But many insects are highly seasonal, and when you are able to harvest them, you often find yourself with surplus - for example, people can allegedly gather more than 100kg of grasshoppers per day in September, just after the rice harvest! Admittedly you need a motorbike and some level of expertise to do so…but you get the idea.
Recently, in the absence of any level of expertise and not even a motorbike to help me, I managed to acquire many, many more insects than I could possibly eat or even give away to friends. This is mainly thanks to the kindness of others, and hopefully I can repay them in some way, some day. Anyway - what should I do with these insects?
The Japanese method is to make them into 'tsukudani' - simmer them with soy sauce, mirin and sugar until they harden, and the high salt and sugar content will preserve them for weeks or months. But…could I preserve them without using these condiments?
Recently, when offering samples of traditionally prepared Japanese insects at international conferences, I have received the same feedback any number of times 'Delicious, but too sweet'; 'Tasty, but a bit too salty', 'Can't taste the insect' ...
All fair points, & I've had the same thoughts myself. So you want to taste the insect? Well, in my limited experience of these things, I've definitely come across a few ways of preserving things that mean they keep their original taste, and can be kept without refrigeration/freezing for a fairly long time - 1. smoking, 2. sun-drying, and 3. making pate.
So, I figured that I'd give these three a go.
Meanwhile, I have also been experimenting (today & today only! I'm not intending to go into business just yet..) with the other two methods I mentioned - sun drying and making pate.
With temperatures averaging 29-30C, sun drying is fairly simple, apart from the ant problem.As shown in the photos on the right, I put these silkworm (above right) and, yesterday, grasshoppers (below right)) on sheets of newspaper under a grate atop a tray placed on a brick that was put in a box that was lined with plastic sheeting and then filled with water… and if that doesn't sound convoluted i don't know what is. but it seemed to work. i put them out at ~7.30am and after shuffling them twice (at 11am and 4pm, perhaps/?), by 6pm they were dry enough to be ground into flour if so inclined.
For the first method, smoking, I am fortunate to have the help of Gobar, a local factory that makes (allegedly) excellent ham/sausages/salami/etc and various other (definitely) delicious things including smoked tofu, herb/spice mixes, mustard… and last but not least, they have very good taste in wine.
Today's activity involved preparing the insects for the smoker - this photo shows me and Susu-san wrapping various insects (silkworm, wasp larvae, giant hornet larvae, grasshoppers) in gauze or 'houba' leaves. The plan is that they will be smoked at a low temperature for at least 3 days.
Finally, pate. When I was a child, I'm pretty sure that I liked pate. It deserves a place on the list of wonderful English foods - something that was rich, savoury, and could be spread on all sorts of things. And yet, it is, i believe, very much French in origin...
Anyway. After becoming vegetarian, I remember buying mushroom pate and not understanding why on earth anyone would want to buy this mushroom pate in place of actual mushrooms... (when meat pate had been a very welcome substitute for actual pieces of meat) What, then, would insect pate be like?
This photo (left) shows the ingredients for (in my fairly subjective opinion) a fine pate. The garlic as been slow roasted in the oven (~40 minutes at 200C degrees) while the chilli is my very last home-grown pod, frozen fairly soon after the first frost killed my chilli plant last year and chopped finely to use in this pate. (Last Autumn, I froze a bag of chilis that took up my entire freezer. Needless to say I've planted more than one plant this year..)
And there ends my summary of ways to preserve insects, as far as I've been told or shown. If any turn out to be particularly delicious and/or long lived, I'll post the recipes here, but meanwhile - please let me know if you've any other suggestions for preservation methods! I've got a whole lot of insects to experiment with :)