So here it is, late February and all in sight is covered in snow, a very challenging season for animals and foragers alike. Although I have practiced survival from many years, I wouldn’t like to depend on just my knowledge, if I was dropped in the woods in the middle of winter. When one has spent all year preparing, winter survival is tough enough, but without at least the basic tools and supplies, only the fittest among us could survive winter conditions for very long.
A practical approach to survival, requires preparing well ahead, spending the year, gathering and preserving various foods as they come into season. With todays food production methods, this approach has become unnecessary, yet I feel that it is a skill that we should all know.
Each year, I make a practice of dehydrating a number of survival foods, including fruits, berries, mushroom, roots and greens, that I can rehydrate as needed. However, in some cases I find that they are better consumed as is. Dehydrated fruits and berries make great snack foods, but so do dried roots, if prepared the right way.
I first discovered the joys of root jerky with some Dandelion roots that I had cut into strips and dehydrated.
I decided to reconstitute some dried roots, by simmering them in a strong sauce, to infuse them with flavor.
Once they had taken on the flavor, I put them back into the dehydrator and got them to a point where they had a chewy texture. The resulting strips of root jerky were pretty tasty and set me off on a mission to create the tastiest Dandelion jerky I could make.
I tried different ways of preparing the roots from sliced to Julienned, to shredded, in order to find the right texture. I tried simmering the roots in the sauce and marinating them, to compare the differences and I explored different levels of drying. I tried various sauce formulas, including curry, Mexican style, Thai style, Italian style and sweet and sour. The two things that became apparent was that the more successful sauces contained enough sweetener to balance out the bitter of the roots and enough oil to keep them moist.
I reached the point where I had worked out the ideal formula for achieving just the right balance and texture, regardless of the type of sauce I made. I felt it was time to test my new discovery on my friends. At the time, I was catering a number of events using wild crafted dishes. It was tough enough doing it for four or five people, but I found myself foraging and cooking for up to 35 people. I figured these were the perfect events to test out my Dandelion jerky. They became a big hit.
It was my privilege to cater a couple of tribal events, where indigenous people from several tribes met together. They enjoyed the wild foods dishes we prepared, and the jerky was a big hit. That was where my friend Chief Mann first tried the jerky fell in love it. Since then, I try to make sure I take a bag of Dandelion jerky along, whenever I visit with him. However, with two poor Dandelion years in a row, I haven’t been able to gather sufficient roots to make my usual coffee substitute or jerky. I really miss them both. I’m hoping that this year…