Compound Butters

Morel and ramp butter logs

Compound butter is so delicious and surprisingly easy. While compound butter might sound like a complicated condiment, it is simply butter combined with another food — herbs, spices, greens, or mushrooms. There are many approaches to making compound butter and it depends on how you want to use them.

Log vs. Jar

You may have seen compound butters stored in the jar. This is achieved by completely melting butter and mixing in the ingredients while still liquid and quickly poured into a jar. The jar is placed in a refrigerator or cool place until solidified. This technique is good if you are planning on using butter as a spread. The jar functions much like a butter tub and can be scooped out with a knife or spoon.

Pictured above is the butter log technique. This is achieved either with a food processor or a simple hand-mashed inclusion. It is then spooned into parchment paper or saran wrap and formed into a log which is then placed in the fridge to harden. This style functions like a stick of butter and can be sliced to go on steaks, bread, into pans for pastas and other dishes. While this may seem like a slightly more effort, I prefer this method both because the butter consistency seems to change a bit more when it is completely melted and also because I like utilizing slices or pats of butter on meats and pastas.

Hand-mixed ramp butter

Food Processor vs. Hand-mixed

The first time we made compound butters we wanted to start slow and try hand mixing (or really mixing with a fork). This method is great if you only want to make a small amount or you don’t own a food processor.

To hand mix: soften butter and put into a bowl. Lightly saute the item you want to mix in (this is highly recommended for mushrooms since you should not eat them raw, however we also like to saute our ramps to make them softer to come across in the butter). The amount depends on preference however we use approximately 12 mushrooms per 3 sticks of butter. And 15 ramps for the same. Scrape sauteed produce into softened butter and mash and mix with a fork until evenly distributed. At this point you can shape into log, square, or spoon into a tub or jar.

To food process: Use the food processor to chop produce (or hand chop) and lightly saute. Then add the amount of butter you are interested in using and blend until fluffy. Add in the sauteed ramps or mushrooms and blend until fully incorporated. Use a spatula to remove butter and put into a log shape on parchment paper or saran wrap. I prefer parchment since it does not stick as much.

Make The Butter Your Own

Make your butter to your own liking. I enjoy slightly bigger pieces in my butter so I roughly chop ramps or mushrooms. Some chop their ramps very finely in a food processor to make a smooth green better. Experiment and see what you like best! You can also experiment with add-ins such as garlic or herbs. Enjoy.

Ramp Pesto

Ramp pesto by Alex Coffman

This recipe is a quick way to use lots of ramps if you’re tired of fried ramps and potatoes or want to make something that will stretch their life. I absolutely love pestos for their flexibility and ease. You can put them on pastas, sandwiches, burgers, grilled cheese, and more. They also keep well in the fridge so you can prolong the life of whatever herb or greens you have around.

While I had experimented with pestos before, I learned how to make “proper” pesto with my Italian friend when visiting her in Rome in 2014. They, of course, have access to the best parm cheese, the beautiful basil, high quality olive oil, and good pine nuts. It was amazing to make pesto with a native and I try to keep that educational session in mind whenever I make pesto.

For this ramp pesto (or really any strong or wild green you may use) I suggest using walnuts over pine nuts. Pine nuts have a beautiful light flavor that will be covered by stronger flavors. Without further ado, here is my (approximated) recipe. I typically eyeball it and add more ingredients as necessary. Taste it and observe the texture as you go until it’s what you want out of a pesto.

WV Ramp Pesto

15-20 ramps, cleaned

4-5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese

A squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 cup of whole or pieced walnuts

Blend together in a food processor until desired consistency. You may need to add additional olive oil as you go until it is a spreadable consistency. Enjoy on pasta, toasted buns of burgers, or a grilled sandwich.

Last tip: if you use it on pasta, make sure to leave a little extra pasta water in the pot for the pesto to mix with for a smoother consistency. Also, use pastas with ridges or curls to ‘grab’ the pesto.