How to dehydrate camp food
New ideas for well-preserved and tasty outdoor meals
Once winter sets in, a lot of campers simply pack their gear up and live off memories of the past summer season to get through the cold months. Not me. I spend a good portion of it preparing my own dehydrated camp meals for the upcoming season. It helps take away the boredom of the winter, saves a good chunk of cash and allows me to create some amazing, tasty, nutritious meals.
I’m not saying those pre-packaged dehydrated meals aren’t palatable or wholesome, however, some of the brands seem to give me a bad case of the toots. We’ve come a long way from breakfasts of green powered eggs and dinners of mock-shepherd’s pie that taste like biting into savorless cardboard. But there’s so much more to experimenting on making your own meals—especially when it’s minus thirty outside and the furthest thing from your mind is try out the absurd art of winter camping.
Gather some recipes
There’s some great camp recipes books on the market and even more online, but you don’t necessarily need them. Look at any recipe book, those complimentary recipe calendars, or my favorite: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s recipe magazine, Food & Drink. Then you simply figure out if all the required ingredients can be dehydrated. If they can, the recipe is worth experimenting with.
Drying your own food is by far the best way to prepare camp meals. It does two important things: 1. By removing the moisture it lightens the contents of whats in your food pack and doesn’t allow bacteria to form. Once water is added you add back the weight and, if left for too long, the chance of getting a nasty case of food poisoning.
You can pick up a good dehydrator for less than $100 (thankfully, my wife and I received one for a wedding gift and its lasted us ever since). But if you don’t have the money, or more importantly, don’t go on enough camping trips to justify spending the money, you can also use your kitchen oven. Placing food items on oven racks—use a cookie sheet for sauces—baked using the lowest temperature possible, in six to eight hours you’ll see similar results to those of a commercial dehydrator.
- Sauces are the best to practice dehydrating with. One jar of spaghetti sauce placed in the dehydrator or oven is reduced to a thin slice of what looks like fruit leather. Once at camp, place a small amount of the dried sauce in (½ cup) of boiling water and it turns right back into the original spaghetti sauce.
- Vegetables are also quite easy to dehydrate. My wife and I routinely spend the winter months buying up different veggies that are on sale and drying them in bulk. Some of our favorites are broccoli, celery, green and red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, corn, peas, and eggplant.
- Meat takes a lot more preparation because it must be cooked before drying. Some meats, such as ground beef, should also be rinsed repeatedly with hot water to eliminate grease and reduce the chances of bacteria forming. My wife and I prefer drying ground turkey or ground venison—these meats have less fat and are therefore less likely to spoil while we’re out on a trip.
- We also prefer to buy some dried foods at bulk-food stores. Onions really stink up the house when dried in the dehydrator, and we can’t seem to get our banana chips or pineapple slices to look as appetizing as the ones you can pick up at the store.