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do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:53 am
by fishmonger
I've been looking at dehydrators for years, but never pulled the trigger until a few weeks ago when I found a factory refurbished Excelsior unit with timer on ebay. I've done one test run with some thick home made Cajun bean soup and apart from creating a product that punctured thick food saver bags after vac sealing, this was a full success. Each meal we will dry with this will take some testing to get the important reconstitution part correctly nailed down, but using an accurate digital scale before and after drying, our water amount to add was pretty close on our first try and dead-on the second time around.

Now it's just a matter of collecting good recipes of what has worked well for others. In terms of weight savings, these meals are about equal to freeze dried, and they will hold up just fine for weeks in the bear can or resupply buckets. The limitations are the same as with freeze dried meals - meats must be cut very small, fat amounts need to be kept low. Bacon I added to the Cajun bean soup remained a little soft and fatty, which is understandable, but I guess we had to try it.

We'll do some Chili next - low sodium and all organic, not that Mountain House heart stopper salt food any longer. Other meals we want to try are Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Alfredo. We don't want to become backcountry chefs who mix custom ingredients on the trail - just add water, let sit in the Jetboil Sumo cup, maybe add some oil, then heat up and eat.

Has anyone ever packed homemade dehydrated meals in ziplocks? We always repackaged freeze dried food like that to better fill the bear cans and never had any spoiled food. Wondering if that's a safe thing to do on the trail (we could repackage just at resupply, then the zip-lock bag time would be only a couple of days. Probably safe, but I am sure food safety folks will freak when they read that.

Anyway, having a lot of fun with this new way of preparing meals for the next trip. I may post some more info the next time I prepare a batch

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 2:51 pm
by ksenn
I've been dehydrating my own food for a few years w/ varying degrees of success. I found homemade hummus rehydrates well. So does rice, canned beans, and well cooked pasta.

As for ziplock bags, that's all I've used. I even let my food rehydrate in them. I guess it's possible that chemicals leach from the bag into the food, but I'm not super worried about it. I do this because I'm generally too lazy to clean my pot out. I made a sort of coozy out of a car windshield sun reflector to keep it hot.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 4:10 pm
by boakes99
I don't do my own dehydrating, but you might find this book interesting ..." Freezer bag cooking" by Sarah Svien Kirkconnell.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 4:51 pm
by AaronRDavis
Ive been doing it for much of my backpacking food for the past two summers. I haven't branched out much beyond pasta with sauces and chili with protein. I've done ground beef (definitely use the leanest one possible), which was a little gravelly after rehydrating. Canned chicken dehydrates really well, and gets to a pretty decent texture when rehydrated. I haven't bothered to do a whole lot of vegetables, because you can purchase different quantities of those on amazon for a pretty cheap price.
After dehydrating the sauce/chili, I usually pulverize them into a powder, and then combine it with the rest of the meal, all in a 1qt freezer ziplock. With the dry contents, I usually throw in some type of seasoning, parmesan, and a packet of olive oil to add before eating. I rehydrate in the same freezer bag and eat from it.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:18 pm
by freestone
I dehydrate all my backpacking food having the best luck with making what is called "bark". This is dehydrated saucy dishes with the ingredients cut into small pieces, chili, stews, and tomato pasta dishes being my favorites because they rehydrate easily with hot water in a pot and cozy. I've had good luck with seasoned ground sirloin pressed through a cookie press then dehydrated into wafer thin bars. I'm now experimenting with granolas by substituting rolled oats with puffed rice for a lighter mix, roasted in an oven.

I repackage all my dehydrated food in good zip lock bags taking extra time to remove as much air as possible from the bag before making the final seal. This can be done by dipping the bottom of the bag in to a pail of water, then slowly submerge the bag to force the air up and out.

Store bought frozen veggies is not a bad way to go, the pieces are small and factory blanched, ready for the dehydrator. Okra, peas, corn and carrots are my some of my favorites but broccoli and squash much less so, even though they are some of my favorite fresh vegetables.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 6:09 pm
by rrivera
I dehydrate and use ziplock sometimes I just use them to rehydrate my meals and sometimes to eat out of. I love to dehydrate pasta sauce and take it along its huge hit. I also go to my local farmers market and there is a catering business there that makes about 15 different types of hummus and I dry that and it's way better than the powdered stuff you can buy. They also makes various bean salads which I dehydrate and I'll add some water into the bag in the morning on the trail and I'll have a wonderful lunch.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 6:35 pm
by AlmostThere
Before a long trip I'll dehydrate things like Indian lentil dishes, cooked rice, cooked pasta, chili, thick creamy soups, tuna casserole -- it won't remove all the moisture but it'll last long enough to eat it over the next 10 days.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 6:26 am
by fishmonger
Wow , thanks for all the feedback. Didn't expect that much response.

Zip lock bags it is then. I will probably still vacuum seal those meals that go into resupply buckets we need to send out weeks in advance, but then we can repack at the time we pick up.

I will have to try some of the bark recipes I found online, especially the pumpkin pie bark, which sounds like a yummie snack

lots of great ideas on that web site, although some of it looks a little too complicated to assemble. I like one-bag meals :)

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:42 am
by Wandering Daisy
Your statement that you will "send out weeks in advance" may present a problem with home-dried meals. Some types of food may go bad if not fully dried and cured. Perhaps it would be good to separately pack those semi-perishable items (such as meat?) so if it does go bad it does not spoil the entire meal. I am not sure what food items this would apply to. Perhaps someone else knows more. I do not home-dehydrate; others above have implied that they use the items within 10 days or so.

Use zip-lock freezer bags, not the sandwich bags. I have had a lot of problems with sandwich bags making the food taste like plastic after a weeks of storage, particularly if stored in warm places. Sandwich bags are not designed for long-term storage.

Re: do you dehydrate your own trail meals?

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 9:22 am
I’ve been home drying since 1998 with an American Harvester dehydrator. I do fruit, jerky, and meals, primarily the family spaghetti recipe using angel hair instead of spaghetti. I gave up doing vegies after a couple of years since the commercial freeze dried vegies are inexpensive and taste about the same. I find the home-dried apples, pears, and peaches taste better and weigh less than the store-brought dried fruit.

I store the dried food in freezer bags in the freezer until I’m packing the bearikade before the trip. I’ve never had a problem with spoilage. For the meals, I remove them from the freezer bag and put them in the pot, cover it with water, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to rehydrate. While the freezer bag cooking website has lots of good information, I find their recipes usually involve too much prep both at home and out on the trip. I do not want to do anything beyond putting the food in the pot and boiling it when I’m in the backcountry. I’d much rather look at the scenery than prepare food.