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View Full Version : How to Start Dehydrating Your Own Trail Meals: Tips and Tricks for Beginners



Demeter
11-12-2014, 11:07
While there is lots of info on the internet about freezer bag cooking and DIY trail food, I've gotten a lot of emails about how to start dehydrating your own foods at home to make healthier DIY trail meals for backpacking and home food storage, so I am doing an eight part series on the subject.

So far I have an article on dehydrating meat (http://demeters-dish.blogspot.com/2014/11/tips-for-dehydrating-your-own-meat-to.html), and another on drying vegetables (http://demeters-dish.blogspot.com/2014/11/dehydrating-your-own-vegetables-to-use.html). I am putting them together in a step-by-step how-to guide for anyone interested. I will put them here or you can subscribe to my blog if you want to get them when I finish.

Ciao!

jarrett.morgan
11-12-2014, 13:59
Thanks for the share. I've really wanted to start dehydrating my food to increase my variety. However, I am pretty lazy and buying a dehydrator looks expensive. Anyways, I hope this will push me over the edge to start preparing my own meals.

atraildreamer
11-12-2014, 18:10
... and buying a dehydrator looks expensive.

Cruise the yard sales. Plenty of units out there. I got three for a total of $12!

HeartFire
11-12-2014, 18:53
you should be dehydrating your entire meal - make any one pot meat, casserole, stew, soup etc and dehydrate the finished product, not the separate components. Next time you make something and have left overs - put it in the dehydrator - go out to your favorite restaraunt and bring home an extra meal and dehydrate it - only caution here is that they will have a much higher grease content than meals cooked at home. Fats/oils can go rancid, they don't dehydrate.
I don't eat meat, but the only meat I would recommend drying separately from meals would be hamburger meat - then you bring a baggie full and add a handful to other meals.

Tuckahoe
11-12-2014, 20:04
Thanks for the share. I've really wanted to start dehydrating my food to increase my variety. However, I am pretty lazy and buying a dehydrator looks expensive. Anyways, I hope this will push me over the edge to start preparing my own meals.

I have this particular model of Nesco dehydrator -- http://www.amazon.com/Nesco-FD-80A-Square-Shaped-Dehydrator-Frustration-Free/dp/B0090WOCM6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1415836419&sr=8-2&keywords=nesco+food+dehydrator

I think it is a good model to start off with, without being too costly. And as Atraildreamer said, hit the yard sales because there all to often hardly used dehydrators... the weeding or birthday gift that only got used once. You can also try your hand at dehydrating by using your oven. It would give you a chance to see if it is something you really want to do.

RangerZ
11-12-2014, 20:17
Can you dehydrate SOS? Maybe dry the ground beef and gavy separately and combine the result? Of course, wash the ground beef well. It would make a great breakfast.

adamkrz
11-12-2014, 20:27
How do you make a good beef jerky, I just purchased a 4 tray nesco new for 46 Dollars.

Tuckahoe
11-12-2014, 20:28
Can you dehydrate SOS? Maybe dry the ground beef and gavy separately and combine the result? Of course, wash the ground beef well. It would make a great breakfast.

Personally I would not try dehydrating SOS because of the fat and dairy. In the past I have made SOS on trips just by using a packet of instant pepper or country gravy and several slices of Armour dried beef. This is close enough to the real thing and without a lot of hassle.

Demeter
11-13-2014, 08:57
you should be dehydrating your entire meal - make any one pot meat, casserole, stew, soup etc and dehydrate the finished product, not the separate components.

I must respectfully disagree with you on this one, at least partially :) Some foods, like chili and stews do rehydrate better when prepared in advance at home. However, some dishes, like veggie noodles ("zoodles") or ramen and sauce, are better (IMHO) when dried separately and rehydrated on the trail. My new blog series on DIY trail foods cover this more. Sara Kirkconnell's book on Freezer Bag Cooking is full of recipes that are individual ingredients placed in the bag.


Thanks for the share. I've really wanted to start dehydrating my food to increase my variety. However, I am pretty lazy and buying a dehydrator looks expensive. Anyways, I hope this will push me over the edge to start preparing my own meals.

You don't need to invest a lot of time or money in dehydrating. You can dry a little or dry a lot, but if you pack frequently, the money saved should payoff that dehydrator in a couple trips!


Cruise the yard sales. Plenty of units out there. I got three for a total of $12!

Good advice! Lots of dehydrators are never even used!


Can you dehydrate SOS? Maybe dry the ground beef and gavy separately and combine the result? Of course, wash the ground beef well. It would make a great breakfast.

