How to Pull Off the Perfect Picnic
Summer is in full flow and for many of you this means a round of barbecues, summer parties, outdoor dining and that quintessentially British tradition – the picnic. If you’re thinking of gathering the family, heading to a local beauty spot and throwing down that well-worn tartan blanket in preparation for an alfresco feast then read on as we’re going to show you how to have a picnic to end all picnics!
Location, location, location
Before you even so much as open the fridge, you should first pick a suitable location for your picnic. If you’re taking the kids along then you probably don’t want to be stuck in the car for hours, especially if it’s a hot day, so opt for the local park or beauty spot. If you do choose to venture further afield, take in to consideration things such as traffic, whether there’s parking close by, and perhaps most importantly, what the weather is going to be like.
It’s also a good idea to check if there are any factors that might hinder your picnic – if you know a particular location is popular with dog walkers for example, then steer clear as you might find your lovingly prepared salad gets skittled by an excitable Labrador. Once you know where you’re heading and who’ll be coming along, it’s time to start thinking about what you need to take with you…
Pack it up, pack it in…
The food you’ll be eating is obviously a huge part of any picnic but if you don’t have the right gear to store it in then you could end up sorely disappointed once you get to your venue and find what can only be described as a sodden mess. Obviously, the type of food you’ll be taking will dictate the type of containers you opt for but there are a few hard and fast rules you shouldn’t deviate from to ensure your munchies stay fresh and protected en route. If you’re taking sandwiches (and if you aren’t, what kind of a picnic do you call that!), be sure to keep them sealed in a hard container so as to avoid crushing. Make sure that the containers are NOT airtight though, as this is a sure-fire way to ensure the bread goes soggy.
Moist foods such as beetroot salad, coleslaw and hummus should be kept in separate airtight plastic containers – the Tower 2 in 1 Vacuum Food Saver and Rapid Marinators are particularly useful here. In order to save time and space, hard fruit should be chopped into manageable pieces and stored in Zip-Loc bags. You might want to store soft fruit such as banana and pear in more tactile containers though. It’s also a good idea to invest in a coolbox and store perishables in it, placing a layer of ice of ice packs in the bottom, then a layer of food, then a layer of ice packs and so on.
Nothing. Should be the answer to that question. Once you introduce naked flames and fuel to a picnic it not only ceases to be a picnic but it also makes the operational aspect infinitely more difficult. Avoid your summer feast morphing into a barbecue by sticking to traditional picnic fare such as sandwiches, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, wraps, salads of all denominations and of course, a selection of cheeses! A general rule of thumb is ‘make it finger-friendly’ (so a ‘rule of finger’, really).
Chicken thighs, tearable bread, crackers, tortilla chips and dips, olives, carrot and celery sticks hummus and pitta bread – all of these delicious foodstuffs are easy to prepare and even easier to eat with just your hands. If you have salads or pasta dishes that use mayonnaise as a binding agent be careful to keep them chilled in your coolbox as it can go off if left out in the heat for too long. Alternatively, swap mayonnaise for pesto to avoid this problem. Pack condiments such as vinaigrettes separately and dress leafy greens when you’re ready to serve. Again, this will prevent sogginess.
Get tooled up
For the authentic British picnic experience you simply have to use real crockery, cutlery and glassware – sipping rose from a plastic beaker just isn’t quite the same! Plus, not using disposable plates and knives and forks is better for the environment. Of course, this isn’t always convenient, especially for those who like to travel light or have children in tow. Whatever option you plum for just make sure you have the staples of plates, forks, knives, napkins, cups and/or beakers, glasses and a chopping board. If you are taking glassware though, ensure that it is sufficiently protected from breakage – a space-saving solution is to wrap plates and other fragile items in your picnic blanket and glassware in napkins.
Other items essential to the smooth running of your epic picnic are; a bottle-opener/corkscrew, sharp knife for cutting meats and fruit, bread knife, wet-wipes, salt and pepper mills, and bin-bags to put your rubbish in afterwards. As with your glassware, take care to ensure the knives you take with you are adequately protected so as not to injure yourself when unpacking – the Tower 8 Piece Professional Knife Set offers a solution to this problem as it comes with its own roll-up carry case.
Given that you’ll be chowing down outdoors taking some sort of insect repellant is a good idea, as is a bringing along your favourite book to read lazily in the sun when in the midst of a food coma. You could even get a Bluetooth speaker and stream music to it from your phone. Be mindful of others in the vicinity though and keep volume at an acceptable level – nobody wants a noisy neighbor upsetting the ambience.
Hopefully that’s given you what you need to avoid any alfresco eating fails and provided you with the guidance to pull off the perfect picnic. If you have any picnic tips and tricks you want to share (perhaps you’re a picnic pro) leave us a comment or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter channels and we’ll do our best to include them on the blog.