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Home Bushcraft Wild Food Coastal Foraging - Salting, Preserving & Pickling

Coastal Foraging - Salting, Preserving & Pickling

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pickled-potsThe process of salting fish for food and storing it, was responsible for allowing many a distant sea voyager and vastly populated fishing grounds of old to be taken advantage of and returned to home shores. Many countries and cultures around the world still favour salted food and “salt cod” is still a popular dish in Portugal and southern Spain.

Pickled seafood is always a familiar sight at most holiday beaches, with the usual Cockles. Pubs have had pickled eggs on the bar in the past, so the idea of pickling and preserving is not uncommon. I urge you go forth and try some of your own designs.

With food costs amongst others rising endlessly, preserving natures wild harvest is not only cost effective, but it can be called upon should the local shop (if you still have one) ever run out of food! Alternatively they make great gifts or something other than the usual pickled onions and red cabbage at Christmas.

When you’re lucky enough to find, catch or collect a good source of food its good idea to keep some for travelling or saving for leaner times in respect of the “hunter gatherer” and the self-sufficient types among us.

Smoking food is the popular method for short term preserving, but for storing for longer periods Salting, pickling or storing in oil will allow you to keep foods stored right throughout the year.

In early spring and throughout the year, a multitude of plants and seafood will reappear as if by magic from their long winters nap, or returning from the deeper warmer waters. This onset of so much food can be found in the rock pools, along the seashore, in the green lush hedge rows and woodlands.

These are some of the foods I have recently found that are well worth their weight in salt or in some cases vinegar, oil and even honey! The time that the foods will keep for is dependent on several factors, cleanliness and hygiene being one as is where you store your goods. It’s well worth sterilizing the container used for storing in boiling water if you can and keep them in a cool dark area.


Pickled early (red) sea kale

First wash and place the sea kale in boiling salted water (1 table spoon of salt per pint of water ratio) reduced to a simmer and count to 20, this process is sometimes referred to as “blanching” it destroys some of the enzymes that will normally degraded the food. Remove from the hot water and plunge into fresh cold water to arrest the cooking process. Now dry as best you can the Kale with a dry clean cloth and place it in a sealable jar or similar receptacle (old jam jars cleaned in boiling water are ideal) slightly squash it down until it fills the jar and cover with cider vinegar or similar, add a good pinch of sea salt, several pepper corns and a tea spoon of dark sugar. Seal the jars and leave to rest in a cool dark area.

Brined Alexander’s

alexandersAfter washing the pre flowering heads of the Alexander’s with a few inches or 40 /50cm of the stem, blanch them only briefly for 5/10 seconds in simmering salted water as above, then dissolve a good table spoon of sea salt in approx half a pint of pre boiled water allowed to cool slightly. Place the Alexander’s in a thick heat resistant jar and cover with the brine solution until it fills completely, store as above or in a fridge if you have one.

Pickled Carrageen moss (seaweed)

This diverse seaweed often associated with thickening qualities is excellent pickled and much favoured. Half fill your chosen jar for the seaweed with vinegar and pour in to a pan together with some diced garlic or onion, a few pepper corns, a good pinch of salt and a small pinch of all-spice or similar. Bring to the boil and add the Carrageen moss. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring to the jars

Pickled limpets.

pickled-limpetsLimpets are probably the most over looked and under rated shell food on our coast and most defiantly the most accessible.  After carefully collecting them, give them a quick wash to get rid of any loose grit or sand. Place them in boiling salted water using the one table spoon of salt per half pint of water ratio and cook until they part from their shell, carefully remove them from the water and dry them on clean cloth. Place them in a jar and top up with vinegar, add a good pinch of white pepper and a pinch of sugar. Store as above.

Colts foot honey

Colts foot can normally be found on turned over or slipped ground, it’s a good “lung herb” that can be preserved in a pot of honey and kept by for the months when colds and coughs are about. The scents of the flowers transfer almost overnight to the honey, giving it a light floral flavour.

Salted white fish

salted-white-fishWhite fish after it’s cleaned and filleted will take salt well and it’s a fairly simple process to achieve. The clean dried fillets are laid on a bed of salt on a large plate or tray, then cover the fish with a liberal amount of salt. Place in a fridge or cool dark area for  approx. half an hour, by then most of the water in the fillets will have been drawn out by the salt. Pour off the excess water and add another hand full of salt to the fish, repeat the process until no more water is present. Hang the fillets in a cool dark, but well aired spot to dry and finish curing, you may want to put a tray under them to catch any final water that can still be present.

Wild garlic purée

wild-garlic-pureeThis lush and sometimes plentifully plant can be found on the edge of woodland and hedgerow banks, it has a distinctive familiar garlic flavour and smell as you may imagine of “Garlic” when the leaves are big and slender. Just before it flowers the leaves can quickly be gathered in good numbers, just after it’s rained is a good time to collect when the plant is clean of dust and grit etc. Roughly chop or tear the leaves and place in a blender if possible to finely chop, or crush in a pestle and mortar with the addition of some good vegetable oil, i.e. Olive oil, ground nut, or sunflower etc until it all comes together in a smooth paste or puree. Add a good pinch of sea salt, and black pepper and transfer to storage jars.

Sea spinach/beat sauerkraut

beatChop the leaves of this abundant and wild relative of the cultivated spinach roughly. Then pummel it down with the end of a rolling pin or similar in a bowl until it is well bruised. Add a desert spoon of salt per half pint of smashed and bruised spinach and transfer to a clean jar and seal. The mixture of salt and spinach will naturally ferment making this slightly tougher leafed plant more digestible and excellent uncooked.

Happy hunting and please remember not to collect any wild food you cannot correctly identify or are familiar with. The recipes above can be applied to other plants and seafood that you may already be familiar with, or are indeed held as firm favourites.

Be safe, Be lucky, Be happy.

By Fraser Christian.
Coastal Survival School.

Comments (7)
7 Saturday, 08 October 2011 23:10
Thanks much for sharing gave me some great ideas. One question though what does "turned over or slipped ground" mean?
6 Monday, 11 April 2011 19:07
Phil Keelan
Made 2 jars of Wild Garlic Puree today, 'ansome :D
5 Thursday, 07 April 2011 12:31
Pete Wilson
I've always loved the idea of going out, picking my own stuff and pickling it but it's always been one of those things that I "just never get round to". I think I'm going to have to change that...
4 Monday, 28 March 2011 15:58
Christopher Zerdzinski

I have cooked limpets and winkles over ashes and they are rather good. Only need a short burn to get them nice and ready.

Despite best efforts, winkles = give them a gentle thump to break open the shell and pick out the good stuff
3 Thursday, 24 March 2011 01:57
Great info, thanks for sharing.
2 Friday, 18 March 2011 22:27
Great article, thanks for sharing
1 Friday, 18 March 2011 22:11
What a superb collection of recipes and ideas, I will certainly try some out.

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UK Wild Food - Jan

Listed here are Wild Foods that should be available in parts of the UK in January.

Daisy leaf

Gorse flower
Greater Plantain
Ribwort Plantain
Buck's Horn Plantain (coastal)
Scurvy Grass
Sea beet
Sea Radish
Pennywort (particularly good at the moment)
Alexanders (very good at the moment)
Chirvil (be very careful , as Hemlock Water-Dropwort is starting to sprout now and looks very similar, but is deadly poisonous!)
Sea Purslane
Rock Samphire (still usable, but a bit over now, coastal)
Rose Hips
Common Sorrel
Ivy-Leaved Toadflax
Wood sorrel
Three-cornered leek

*These are just some of the wild edibles you will find in the UK this month.

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