Wild Food Lab Projects:
Salted Fish in a Day
Wild Food Lab
Taste the Forest and the Desert - Infused Vinegars.
This is super simple to do and there are tons of flavorful experiments you can do using wild ingredients.
During my foraging trips, I get a lot of inspiration for the environment. For example, if I go to the local mountains, I'm surrounded with exotic scents from the local sages, pines and the ground itself (usually covered with pine needles and other leaves).
Last week, I was hiking in a forest nearby. We just had some rains and everything was green. The scent was musky from the humidity, old leaves from last fall and mushrooms but in the same time it had some floral qualities from all the flowers popping up here and there.
As I usually do when I create wild sodas and brews, I decided to grab various aromatic herbs, mushrooms and berries but this time my goal became to create a vinegar packed with all the scents, flavors, aromas I was experiencing.
The procedure is really simple:
1. Forage the ingredients - To do sophisticated blending, I'm aware that it requires some experience with foraging but you can also infuse a vinegar with one ingredient such as elderflowers, wild mint, white fir needles, etc... (see photo below)
WILD MINT WHITE FIR SWEET CLOVER
2. Clean your foraged ingredients properly.
3. I like to use Apple Cider Vinegar or Rice Vinegar (more mild). You can use the vinegar of your choice. Make sure it has 5% acidity. Also check the labels. Many apple cider vinegar are flavored instead of being the real thing. It makes a difference in the final result.
4. Sterilize the jars (I place them in boiling water for 12-15 minutes), let them cool then place your ingredients inside.
5. In a non-reactive pot, heat the vinegar (make sure it has 5% acidity) until it nearly reach the boiling point (190F) then pour it into the container/jar.
6. Close the lid tightly and let the jar cool down
7. Place in the fridge or in a cool dark place and let the flavors infuse for at least a month. (I actually like to let the flavors infuse for much more, like 3 months),
8. Taste it - see if you need add anything to it like a bit of salt, sugar, honey
9. Filter and bottle your vinegar. For an added food safety precaution, I usually pasteurize the vinegar by placing the bottles in water and bring the temperature of the vinegar to 145 degrees for 30 minutes. Clean the caps, close the bottles and place them upside down until cool (the high temperature will further sanitize the caps).
How far can you go?
If you are an expert forager, you can truly create the most complex blends featuring the true flavors of the forest. For example in my recent "Forest" vinegar, I used the following ingredients in various ratios:
- Burr Chervil
- Fall cottonwood and willow leaves
- Turkey tail mushrooms
- Manzanita berries
- Toyon berries
- Sweet White Clover
- Roasted Oak Bark
- Old dried up mugwort leaves (from the forest).
- Tad of California Bay
- Foraged sea salt
- A few California Sagebrush leaves