your tastebuds evolve with age :). Perhaps it wasn't even the flavour that disgusted me but the hours it seemed to take to peel the mountains of onions that my mom and my aunt would buy and then turn into pickles.

Now, everytime I go to visit her I practically beg her to bring out a jar of these pickles and I think I could sit down and eat an entire jar on my own in one sitting. And what I wouldn't give to get my hands on a mountain of silverskin onions the size that they used to be able to get in the early 80's. I have searched high and low for someone in Ontario who carries silverskin onions in larger quantities than those little mesh bags that seem to cost $4.99 and wouldn't even make a single jar. So far, each summer I come up empty handed.

But if you are lucky enough to get a large bag of these and want to make perhaps the best pickle recipe I have ever come across, then look no further.

Silverskin Pickled Onions

10 pounds silverskin onions

24 cups water

2 1/2 cups coarse sale

4 cups white vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the the onions into the pot for 3 minutes. Remove, drain and cover in cool water immediately. This will help (at least a little bit) the skins peel off easier. This is where you are going to cuss and swear because it takes some time. But trust me...it is all worth it in the end.

Combine the water and salt. Pour over the onions and let stand for a week. Rinsing the onions every evening and returning them back into the original brine. Rinse thoroughly before pickling in jars. You will want to prepare your jars accordingly.

After you have let the onions sit in the brine for a week and have rinsed them thoroughly you are ready for the next step. Place the onions in 500ml jars.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and cinnamon. Heat the water to boiling and reduce and simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved and then remove the cinnamon stick. Ladles mixture into the jars, leaving 2cm headspace. Place sealed jars into pot of rolling water and process for 10 minutes.

You will want to give these 4-6 weeks to absorb all the wonderful flavours before you eat.

If you try this recipe, let me know your thoughts and if you leave in the Toronto area and come across large quantities of silverskin onions, let me know!


That's not Branston Pickle

I made Branson pickle at the end of last year and it was filled with wonderful fresh ingredients; rutabega, cauliflower, granny smith apple, carrots, onion, garlic, zucchini just to name a few. It also has one of my personal favourites in it - malt vinegar. I gave it out to several friends as a Christmas gift and a bit of a test to see what people thought. Now if you have never had Branston Pickle, it is great with cheeses, in a ploughman's lunch or sandwich, as an aside to chicken pot pie, etc. It has a nice crunch with a tiny bit of kick.

Several rave reviews came back and even requests for me to make more. But this was all from people who had never had the traditional British Branston Pickle.

This recipe is delicious and the name alone would make it an easier sell to diehard Branston fans who tend to get right indignant with impersonators. You can count my British Mother in Law in that group. She liked the flavour but said quite strongly "That's not Branston Pickle!".

But I didn't let her rather harsh, but still much appreciated review get me down. I spoke to others who had received it as a gift and it was liked by all of them. So just this week in the commercial kitchen I made 3 large batches.

The trick now is to find a new name. British Brown Pickle sounds so drab and unappealing. I have been struggling with what to label this rather delicious preserve and have come to a dead end.

So for the person who helps me name it - there is a delicious jar of "I can't believe it's not Branston" or "Branston Pickle" or "British Brown Pickle" in it for you.