If you have ever wondered how to dehydrate complete meals for hiking and outdoor adventures, then you are going to love this awesome article by Shannon Bratton of Brisbane Bushwalkers Club. This eye-opening article was featured in the Great Walks “2021 Annual Bushwalking Special” magazine, click here to purchase the digital magazine.
Shannon is an avid Sedona Dehydrator user, a high-quality food dehydrator is an essential tool for making dehydrated meals and snacks. In this article Shannon shares menu tips for through-walks and her beginner’s guide to making your own dehydrated meals.
Shannon and her husband Chris Hall are experienced bushwalkers and explain how they cook, dehydrate and prepare food for the trail. Passionate about reaching optimal health and fitness they keep the diet on the trail as close to home eating as possible with reduced pack weights, keeping the food weight down to 500g per day per person. Here are some extracts from Shannon’s notes.
You can take delicious food from favourite recipes, and with a little dehydrating know-how, you can make your outdoor hiking adventures much more enjoyable. Making your own food is addictive, nutritious and economical.
After wearing out a small 5-tray dehydrator a few years back, and doing some research, we settled for an eleven-tray Sedona Express Dehydrator which is great for small or big quantities. If you are ready to move on from making do with packet food, protein bars and highly processed noodle cups, then a high-capacity dehydrator is worth the purchase. Raw Blend is the distributor for Sedona Dehydrators and their website https://www.rawblend.com.au/ is a great e-resource for nutritious raw food ideas and innovative recipes for dehydrating.
Above Image: Sedona Express Food Dehydrator with 11 BPA Free Plastic Trays
Recipes need to be nutritious enough to sustain the high energy demands, light enough to carry, shelf-life stable and with plenty of variety. I get my dehydrating food inspiration and questions answered from Glen McAllister: https://www.backpackingchef.com/. With over 100 recipes, there is always a tip and something new to try.
For best results, limit the use of salt, sugar, or fat while cooking. Add them after re-hydrating. Using dehydrated food requires minimal equipment. A billycan with a lid and a cosy is all you need if going lightweight.
WHAT DO WE EAT?
We never tire of muesli every day. It is a great comfort food that can be made easily in the tent vestibule on cold, rainy mornings. It can be eaten dry or with cold water if you have a cooking malfunction. We take generous servings that can sustain you all day if things go south during the hike and meals aren’t easily obtained. Dehydrated fruit pieces added to homemade seed and grain toasted muesli is the breakfast staple.
Above Image: Dehydrated Muesli Slice
MORNING TEA AND SNACKS
Made in the dehydrator are quick, easy and lightweight.
Having a high energy ‘pocket’ snack is a must for hikes in unpredictable weather. There are endless recipes for fruit snacks, energy bars, protein bars and muesli bars. Making your own eliminates individual wrappers that end up as rubbish to carry out. Dehydrating your homemade snacks helps them keep longer and reduces some weight, every little saved weight helps. We make a batch and store them in the freezer ready to go.
Above Image: Raw Blend’s Coconut Banana’s Pre Dehydrating
Above Image: Raw Blend’s Coconut Banana’s Post Dehydrating
Biscuits are always welcome, including historically proven worthy ANZAC biscuits, almond cookies, and yoghurt bites. We always dehydrate them for weight reduction. Wrap them in paper bags and vacuum seal for longevity when adding to delayed food drops.
Fresh fruit is best dehydrated in season when it’s abundant and cheap and at optimum quality. Any stewed fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned), berries, dates, prunes, can be flavoured with cinnamon, honey, orange & lemon zest & juice. Yoghurt powder, chia seeds or almonds can be added for extra protein. Dehydrating instructions for fruit leathers are easily found on the internet.
Above Image: Dehydrated Strawberry Leather Wraps
DEHYDRATED ALMOND COOKIES
Based on this original recipe from Raw Blend.
Mix 2 cups almond meal; ¼ cup each: EVOO, honey, orange juice, chia seeds; zest of orange; ½ cup coconut flour; 2 teaspoons vanilla. Drop spoonsful onto leather sheets or parchment paper. Dehydrate 600C for 6-8 hours, flip after 4 hours, removing leather sheet. With a neutral taste, these are gluten-free, vegan and have no refined sugar. Serve with cheese or peanut butter or just on their own with a cuppa.
Above Image: Dehydrated Almond Cookies
There are so many more options than peanut butter and crackers. It’s easy to have a hot meal for lunch. Simply add boiling water to the dehydrated food in a container or flask at breakfast, so it can hydrate while you walk.
A whole chapter can be written on making beef jerky, a vegan option is Eggplant Jerky, see here for the recipe. Day after day, it can get monotonous, so adding some hummus, dip or spread gives lunch a tasty kick.