I love SOS! My dad would make this for us growing up and tell us about how it was always served in Korea in the MASH unit where he was stationed. I don't see why it wouldn't work, but the fat in the gravy could be a problem. Maybe a store-bought white gravy mix? I have some pemmican I made - I wonder if that would work since it has loads of rendered fat in it already. I will have to give it a try!


How do you make a good beef jerky, I just purchased a 4 tray nesco new for 46 Dollars.

Jerky can be made from thin slices of any meat, or you can use ground meat and a "jerky gun" (which my DH loves to use!). Lots of great info on the web. http://www.jerky.com/beef-jerky-recipes http://allrecipes.com/recipes/appetizers-and-snacks/meat-and-poultry/jerky/
http://paleogrubs.com/jerky-recipes


Personally I would not try dehydrating SOS because of the fat and dairy. In the past I have made SOS on trips just by using a packet of instant pepper or country gravy and several slices of Armour dried beef. This is close enough to the real thing and without a lot of hassle.

Thanks for the tip!!

squeezebox
11-13-2014, 10:50
SOS is what?

Tuckahoe
11-13-2014, 10:57
SOS is what?

Sh$t on a shingle = or creamed chipped beef on toast.

July
11-13-2014, 10:59
SOS is what?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipped_beef :) Best served in mess hall w/ omlett after morning PT...:)

Demeter
11-13-2014, 11:39
Sh$t on a shingle = or creamed chipped beef on toast.

Dad said the "shingle" got it's name cos the toast was as usually hard as a rock!

Tipi Walter
11-13-2014, 12:11
Can you dehydrate SOS? Maybe dry the ground beef and gavy separately and combine the result? Of course, wash the ground beef well. It would make a great breakfast.

I do alot of home drying (using a TSM 5 tray machine) and have found using a blender helps when preparing dried food for backpacking. If I was eating such food, I would blend up the ground beef and gravy first and then add a little water to make it pour out onto your silicone dryer sheets and VOILA you have something which will easily reconstitute in the field, just put the SOS on the "shingle"---bread.

I cook and dry alot of brown rice and have found three ways to do it---
** Blend up cooked brown rice with just water and pour on silicone sheets.
** Blend up brown rice with whole organic milk and dry.
** Blend rice with organic soups like Amy's or Imagine butternut squash, tomato, sweet potato etc even rice with a can of chili and add water and pour on silicone sheets etc. Works great and the brown rice is totally edible and cooked thoroughly in the field.

All these meals must be brought to a boil and put in a pot cozy for around 30 minutes.

Check out my ideas on Smugmug---

http://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/keyword/kitchen/i-pGcGJcJ

Tipi Walter
11-13-2014, 12:18
Plus, drying whole meals is a great idea, especially things like complete spaghetti dinners or mac and cheese already cooked. Once fully cooked at home and dried, these do not need to be cooked in the field and only brought to a boil and cozied.

http://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpacking2012/TRIP-137/i-QcNcLzh/0/L/TRIP%20137%20014-L.jpg
Here's a box of spaghetti with 2 jars of pasta sauce and some mushrooms fully dried at home and brought out on a trip. The gallon hefty bag of dried spaghetti lasted me a full 7 days on the trail.

Recently I dried a couple tubs of cottage cheese and added the dried bits to my soups. Works great.

Rocket Jones
11-13-2014, 12:45
+1 on the Jerky Gun! Ground beef jerky is good stuff.

lonehiker
11-13-2014, 21:34
:)

I love SOS! My dad would make this for us growing up and tell us about how it was always served in Korea in the MASH unit where he was stationed. I don't see why it wouldn't work, but the fat in the gravy could be a problem. Maybe a store-bought white gravy mix? I have some pemmican I made - I wonder if that would work since it has loads of rendered fat in it already. I will have to give it a try!!

It has been a few years since I've seen that era of recipe cards, but, I think that it called for half a beef carcass.

squeezebox
11-13-2014, 22:33
My major problem is that I have no idea what a serving size is on the trail. I don't want to make 1/2 portions or double portions.
I like to cook , and I cook well, a minus $100 dehydrator would be within my budget.
I have the time. And what do I do with all this food if my knees crap out on me part way through and/or something else forces me off the trail.

July
11-13-2014, 22:48
My major problem is that I have no idea what a serving size is on the trail. I don't want to make 1/2 portions or double portions.
I like to cook , and I cook well, a minus $100 dehydrator would be within my budget.
I have the time. And what do I do with all this food if my knees crap out on me part way through and/or something else forces me off the trail.

I guess that there is no definite 'rule' as people vary in weights and sizes. When starting to dry at home, instead of 'loading' up a tray, portion out what you would consider a portion, or meal, and dry that amount. Of course different meals vary as to satisfaction, so taking notes and pulling out the ole postal scale when bagging comes into play. As to what to do with surplus, we have a wonderful invention called the 'freezer':) As one old hiker commented to me once, "ya know, most of the time I eat at home like I do on the trail".

