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How long food keeps

Have a favorite trail recipe or technique you'd like to share? Please do! We also like reviews of various trail food products out there. The Backcountry Food Topix forum is the place to discuss all things related to food and nourishment while in the Sierra wilderness (as well as favorite trail head eateries).
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How long food keeps

Postby sirlight » Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:57 pm

In these modern times, we are so used to having access to refrigeration. Because of this, information on how long things REALLY take to spoil at room temperature is scarce. If you go on any of the food safety sites on the web, you get the impression that almost no perishable food can kept for more than 30 minutes at room temp.

So let's hear from some experienced backpackers about what perishable food you bring on your trips and how long it is safe to eat.



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Re: How long food keeps

Postby rlown » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:24 pm

2 days for meat if frozen beforehand, and then put in a pack. I did a Month in Utah deer hunting. We had the last year's deer in the cooler, with dry ice, and it lasted 3 weeks. Couldn't even look at that last piece to eat, cuz it was green by then. Well, you asked.. :)

Had some Amazing deer sausage up at Upper Mattie one year. That was the second day.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby sirlight » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:57 pm

The cowboys always carried salt pork. I wonder if the modern grocery store stuff is the same and how long it will keep.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby maverick » Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:39 pm

Hi Sirlight

As a chef I have to follow strict food safety regulations, and have to take a food
certification test every 3 years.
Go to ( http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/default.htm) and you will get all
answers to any question you may have pertaining to food safety.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby rlown » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:37 pm

hmm. I think sirlight was asking about experiences "out there", not the guidelines. Don't think I'd like Gordon Ramsay meeting me in the back country and checking my can. ;)

I can tell you that an abalone button on Ice lasts a day at best, in July heat. I've done meat in warm conditions backpacking when first frozen and buried in the middle of the pack wrapped really well. hard cheese lasts very well; veggies as well. cheddar doesn't.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby sirlight » Fri Apr 08, 2011 6:56 pm

I certainly agree with the food safety guidelines and follow them strictly when at home. Nobody has ever gotten sick at my place when the come over for dinner! I am actually rather paranoid about food safety.

Still, if the back county some concessions are made. It’s nowhere you would want to get sick, but a chunk of cheese or slice of salami tastes good after a long day on the trail. I have brought cheddar cheese sticks with me on a number of trips and they are still edible after a few days. I have friends that bring a dry salami on long hikes. They say it’s still good after a week, not that I should ever attempt that. Often times on a day hike I will bring a sandwich and just wrap it in my fleece with a frozen water bottle. I bet my grandparent had a much better idea of what was “safe”, since they grew up before electricity.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby maverick » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:04 pm

Sure, dry salami will keep a long time, we used to have a closet in which we kept
all the salami, ham, smoked bacon, and other dried meats that would be hanging, and
no one got sick in Europe, back in the day.
Some of it is common sense, like you would not try to keep a soft Brie cheese with a
high fat content in warm weather for more than a day, or less.
Bacteria starts to reproduce once the temps get between 41-140 degrees, and if you
add in moisture things become even worse, and it can make you sick.
Proteins are the foods you really have to be careful with like soft cheese, meats, eggs
(mayo).
Your cheddar cheese can last a few days, but if the temps are really hot your taking
chances, and just because you got lucky a few times doesn't mean it did not have
bacteria multiplying on the surface, maybe just not enough to get you sick, but some
one else with a weaker immune system may have gotten sick.
Sure if you freeze a steak, and wrap it well you can enjoy it that evening for dinner I
did that a long time ago.
There are a lot of variable, but if you push to often, your luck will eventually run out.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:15 pm

It depends on how you pack the food and conditions. Since it almost always gets cold at night in the Sierra, you can keep perishables fresher if you pack them in the early AM deep in your pack surrounded by insulation. When I get to camp, I put the bear can in the shade and be sure it stays in the shade. If it is hot inside the can, I open it, air it out, then put the lid back and store it in the shade. I never put my perishables in the bear cannister when I hike. The bear cannister becomes an oven! I have also stuck my cheese and margarine in a snowbank or you can set them in a stream. Of course, you have to stick around and watch them.

