Winter of Dehydration

Late last year, when the concept of my trip was slowly coming to fruition, Sara asked me if I was going to dehydrate food. I really hadn’t thought about it up until that point. I kind of just thought I’d wing it, buy some instant rice meals, packets of tuna and chicken, trail mix and jerky supplemented by grocery or convenience store stops along the way. It was around that time where she ordered a book that was going to fundamentally and nutritionally change my summer.

RfA
https://www.amazon.com/Recipes-Adventure-Healthy-Homemade-Backpacking/dp/1484861345 

Shortly after the book arrived, we started looking at food dehydrators. It helped that Sara (and now me) is a regular visitor to the r/trailmeals subreddit. We opted to not go all in and start with the Cadillac of Food Dehydrators, but something a but more economical and entry-level, the Honda Civic of dehydrators – the Nesco 5-tray Snackmaster Pro. (The only downside to this particular dehydrator is a lack of a timer, initially meaning I had to get up in the middle of the night to turn it off. Never fear, technology is here: I picked up a cheap smart outlet than can be controlled from your phone or turned on/off via timer.)

Shortly after the new year, the dehydrator arrived, and I went ahead and tried it out in earnest the first few days. I started with a few easy things, kiwi and potatoes. The kiwis were amazingly delicious, sweet as candy. The potatoes, super thinly sliced were a pretty good snack but not spectacular. Then I went all in and did jerky. I picked up some high quality, Eye of Round and then some 90% lean ground beef. Over the course of a weekend, I followed the recipes in my book to prep, spice and marinate the meat. While I didn’t have a true jerky kit, I improvised my way through it. The results were fantastic, especially the ground beef jerky.

I was hooked. I quickly moved on to more adventurous things: plantains (not good), broccoli (great rehydrated), beans, canned chicken, jasmine rice and pasta. Next was the leather. Thicker liquids can generally be dehydrated then rehydrated at camp with good results. First came pasta sauce, then blended blackberries, bananas with raspberry and bananas with blueberry. The result is indeed a leathery sheet that can be torn and divided to make single serving snacks like a fruit roll-up or rehydrated and added to oatmeal for a tasty breakfast. Then I went back to some whole fruits: blueberries, strawberries, banana, apricots, mango and…pineapples. Probably my favorite item so far, I slap 5 cans of slices pineapple to fill the dehydrator to the max, 12 hours later there’s a chewy delicious snack.

I started assembling meals with 3 or 4 ingredients. Usually it was a protein like chicken, ham, ground beef or tofu, then either rice or pasta, with a veggie like broccoli or edamame.

Of course, with all the food coming out of the dehydrator, I needed to be able to preserve the meals for longer term storage. We went ahead and sprung for a NutriChef vacuum sealer. As the meals and snacks started piling up, I began packaging, sealing, labeling then into the deep freeze for longer term storage. Freezing the items isn’t totally necessary but will extend shelf life a few months. Almost nonstop since the new year, I’ve had something in the dehydrator and my new hobby has turned into a bit of an addiction.

This week I’ll be packaging up what will likely be my last meals for the trip – roast turkey, brown rice and edamame. I have almost 70 total meals. I anticipate this being enough for a 100+ day trip as I’ll also be buying fresher groceries and eating real meals along the way. Jerky and fruit will be my snacks or breakfasts. I’ll likely carry 2 to 3 weeks’ worth of meals at a time, then ship boxes along the way with another 2 to 3 weeks’ worth.

I’m happy I listened to my wonderfully thoughtful wife to pursue food dehydrating. The summer will absolutely mean much more nutritious and delicious food options as I watch the spectacular sunsets along the river over the Great Plains.

(I have quite a few photos of the results on my Instagram feed – link over on the right.)

Log of dehydrated foods and ingredients:

What Temp Time
Kiwi slices 135 ~7hrs
Potatoes 135 ~6hrs
Ground beef jerky 160 ~8hrs
Eye of round jerky 160 ~12hrs
kiwi, pineapple, clementines, mango 145 mango-10hrs, the rest 15 hrs
Plantain 135 ~7hrs
Broccoli 125 5.5hrs
Rice – jasmine 125 5.5hrs
Chicken – canned 145 4hrs
Black beans – canned 125
Broccoli 125 7.5hrs
Tomato sauce – jar 125 9hrs – flipped at 7.5hrs
Chicken – canned 125 5hrs
Ground beef 145 5.5hrs
Pasta – elbow mac 135 4hrs?
Blackberry leather 135 9.5hrs
Pineapple – canned 135 12hrs
Ground beef jerky 160 11.5hrs
Rice – jasmine 125 5.5hrs
Pineapple – canned 135 5hrs
Ham – sliced 145 8hrs
Pasta – elbow mac 145 4hrs
Fruit bark – banana, raspberry 135 9hrs
Fruit bark – banana, blueberry 135 9hrs
Sauerkraut 125 7hrs
Banana 135 8hrs
Pineapple – canned 135 12hrs
Pinto beans 125 7hrs
Apricots 135 11hrs
Blueberries 135 14hrs
Strawberries 135 11hrs
Tomatos – cherry 135 14hrs
Potatoes – thin sliced 125 6hrs
Pineapple – canned 125 12hrs
Pears – canned 125 12hrs
Ground beef jerky 160 10hrs
Butter chicken sauce 135 10hrs
Chicken – canned 145 6hrs
Rice – jasmine 125 7hrs
Pasta – tubes 135 5.5hrs
Soup – chunky chicken noodle 125 10hrs
Ground beef 145 7hrs
Tomato sauce – jar 135 10hrs
Edamame – shelled 125 6hrs
Mixed veggies 125 6hrs
Blackberry leather 135 12hrs
Pineapple – canned 135 12hrs
Mandarin oranges – canned 135 12hrs
Blueberry leather 135 12hrs
Rice – jasmine 125 7hrs
Pineapple – canned 135 12hrs
Pasta – shells 135 6hrs
Applesauce leather 135 14hrs
Lentils 125 9hrs
Chicken – canned 125 8hrs
Broccoli 125 6hrs
Ground beef jerky 160 9hrs
Kiwi 125 8hrs
Ground beef – taco 125 6hrs
Wild rice 125 7hrs
Broccoli 125 6hrs
Various cheese 95 18hrs
Brussel sprounts 125 8hrs
Tofu 125 8hrs
Goat cheese 95 18hrs
Turkey – oven roasted 145 8hrs
Rice – brown 125 10hrs
Blackberry leather 135 18hrs
Strawberry leather 135 18hrs

 

Log of assembled meals:

Meal/Item Quantity
Chicken, Jasmine Rice, Broccoli 4
Macaroni & Meat Sauce 12
Ham, Noodles, Sauerkraut 7
Beef, Ramen, Beans 2
Ham, Ramen, Sauerkraut, Beans 1
Ham, Ramen, Sauerkraut 1
Butter chicken, rice 5
Chicken, rice, beans, tomatoes 2
Rice, beans, tomatoes 1
Beef, beans, pasta, tomato 3
Mac & Cheese w/broccoli 2
Chicken, edamame, tomato sauce 2
Chicken, edamame 1
Chicken, lentils 1
Chicken, lentils, rice 7
Ground beef – taco 3
Tofu, lentils, wild rice 2
Tofu, brussel sprouts, wild rice 1
Chicken, brussel sprouts, wild rice 1
Chicken, broccoli, wild rice 4

mf

 

 

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