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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hot Meal Menu, Expanded View


backpacking meal packageA couple of you have asked for more detail about preparing hiking food. I give seminars on that topic, and am working on a cookbook, but I will share one Hot Meal menu here.

It rained almost all day again today, but Maggie and I managed to sneak out between deluges for a walk. We saw cardinals and ducks, and the first kingbird of the year, but I didn't get pictures of any. You can't sneak up on birds when you are intent on walking.

This menu is Beef-Barley Stew with Caraway Dumplings, and Apple-Cranberry Compote for dessert. Every meal is labeled with its type, contents, number of servings, weight, and date of preparation. This makes it really easy to know what you are looking at on the hike, and if packages come home (it happens more often than you might imagine) I don't have to guess about their vital statistics.

backpacking meal label

Two pots are easiest, unless you are willing to spend a long time with the cooking, to wash each pot between courses. We take 2 pots. When the main course is dished up then that pan can be rinsed and used to heat cleanup water, and you still have the other pan for the dessert (if it is one that needs to be cooked). This is one of the more complex menus I do, and one of only two for which I carry liquid oil, but the dumplings aren't right without it.

My theory of hiking food is that good food in camp is part of what makes or breaks the whole experience. I'm a reasonably good, but jaded, cook of food at home. However, it all seems different somehow when I'm doing hike food.

Beef-Barley Stew (based on a recipe in The Back-Country Kitchen)
Combine in a ziploc bag:
   1/2 pound of hamburger, dried *
   1/3 c quick barley
   1 beef bullion cube
   1 t dried onion bits
   1/2 t paprika
   1/2 t dried parsley
   1/4 t thyme
   1/4 t marjoram
   pinch of pepper
   2 oz tomato sauce, dried *
   vegetables: I like 1/2 c peas, dehydrated and 1/2 small zucchini, sliced and dehydrated, but you could throw in almost anything that works well in a stew. (This cooks in about 10 minutes, so if you use vegs that have longer cooking times, like carrots, you might want to precook them a tiny bit before dehydrating.)

beef barley stew packet

* To dry hamburger: Brown in a pan, breaking into small crumbles. Place in a colander and run very hot water over it to remove as much fat as possible- fat is what goes rancid. Pat dry on paper toweling. Spread on dehydrator tray lined with paper towels. Dehydrate at 145 degrees till completely dry (about 3-4 hours)
* To dry sauces: spread any "slurry" not more than 1/4 inch thick on plastic-wrap coated dehydrator trays, dehydrate till at least leathery (for fruit leathers) or dryer for things that will be rehydrated.

Caraway Dumplings
FOR 2 SMALL SERVINGS- if you like lots of bread use the amount in parentheses)
Combine in a ziploc bag:
   1/3 c flour (1/2 c)
   pinch salt (same)
   1/2 t baking powder (3/4 t)
   2 T powdered milk (3 T)
   1 t caraway seed (1 1/2)
Pack separately in a small jar:
   2 t vegetable oil (1 T)
dumpling packet

Apple-Cranberry Compote (based on a recipe in The Well-Fed Backpacker
Combine in a ziploc bag:
   1 1/2 apples, peeled sliced, dried
   1/4 c dried cranberries
   1/2 t cinnamon
   1/4 t nutmeg
   2-3 T chopped walnuts
cranberry-apple compote packet

1. In your larger pot heat 4 c water, add stew mix, cook gently till rehydrated.
2. Add just enough water to the dumpling bag to make a soft dough. Knead in the bag with fingers till thoroughly mixed. Then add the oil, knead just enough to spread the oil over the surfaces, tear off a corner of the bag and squeeze dumplings onto the hot stew. Cover tightly and simmer 12 minutes without peeking.
3. In your smaller pot, soak the compote mix in enough water to cover. When the stew is off the stove simmer the fruit till soft. If needed add a little more water just to keep everything moist but not runny.

Hike Planning Report
Filled all 9 trays of the dehydrator: cantaloupe, honeydew, beets, pears, onion dip

Walked 1.5 miles with 43 pounds.

See Hot Meals Are Packed
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Blogger Rise said...

thanks for this post give me some fresh idea :)

Joe Todd said...

Thanks for the post. I will try to put the meal together as you did. Was thinking about you and your up coming hike yesterday. My wife and I went on a 4 mile hike hilly and rugged terrain. Temp reached 80+ degrees. We used a lot of liquid to stay hydrated. How much water or other liquid do you carry? Then what do you do? Do you cover this info in your book?
Yes ,it took me some time and effort to come up with blogs to pass the award onto but I will enjoy checking out some new blogs.. Thanks, Joe Todd

WiseAcre said...

The dumpling are a great idea. Even at home I like the no fuss no muss approach.

(OK, You did it - I've turn green. Great post and truly a much better way of camp eating that I manage)

Rick (Ratty) said...

This is what I've been hoping for! I wanted only a small idea of how this kind of thing worked. Thanks for demonstrating this for a rat that's too lazy to search for some details for himself. :)

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi Blogger- glad it may be helpful

Joe- 80 degrees! I'm dreading those first hot days. We haven't had them yet, and they will probably happen on the hike. I'm not so good with hot! We each carry bottles that could hold 60 oz total, but if we are in areas where there are lots of water sources, we may not always keep all of them filled. The recipes should be good to go now.

Hi WiseAcre- Glad to share the green! Well, this isn't as simple to set up ahead of time, but it makes things REALLY easy on the trail. And no matter how cold, wet, tiring, hot, whatever... the day is, there will be a good meal.

Ratty- You're welcome! You aren't lazy... the food thing can be kind of overwhelming when one first begins to contemplate overnight hikes.