Camp Cooking: Tips and Techniques



MEAL IDEAS

By Rick Story

BREAKFASTS
Oatmeal in a baggie Instant Oatmeal, any fruit (dried or fresh), dried milk & hot water.
Mix together in a Ziploc bag, add hot water and enjoy. (Use the sturdier type freezer bag.)

Cold meal in a baggie Granola, dried fruit and dried milk - add cold water and enjoy.

Omelets – Eggs, tomatoes, red or green peppers, mushrooms, cheese (any type)
Scramble, vegetables and cheese just before eggs are ready - figure 2 eggs/person.

Other - Cold cereal - Add dried milk with water and dried fruit
Toasted bagels with honey, margarine, jam or peanut butter,
Rice cakes, Instant breakfast mix or bars, Granola bars, even snickers bars.

LUNCH
Hard cheese, crackers, bread, English muffins, Pita bread, peanut butter, jam, honey, margarine, foil pack tuna/chicken, sardines, hummus, pepperoni, smoked sausage, Beef jerky, Cup-a-Soup mixes, Ramen, Fantastic or Knorr Cup-a-Meals (great for winter)
Fresh produce: apples, oranges, carrots, celery, radishes, and cucumbers travel well.

SNACKS
Gorp - Equal amounts or peanuts, chocolate candies and raisins (or anything else that you have on hand), banana chips, energy bars, candy bars, nuts, dried fruit, fruit roll-ups,granola, cookies, seeds.

DINNERS
Quickie Soup – Add some dried veggies and meat to any Cup-A-Soup or Cup-A-Noodles

Cheater Eater- Potato Buds, dried peas and ham or chicken with Parmesan & olive oil.

Pasta Sauces - Just add pasta here…
1. Pepper sauce. Sauté some garlic, dried parsley and a pinch of red pepper flakes for about a minute in olive oil.
2. White clam or shrimp sauce from a small can of clams. Just warm the clams/shrimp & juice in a frying pan, add garlic, chopped parsley, and a few spoonfuls of dried milk.
3. White clam or shrimp sauce from a small can of clams. Just warm the clams/shrimp & juice in a frying pan, add garlic, chopped parsley, and a few spoonfuls of dried milk.
4. Alfredo sauce. Reconstitute dried milk with somewhat less water than usual, and combine with melted butter or margarine and Parmesan cheese.
5 A few spoonfuls of French onion soup mix and olive oil also make a good pasta sauce.

Black Bean Soup - 2 Cups of dried cooked black beans, 2 bouillon cubes, dried minced onion, cumin, Garlic powder, dried green or red peppers, 1 tsp of olive oil, chili powder. (Serves 2)
Dissolve bouillon in 4 cups of hot water, mix the rest and boil for 5 minutes.

T-Day Special - Stovetop Stuffing mix, chicken, dried vegetables.
Make stuffing with 25%-35% more water - add dried veggies and chicken.

Rick’ s Famous Chili – (Serves 2) ½ cup dried tomatoes or small can of tomato paste, 1-cup dried black beans, 2 oz. dried ground beef, 1-cup rice, 1 sliced green pepper, 2 tsp chili powder,1-tsp each of salt, onion flakes, Cumin, garlic powder and cayenne pepper,
Brown meat with garlic, onion and green pepper. Next add all ingredients with 4 cups of water. Cook 20 minutes. Serve. (For thicker chili, increase boiling time or add pinch of flour.)

Olive Chicken – (Serves 2) 1-cup Minute rice, 2 chicken breasts (frozen and thawed by the time of cooking), 1 sliced green pepper, 4 sliced mushrooms 1 sliced tomato, 1 small can sliced black olives, 1 tsp each of salt, garlic & pepper, small amount of olive oil.
Boil water and put rice in pot and take off stove. While rice is rehydrating, sauté chicken, olives, pepper, tomato and mushrooms in olive oil. When ready, serve rice with chicken mixture over top. Enjoy.

Prepackaged Meals - There are many pasta, rice and bean, couscous, ramen noodle or other flavored packaged meals available in the supermarket. Adding veggies and meats easily stretches these meals to serve 2.

Mealtime Leftovers - Leftovers at home make great dehydrating meals. Just dry them and toss them into the fridge until your next trip - add hot water and enjoy.