I have had cheese (Swiss, extra sharp cheddar, parmisan) keep for 10 days with little problem. I also have had margarine keep for 10 days. I only use real butter in winter. Summer sausage keeps 10 days. I also find that it depends on where I buy the cheese. I avoid "natural" and "organic". The standard cheese from the supermarket keeps better. Also check the expiration date. I also buy pepperoni in the individually wraped packets. For trail cheese I also buy the individually wrapped cheese sticks.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:45 am

WD wrote "I avoid "natural" and "organic". Yes, the other non-natural or non-organic
products due last longer, but many times it's because of the added additives and/or
preservatives.
Pick your poison. http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/ ... tives.html
There is only a very small percentage of things that we can control with regards
to what will contribute to our eventual death, so the little I can do I try, food
being one of them.
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby rlown » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:50 pm

Ok, Mav.. You live under certain rules.. Nice we get to see them. But when I visit my Mom's house, well.. let's just say gdam/jzus.

Sometimes, you just have to relax, say determine if it's ok, and go with it.

I pack what I want.. I know if it's good or bad, and I go with it. Not like most of the stuff we pack is perishable. One who packs it knows already.

Mav, what do you pack as food?
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby justjim » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:33 am

Great topic. As usual, while some "nanny rules" are probably over-protective, they should be considered. So, I'm sitting here in Tahoe with many feet of snow around. Kinda over skiing and ready to try out some new gear but all I can do for now is think about it. I'm thinking about stretching at least one trip out to maybe 12 days and food storage is always an issue. I think that taking care of your major staples is all you need to worry about and care in where you park your canister is a very important consideration.

Cheese: Love Parmesan but even a pretty dry block probably won't go 12 days. I like the shavings off a block on everything for dinner but for over 6 days, I tend to use pre-grated. It doesn't require refrigeration at home so theoretically it could go a long time. Realistically, I think 12 days in a ziploc inside a can might be a stretch. My planned solution is to carry 4-6 days worth in a baggie or even in the whole block form. Then, carry another 4-6 days worth in the original sealed container and don't open the inner seal until I need it.

Salami: Love the stuff chopped up in potatoes or on cous-cous and also a bit for lunch. I don't know enough about the stuff so I'm pretty leery of salami past 3 days or so. For longer terms, I use the real bacon bits, tuna in a pouch or tuna/salmon steaks in a pouch. Haven't tried pepperoni sticks.

Margarine: I have replaced Marg or real butter with EVOO. I have to admit the flavor is not as good but within reason it can probably go a long while. I think there is some value in clarified butter but have not tried it.

Peanut Butter: I have sometimes used PB for lunches with tortillas or somesuch. I have also made up "moose goo" with PB + Raisins + finely grated jerky all chopped up in a blender and formed into bars. This is highly concentrated and tasted good but I'm really unsure about how long it would/should go. I used it on an 8 day'r a few years back but there was some snow available to bury the can during the late afternoons and overnight and I suspect that may have retarded spoilage to a degree.

I know for sure that 12 days won't fit into my BV but 10 might work. This could turn into a risky 2-3 days at the start or just use 2 cans and cache the empty one after 3 days or so.

JJ
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Re: How long food keeps

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:57 pm

Regarding preservatives vs natural - what is worse; taking natural and loosing half of it (or getting sick if you eat spoiled food) or taking "overprocessed" versions and having enough calories for the entire trip? When backpacking, enough calories trumps missing a few trace minerals or putting traces of "chemicals" in your body. Personally, I forego the purity while backpacking to assure that I do not starve the last half of the trip. Being a purist on my backpack trips just limits the variety too much for my tastes. Unless you are honestly allergic to preservatives, a little bit in moderation is not going to be that big a deal. I also think if you are worried about preservatives, you should not drink wine, use Permethian on your clothing, use DEET, or aluminum cookware, sit next to a campfire, put food in a plastic bag, and a hundred other things that can potentially put traces of chemicals in your body.
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