Rocket Jones
11-14-2014, 07:16
Like everything else in life, you practice and get experience. You can have every last detail of driving explained to you, but until you get behind the wheel on the road, you really don't know how you'll do.

You can vacuum seal your food, or store it in the freezer to extend its life, but even if you don't there's nothing that says you can't eat it at home.

rustmd
11-14-2014, 09:00
the internet has everything. . .recipes, recipes, recipes. with practice you really can determine how your own regular meals can be dehydrated. I also vacuum seal all my stuff now & store it in my extra refrigerator next to my hiker box.

one of my unusual foods: dehydrated blueberry muffins!! slice muffins in thirds, lay on dehydrator trays, dehydrate at 135 for about 2 hours. great with coffee, taste like biscotti!

.com

Deacon
11-14-2014, 09:07
My major problem is that I have no idea what a serving size is on the trail. I don't want to make 1/2 portions or double portions.
I like to cook , and I cook well, a minus $100 dehydrator would be within my budget.
I have the time. And what do I do with all this food if my knees crap out on me part way through and/or something else forces me off the trail.

From my experience, I've found that a two cup serving on the trail is very hearty to the point that I don't need to eat anything else with it. For example, I make/dehydrate spaghetti at home, complete with pasta, meat and sauce.

I measure out two full cups on a dehydrator sheet, and when fully dried, comes out to 6 ounces. A 6oz. dried meal has always worked for me.

You could start there and adjust accordingly to your own appetite.

Ground Control
11-14-2014, 09:58
I've been using a Nesco Professional for about 3 years now, still a beginner. I've tried several beef jerky recipes, but Ted's Herky Jerky recipe has a consensus as to being the best.

Ted's Herky Jerky Recipe:
from http://www.backpacker.com/news-and-events/news/trail-news/trail-chef-world-s-best-beef-jerky/


You could buy a Nesco Professional on Amazon for $69 ($20 off) right now. Free shipping:
http://www.amazon.com/Nesco-Snackmaster-Food-Dehydrator-FD-75A/dp/B0090WOCN0

gunner76
11-15-2014, 00:29
check out bablefish5's The Hunger Hammock Hanger http://www.hungryhammockhanger.com/ for lots of great DIY meals for backpacking.

squeezebox
11-19-2014, 22:29
I'm not sure what to think. By the time I cook, dry , portion control, adjust the above, package, mail, a load of work. My son( in chef school) and my ex-wife are way to flakey to trust. My brother eats meat XXX well done. I served him once a medium well done burger and he accused me of serving him a raw burger.
His wife is no better .
So sending to me is on me, no room for adjustment, and little knowledge. So I think I may be better off buying an extra canister and cooking on the trail.

Deacon
11-19-2014, 22:36
I'm not sure what to think. By the time I cook, dry , portion control, adjust the above, package, mail, a load of work. My son( in chef school) and my ex-wife are way to flakey to trust. My brother eats meat XXX well done. I served him once a medium well done burger and he accused me of serving him a raw burger.
His wife is no better .
So sending to me is on me, no room for adjustment, and little knowledge. So I think I may be better off buying an extra canister and cooking on the trail.

But the food you buy on the trail is generally a lot crappier than preparing your own ahead of time. But then again, maybe you don't mind that.

July
11-20-2014, 07:57
I'm not sure what to think. By the time I cook, dry , portion control, adjust the above, package, mail, a load of work. My son( in chef school) and my ex-wife are way to flakey to trust. My brother eats meat XXX well done. I served him once a medium well done burger and he accused me of serving him a raw burger.
His wife is no better .
So sending to me is on me, no room for adjustment, and little knowledge. So I think I may be better off buying an extra canister and cooking on the trail.

Well home prepared meals are without a doubt more healthy, assuming one cooks healthy. Mail drops can be nice but you also have to consider that if not preparing a variety of meals, they will get old after a while. Also you have to maintain that 'schedule' of hitting town and the pick-up points at the right time. Not so much an issue with hostels/B&B's, however very inconvenient when arriving in town on fri and PO dose'nt open til mon.

Maybe sending a couple of drops from Ga through the Smokies, which YOU can do before you leave. By the time you hit the Smokies you should have your groove down. Actually eating as you go, coming into towns and resupplying is a great way to go. You have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. Eat well in town, then as well as possible on trail, because you will be hitting another town within 3-5 days depending on where you want to stop. Major plus about on the go resupply is the constant variety, as your tastes will change from time to time.