Backpacking Meal Planning Notes - Part I

By Rick Story

We need certain nutrients to survive – Day in, Day out – This comes as no surprise. Since most of our sedentary population doesn’t push as hard as our forefathers, eating correctly becomes even more critical on backpacking or climbing trips where the body is being pushed 10-12 hours of the day. We may even be able to “get by” on a weeklong backpacking trip while not eating correctly. However, just “getting by” doesn’t make the trip any more enjoyable. “Getting by” won’t be of help if you run into a problem such as bad weather or injury, or if you miscalculate trip miles or hiking speed. Nutrition, Proper Nutrition, is the key factor when it comes to keeping your body supplied with the necessary energy to get your body into and safely out of the woods.

An average man requires approximately 1,800-2,000 calories per day, with women requiring between 1,200-1,500 (Yes, men, we have it made here!!!). The enormous amount of energy expended on backpacking trips can increase these requirements by as much as 50% or roughly 3,000-men and 2,250-women per day. While there are a number of schools of thought on the subject, the usual recommendation is a 40-30-30 diet (40% of calories from Carbohydrates and 30 each from fats and protein). One gram of fat (any fat) is 9 calories and one gram of protein or carbohydrate is 4 calories. Generally speaking, vegetables, fruits and grain will provide almost all carbohydrates, while meat, fish, legumes and soy products provide protein, with fats coming from some meat, butters and oils. A suggested breakdown of a backpacker’s caloric intake by grams is as follows:

Source

Percent

Calories

Grams

Calories

Grams

Carbs

40%

1200

300

900

225

Protein

30%

900

225

675

170

Fat

30%

900

100

675

75

Total

100%

3000

 

2250

 

Notes:
1. This is a general guideline. Individuals should tailor their diets to their specific needs.
2. While protein levels seem high, keep in mind that the body’s largest muscles are working continually under a load while backpacking.

Short Trips (3 days or less)

10 years ago, carrying 40-50 lbs on our backs for a weekend was more common than we’d like to think it was. Nowadays, Ultralight is the key term – Many folks walk around carrying gear that more closely resembles 25 lb. daypacks than traditional backpacks. Cooking gear is changing as a result. Folks that used to lug 2 lbs of stainless steel cookware, and a 1.5 lb. MSR, Coleman or Svea stove are now hauling 1/3 oz (yes, Ounce) Pepsi Can Stoves, 3 oz Esbit and miniscule canister stoves while using extreme lightweight 3-cup titanium pots or 4 oz Wal-Mart Grease pots. The intent is still the same - getting good-tasting hot food into your body.

The good new is that with all the new ultralight gear out there, we can now fill that newly found weight savings with more delicious food - As the Great Nessmuk put it, “We don’t go into the wilderness to rough it, we go into the wilderness to smooth it.”

The beauty of short trips is that they serve as testing grounds for many new ideas. There are opportunities to test out new recipes, vary quantities, experiment with new cooking methods and even try out other stoves. You can bring anything you can fit into your pack and if a meal gets screwed well, you can stop and tank up at the first 3-4 food joints after you get off the trail.

There are a multitude of items that, with proper care, can be taken along on short trips – especially during spring/early summer and fall trips when cooler nighttime temps prevail. Care should be taken with these foods during mid-late summer trips where blistering heat and muggy nights are the norm. Such items include:
Fresh eggs
Butter & cheese
Fresh fruit & vegetables
Frozen meats & sausages
Deli meats & cold cuts

Even in the warm weather…

Have you ever reached into your pack on a hot day only to find the interior still extremely cool from the evening or early morning temperature when you packed your bag? This is the refrigerator to freedom.
Meat - Meat can last the weekend if frozen properly. Take poultry or ground beef, place in a Ziploc bag, seal, wrap in several layers of aluminum foil and place in your freezer. Just before you leave, take the package out and, wrap it in Reflectix or bubble wrap (Reflectix can be picked up in the heating section of any home store) and wrap in another small plastic bag, Keep the entire package in the middle of your pack (or in a cooler on the drive). If you need it to thaw in time for your first evening’s dinner, remove some of the insulation – Otherwise, it should be fine for dinner on evening 2.
Eggs - Eggs last easily over a weekend and make a great Sunday morning breakfast - Pick up a plastic egg carrier and you’re all set. Warm temps won’t harm the eggs for a couple of days.
Cold cuts - Freezing a ham or turkey sandwich overnight and caring for it the same as meats, it will last into the second day for lunch.
Cheeses - These are great for all kinds of trips. The key to remember is that the harder the cheese, the longer it will last in warm weather and the more appealing it will be. Wax wrap cheeses are also great (gouda, Edam…) for warm weather trips. Mold won’t usually form overnight, but if some occurs, just slice the bad section off and keep eating. Extremely soft cheeses that absolutely require refrigeration like (cottage or cream) are not recommended for hot weather.
Beer - Cold beer can be kept cool by wrapping in Reflectix and then wrapping in your fleece. Once you reach your campsite, place it in stream to cool off. Don’t let it float away and please pack out your empties.
Fresh fruits and vegetables -These are great on their own. Try to carry in the top of your pack or an outside pocket to keep from getting crushed.
Staples -
Bulk foods
- pasta, rice, beans, couscous, dried veggies & fruits, and potato flakes…
Baked foods - rolls, bagels, crackers, biscuits, pita bread, muffins…
Packaged meats - Tuna, chicken, ham, turkey (of special interest are the new foil dry packs of tuna and chicken. They cut the weight in half by losing the can and the liquid)
New on the market is precooked bacon that needs no refrigeration until the package is opened.
Spices - powdered garlic, minced onions, chili peppers, cumin, salt, pepper, Italian, basil, butter buds, bacon bits, Cajun seasoning…
Liquids - Tabasco or Red Hot Sauce, olive oil, tomato paste/tomato leather, vinegar…
Dry goods- milk/non-dairy creamer, bouillon, cup-a-soups, Knorr mixes, chili mixes, hot chocolate, cheese powders, spiced cider, coffee, sugar, tea, and gelatin…

