One of my favourite aspects of foraging is preserving and different methods of preserving wild foods without the use of modern day amenities such as fridges and freezers ,
Today I was lucky enough to be invited out for a forage with some students from my local university , I had a really good time and enjoyed sharing some of my wild food experiences with them and I turn theirs with me .
It was obvious that the group was very knowledgable and I was quite humbled that I was asked to take them out it was a mixed group and one member in particular ‘Cho, I found fascinating as is with a lot of people who come from different parts of the world they seem to see so much more than us locals and this was once again true of her ,
When we stopped for a brew we happened to be under some cherry trees that are in full bloom and this prompted her to tell me about a process that is used in japan to make a tea called Sakurayu, which is basically cherry blossom pickled and salted to preserve and then used as a beverage .
This might be common for all I know but I’ve not come across it so I’m sharing what was quite graciously shared with me ,
First collecting the blossoms is real easy and within minutes I had filled a bag with several cup fulls of blossom , simply cup your hand around the branch and pull towards the end of the branch they come away really easy with no damage to the tree .
She stressed that quantities are not important as a cup of the tea is made from one or two flowers so two level cupfuls of blossom is all that is needed .
You also need vinegar , traditionally plum vinegar is used and to buy is quite expensive so I’ve used red wine vinegar as a substitute and as only a few tablespoons are needed it seems logical ,
The other main ingredient is something I become quite vocal about as it disturbs me when I see people using table salt that costs penny’s to cure food ,
Short rant , table salt is processed and stripped of all other minerals so that they can be sold separately, it is also mixed with anticaking agents which prevent salt from mixing with water in the salt container. Unfortunately the anticaking agents do the same in the human body, so refined salt does not dissolve and combine with the water and the fluids in our body . Instead it builds up and leaves deposits in organs and tissue, causing severe health problems. It is also chemically cleaned and bleached for commercial and social visual exception .
Salt preserves food by drawing moisture away from the food making it inhospitable for the spoiling bacteria so if table salt is treated to a point that it can not absorb moisture correctly and break down to a point they it can penetrate the food it cannot preserve it correctly on its own it’s that simple I’m not saying it’s not going to work to a degree but it won’t have the desired taste or look and I wouldn’t like to imagine how much bacteria is able to grow / survive .
Curing salts are quite a bit more in terms of cost but will provide the desired result even if your a seasoned table salt user please just try a traditional Prague powder once the difference in taste is not subtle , I’ve made huge amounts of jerky and salted meats and fish and only recommend that what I know will provide the best results
So firstly the blooms need cleaning simply remove any unwanted parts such as old leaves or stems ,
Then I placed the blossom into a bowl and on top of a cotton rag to absorb any moisture with a weight on it ( I used an equal sized bowl full of water ) for a period of 2/3 hours , I had a very small amount of moisture on the rag I would think time of day and wether conditions will effect this ,
Then mix in two or three tablespoons of the vinegar and again leave to settle and absorb the vinegar , you will notice an amazing increase in the smell of the blossoms it is quite potent ,
Very pleasant and perfume like I found it amazing the vinegar smell had been reduced to a subtle after smell .
And at this point you leave them to settle for a period of twenty four hours or so and as far as I’m aware other than enhancing the natural scent and flavour it also helps retain the subtle colours after the period is over spread over a tray and allow to dry for a further twenty four hours ,
( do not try and force dry they are to delicate to take any heating )
The next stage is the salting , Cho told me that she watched as her gran individually salted each blossom , that must of taken hours and some real dedication I simply salted a tray lined with grease proof paper ,I placed the blossom over the salt and sprinkled them making sure they were all covered and then I simply allowed time for the salt to work
As regards to the amount of salt used is simple with any salt preserves 10% salt ratio inhibits the growth of any bacteria whereas 20% or higher ratio of salt actually kills any bacteria present , so to start with I use a balance of 1/4 salt to blossom to remove any mould / spoiling bacteria present and once dry I remove any excess salt and place on another unsalted tray this enables me to use fresh salt to add approximately a 10% salt ratio before storing in a sealed jar .
The taste is both fragrant and slightly salty and has a cleansing effect when you drink it ,
To make the drink take one pinch of blossom and place in a just boiled cup of water to start your blossom will float and as it rehydrates will sink it is at the point of sinking you will release any wanted taste and minerals and as with any tea the longer you leave the mix the stronger it becomes .
Hope you give this a go and enjoy