Left Image: Eggplant Jerky | Right Image: Beef Jerky
HUMMUS, SPREADS AND DIPS
Salsa and passata can be dehydrated straight from the jars. There are endless recipes for dips online adding variety to the usual hummus. They are super quick and easy to make. Dehydrate into a leather as you would a fruit leather. Once cool and dry, process into a powder. Package 1T per serve. Rehydrate with equivalent water until desired consistency.
Above Image: Dehydrated Dips
Miso soup is a great pick me up to replenish the energy spent during the day and recharge your batteries. The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt & Don Mercer (Robert Rose 2015) that came with the Sedona Dehydrator is a quick guide for how to dehydrate everything from apples to jerky, and includes over 20 soup recipes that will tantalise your taste buds. Curried Cauliflower; Apple, Fennel & Celery; Carrot & ginger; Leek and Wild Rice… the list continues. Homemade and dehydrated enables you to control salt content and spice up flavours to your liking. Making soups in bulk is not only penny saving but reduces package waste on individual wrapped serves.
MISO SOUP Serves 8 – 10
- Dehydrate a whole packet of Miso paste. Spread onto leather sheets, flip a few times during drying. It will take a very long time 12 – 16 hours. Once dry and cool, blend into a powder.
Stir fry a variety of vegetables in water until soft: cabbage, red cabbage, shallots, carrot, celery, mushrooms. Dehydrate 550 C 8 – 12 hours. (Vegetables can be dehydrated raw but will take longer to re-hydrate.)
- Package ½ tablespoon Miso powder, ¼ cup vegetable mix, ¼ Nori seaweed sheet per serve. Add 1 cup boiling water for instant soup.
Cooking and dehydrating are a perfect marriage of science and art. Options for dinner meals are as many as the stars. Starting out with home dehydrating won’t be as daunting if you begin slowly. At first, I only made two meals and alternated between these for every hike: Chilli Con Carne and Pumpkin Red Lentil Curry.
The dried mass after dehydrating is impressively small and it’s easy to over cater. A general ‘one size fits all’ guide for a single serve dinner is 90g, containing 1/3 cup protein (e.g. meat), 1/3 cup vegetable, ½ cup carbohydrate (e.g. pasta.) and 1 tablespoon of seasonings (e.g. cheese sauce) per serve.
Above Image: Vacuum Sealed and Pre Portioned Food Prep
Pasta, rice, barley, quinoa is best cooked first, then dehydrated. You won’t save much weight or volume; however, the benefit will be in the reduced cooking time, therefore reducing the amount of gas used. Roasted beetroot & other root vegetables splashed with a little balsamic vinegar, dehydrate perfectly to add bulk and comfort to any meal. Dehydrated potato, pumpkin, sweet potato made into delicious leathers, bark or mash is always welcome and there are so many ways to make it more appetising adding stocks or sauces.
Any meat used needs to be as lean as possible as fat tends to go rancid. It’s worth spending the money on good quality. If using mince with a higher fat content, after browning I rinse it in boiling water then continue with the recipe. If using beef, shred the meat finely before dehydrating. Meat and sauce can be dehydrated separately for even drying. Lean beef or chicken mince works better if breadcrumbs are added into the raw meat before cooking. This method is fully explained at: https://www.backpackingchef.com/
PUMPKIN RED LENTIL CURRY Serves 6 – 8
- Cook: 2 onions, 2 cups red lentils, 2 tablespoons red curry paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 6 cups pumpkin/sweet potato, 1kg frozen vegetables in water.
- Dehydrate 600 C on leather sheets 10 hours.
- Add ½ – 1 cup coconut milk powder, 4 tablespoons cornflour, extra chilli flakes to taste.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR FUEL FOR MULTI-DAY HIKES
I recently picked up one of those freeze-dried dinner meals. To be honest, I’ve never tasted one, but the list of over 25 ingredients, with just 22% chicken coming in 10th read more like a chemistry lesson with a whole lot of numbers. We spend a great deal of time and effort to maximise our physical and mental fitness to cope with the endurance required for difficult treks, it makes sense to give the same attention to optimize the food we consume. We’ve come a long way since hikers carried their A-Frame pack and sang Short Nin Bread or The Drover’s Dream around the campfire eating tinned meat and potatoes.
More great recipes can be found in Great walks “2021 Annual Bushwalking Special” magazine: like Glace Kiwi Fruit, Toasted muesli, Yoghurt biscuits, Corn and Bean Chilli, Chilli Con Carne, Vegan ‘Cheese-like’ sauce.