Today is West Virginia's Sesquicentennial. In honor of 150 years of existence, we choose Bootstraps and Biscuits by Anna Lee Robe-Terry. Ms. Robe-Terry was a nurse for many years and celebrated the her rural West Virginia heritage. Her book features 300 recipes from the rolling hills of West Virginia. Long before foraging became the darling pastime of Brooklyn hipsters, country folk foraged out of sheer necessity. Some more necessary than others.
"In 1976, I found myself with a disabling illness. Pretty soon my job, home, car and furniture was all gone. I kept three pieces of jewelry that has a special meaning to me and they got stolen. My insurance company went bankrupt. I was left with nothing and sick to boot. My nursing career helped me in that department and my childhood experiences helped too. I had a very small income. If the world gives you wild grapes you make jam and that is about what I did."Bootstraps and Biscuits is a testament to all that is wild and wonderful about West Virginia. From day lilies and lamb's quarters to squirrel and woodchuck, one can feel the mountain breeze. Here is a simple and unadorned recipe for one of the state's most odiferous culinary contributions.
Clean a quantity of ramps. I like to cut off the tops and freeze those.The white bulb part is then added to equal parts sugar and vinegar.Heat while stirring. Place in a jar. Seal. Place in the refrigerator about two weeks. If you make more than one jar, you will need to process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
In West Virginia, not so very long ago, eating ramps held a stigma. Now they are popping up on menus in New York City. For an interesting look at this trend toward revisionist nostalgia read Courtney Balesti in the Oxford American.