Oct 26 2007
In the wilderness you will eat the majority of the foods fresh because of two things:
- You will usually never procure more much more food than you need in the next few days.
- You can’t carry with you all that much food to the next camp location.
However, for the leaner times of the year; late winter and mid-summer you might need to store a little to avoid starvation. Also, if you shoot a big animal or a large quantity of them, you may want to store the surplus. The primary method for this is drying. You can dry almost everything, some things are not equally suitable for this though. Juicy berries, like cloudberries and raspberries will almost disappear into a stony mass if they don’t ferment first. Cloudberries and Cowberries (lingon in Swedish or tytteber in Norwegian) store quite well fresh under refrigerated conditions. Few of the wild berries in this area has enough pectin in them either to be suitable for the Ray Mears Wild Food method of making fruit jelly. But I have not tested this. Maybe if mixed with pectin rich berries, it may work (I know one berry I believe contains quite a lot of it). Drying berries and roots can be done spread out directly in the sun. Many berries will sweeten considerably after drying.
First a warning: Never dry cooked meat or cook meat during drying, serious food poisoning can occur! My method of drying meat is, except in the late fall to early spring when freeze drying will occur naturally, to smoke them a little in the lavvo (tipi) during the evening to keep the flies detered and have them drying in an airy place out in the sun during the day. If the flies are congregating, light a smokey fire underneath to keep them away. Don’t use conifers, it will make the meat or fish taste very poorly indeed. Either cut the meat into strips (more hassle, more drying surface) or cut them into thin slabs. For the quickest possible drying it is eitherway important to get it as thin as possible. Fish can be dried in halves, cut at the spine. Bigger fish is fileted further. Dry food does not only store pretty much indefinitely, but it is much more portable, due to the lighter weight and reduced size. Eat it as is, in small amounts, or reconstitute over a couple of days and cook normally. If the dried meat is from carnivores or omnivores, you should never eat it without cooking it first.
Photos: Brown trout and Black grouse smoking in the lavvo.
Short time storage usually isn’t a problem with wild foods. Wild meat is generally slower to rot than domestic meats, so you can let a grouse hang for several weeks without any deterioration during the colder periods of the year. Say mid-September to April (in the Norwegian mountains). Except this period you will have to be a little more careful due to flies. Most wild plants store pretty well fresh too. Fish you have to be a little more careful about. Especially fat fish.
Photo: Foods drying. Fresh fish hanging on a branch to the right.