Now the California-based, direct-to-consumer brand is launching Zeal, a limited-edition, slow-fermented vinegar made from “wild spring ramps sustainably foraged on a 225-acre nature preserve in Virginia.”
If ramps aren’t totally on your radar, we’re happy to catch you up. They’re a wild-harvested allium that are a close cousin to a spring onion or wild leeks. Savory and fleeting, they can only be found from March through May, and chefs and home cooks are passionate about their incredibly fresh flavor.
For those who don’t have the time or know-how to forage for ramps (aka most of us!), Brightland’s complex small-batch vinegar is well worth seeking out. According to the brand, Zeal was made in partnership with Lindera Farms and is perfect for grain salads, drizzled on avocado toast or over cheesy eggs and as an addition to savory cocktails.
“We partnered with Lindera’s owner, Daniel Liberson, to reserve a portion of the 2021 ramp harvest for Brightland so that we could introduce this vinegar as a harbinger of spring 2022,” says Aishwarya Iyer, Brightland founder and CEO, in a press release. “We admire Lindera Farms’ commitment to responsible foraging as well as slow fermentation. I love using this vinegar to wake up grain salads full of early spring produce like spicy radishes and bright green peas.”
The vinegar is packaged in a 6.7-ounce jar, much like the brand’s other vinegars, and has a slightly greenish tint. Just like the olive oil bottles, the look is chic enough to display on your kitchen counter.
But what does it taste like? Described by the brand as having elevated tasting notes of garlic, shallot, leek and pickled jalapeño, Zeal exudes freshness. We found it to be similar to apple cider vinegar, though less tart. It’s milder than our other favorite vinegar brand, Acid League, but equally complex.
The fresh, oniony flavor begs to be used to brighten the flavor of basic dishes. First, we followed the brand’s advice and whipped up a batch of cheesy scrambled eggs with Brightland’s Terrain spice blend ($13) and topped it with a few splashes of Zeal. The vinegar was an unexpected flavor bomb and added a lot of depth to the simple scrambled eggs. Vinegar on eggs isn’t something we’d tried before, but we loved the addition and will be doing it again (probably tomorrow morning).
Next up — several hours later — it was martini time, and there are plenty of recipes online for adding vinegar to a martini. Think of it as a new option to make a dirty martini without using all of your olive juice. We used Tito’s vodka (gin would overpower the vinegar), celery bitters, a splash of dry vermouth and about an ounce of Zeal to make our “ramptini,” and it was incredible. The closest comparison would be a mild, fragrant and slightly sweet dirty martini.
So whether you want to cheers with a new flavor in your martini (it would also be amazing in a Bloody Mary), mix up a salad with a fresh new bite in the dressing or just drizzle something different on all your spring toasts, Zeal is an excellent addition to any home cook or condiment enthusiast’s pantry.