Perfect picnics

Find out what to pack, where to go and how to make them memorable. The family picnic once was a Sunday staple, with parks filled with blankets and baskets of simple, portable food. These busy days, picnics are less common, but when they happen, families make the most of them.

Find out what to pack, where to go and how to make them memorable. The family picnic once was a Sunday staple, with parks filled with blankets and baskets of simple, portable food. These busy days, picnics are less common, but when they happen, families make the most of them.

Bill Renner, owner of Creative Catering and Bill and Mary’s Diner in North Canton, offers pre-made picnic fare for small and large outings. He said the keys to memorable picnics are fresh food with a careful eye on food safety.

drinks“Actually, I prefer hot food to cold. You can use portable chafing dishes (with Sterno heat). You need to keep hot food above 170 degrees and can do that by wrapping it in newspaper and using an insulated carrier,” he said.

He fills gallon plastic bags with ice and places them in coolers with cold food. That’s important, because foods such as chicken or potato salad can spoil rapidly on warm days.

Renner said whole, fresh fruit is a must. He combines it with fancy crackers and cheeses such as Brie.

For dessert, Renner suggests an easy food — cookies — and he warns to stay away from brownies.

“They will melt into a mess,” he said.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR PICNIC PERFECT PACKING

All foods should be well-wrapped. Place the most perishable items at the bottom of your cooler, then layer with plenty of ice in plastic zipper bags.

fruitFor efficient cooling, freeze water, lemonade, iced tea or other noncarbonated beverages in plastic drink bottles, leaving two inches at the top for expansion. As the ice melts, you’ll have a cold drink.

If it rained recently, the ground and tables will be damp. Bring a plastic tarp and place your picnic blanket or table cover over it.

The cooler has replaced the traditional picnic basket for transporting perishable foods. It is as effective with cold foods as warm. Nonperishable items, utensils and plates can go into a basket or supermarket bag.

Bring a breadboard and knife for cutting fruits and cheese.You’ll need servers or tongs for salads, casseroles and meats.

A roll of paper towels is handy for napkins and cleanups. Wipes are good for cleaning hands before the meal.

sandwichUneaten, perishable foods should be discarded and not kept for leftovers.

VENUES

Jared Shive from Stark Parks tells us five favorite picnic spots from around the county. For information on these and other local parks, go to www.starkparks.com. That Web site also links you to other park districts in Jackson Township, Alliance, Canton, Massillon and Canal Fulton. Shive’s picks:

David Fichtner Outdoor Education Center, 12833 Market Ave. N in Lake Township

Petros Lake Park, 3275 Perry Dr. SW in Perry Township

Sippo Lake Park (East), 5300 Tyner St. NW in Perry Township; (North) 5712 12th St. NW in Perry Township; (West) 800 Genoa Rd. NW in Perry Township

Walborn And Deer Creek Reservoirs Walborn Reservoir: 11324 Price St. NE in Lexington Township; Deer Creek Reservoir: 14514 Price St. NE in Lexington Township

Lock 4 Trailhead, along Erie Avenue NW in Canal Fulton

OUT-OF-TOWN DESTINATIONS:

Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

Atwood Lake, Sherrodsville

Alum Creek State Park, Delaware

Lake Erie Islands State Parks, Port Clinton