I must admit I get alarmed sometimes by what hikers choose to eat while on long distance hiking trips. From plain noodles to Ramen to mashed potatoes, it's the same old, carb loading meals with little nutritional value. Backpacking meals don't have to be nutritionless, boring or expensive. With just a little time and a food dehydrator, you can dry meats and veggies to add to your ho hum rice and noodle dishes and make them not only yummy but good for you when you are out hiking those long miles.
It begins with a good dehydrator. I use the Nesco Snackmaster that has various temperature settings for the foods you wish to dehydrate. It comes with several trays and the noise level is minimal. Plus dehydrating is quick and easy.
Dehydrating meats is simple. Want to add chicken to your dishes? You can! Canned chicken, that is. It dehydrates and best of all, rehydrates well. Open the can, pour off the broth, and break up the chunks. They will resemble thread-like pieces. Spread them out on the trays. When crisp, package into Ziploc snack bags to add to your favorite Knorr Rice dishes, couscous, etc.
To dehydrate beef for meals, buy a good lean cut. To make a beef puree to fortify your dishes or to make trailside beef stroganoff, add 1/2 cup soy sauce to 1/2 lb trimmed beef, cut up. Marinate for 15 minutes, add 2 1/2 cups of water and boil until tender. Puree in a blender with 1/2 cup of liquid. Spread on a jelly roll pan and dry in a 150 degree oven for 4 hours, stirring at times. It is done when crisp. Package in snack size Ziplocs and store in the fridge or in freezer until you need them. (Recipe obtained from "The Appalachian Trail Food Planner" by Lou Adsmond).
To add veggies to your dishes -
You can thaw them ahead of time or just place frozen on the trays (they will dry anyway). Spread the veggies on trays, make sure they are separated. When veggies are crinkly and not soft, they are dry.
Package up your meats and veggies into Ziploc bags to add to dinners on the trail. I put these in my mail drops.
When you arrive at camp for the night, a good trick is to let your dehydrated food sit in water for about half an hour in the pot while you set up your camp. Then when it comes time to cook, the meat and veggies are already partially rehydrated and the cook time for the rice and noodles makes it ready to go without wasting fuel.
Now you have a good way to add needed protein and vitamins to otherwise starchy rice and noodle mixes. And it sure beats the cost of those pricey dehydrated backpacker meals.
Previous blogs on the topic: Maildrops Hiker Foods Dehydrator Food Recipes