Long Trips (4 days and more)

Aaaahhh, now we can begin to feel the extra weight on our backs. About the only thing that really changes when considering a long trip over a short trip (besides extra underwear and socks) is the amount of food and fuel you carry.

When planning a longer trip, menu planning is easier if you first make a schedule of each meal/snack you will need and then fill in each meal/each day with what you realistically picture yourself eating. For instance – While dried beans & rice or chicken Ramen may make economical & light meals, you will be thinking of attacking other hikers to steal their food after 5-6 days of either. This helps you to also remember things like cream and sugar for your coffee (or even to remember your coffee for what it’s worth) or soup for the evenings. As good measure, pack at least one day’s extra food for each 5 days you will be out. (Ideally, you will have a food drop or bump box for trips over 5-7 days, to help lighten the load). In addition, a great bad weather pack for those tent bound days will contain extra tea/coffee bags, cream/sugar, cup-a-soups or bouillon, hard candy and some granola bars.

With the exception of vegetables and hard cheeses, longer trips usually require the use of dehydrated foods, not only for the ability of these foods to stay preserved, but also to cut down on the sheer liquid weight hidden within normally hydrated foods. An example is dried tomatoes – A 10 -12 oz Ziploc bag is all that remains after 7-8 lbs of tomatoes (enough tomatoes for a handful of trips) have been dehydrated.

 


BACKPACKING MEAL PLANNING NOTES - Part II

By Rick Story

Preservation
There are several methods of preserving food – Freezing, Freeze Drying, Salting, jerking, smoking and dehydration. We can immediately skip freezing and salting, as they don’t fit our needs. Freeze Drying takes expensive machinery and complicated processes. Jerking and smoking both work well for meat & fish are both easy and fun to do. A wealth of knowledge exists for both processes on the Internet. The final method, dehydration is what we will discuss in-depth.

To dehydrate food is to remove the moisture from it. As mentioned above, this often results in a substantial space and weight reduction in the food item, while leaving most of the nutrients intact.

Many foods can be purchased already dried. Foods such as pasta, beans, tomatoes potatoes and rice, are always available. In addition, many different kinds of fruit can also be purchased in a dehydrated state: apples, apricots, bananas and peaches can often be found either in the produce, baking or bulk food aisle as well as other more exotic fruits such as papaya, pineapple and coconut. Meats and vegetables however, usually must be purchased fresh and then dehydrated.

Drying vegetables is quite simple: for most larger fruits & vegetables – apples, bananas, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, slice to the thickness of about ¼ inch, place in the dehydrator and set the temperature in accordance with your specific dehydrator’s instructions – Keep checking until dry. Dry is when the item feels leathery and there is no stickiness or moisture present. Try to avoid over drying, in which the item becomes brittle or hard – This may take some practice, but once you have dried a few items, you will generally know when to stop the dehydration process. Fruits are almost as simple. However, some fruit such as cherries or blueberries require “checking,” in which you dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds to break down the outer waxes on the skin to allow faster dehydrating. Also some fruits (such as apples) are better off dipped in lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Once your food has cooled, place in Ziploc bags and squeeze out all air. Seal and place in the Refrigerator (or freezer if not being used in the next few months. While it is better to sue these items with in 6-12 months, I have used foods that have been dehydrated for over 5 years with just a good results.

Drying ground beef: Brown low fat ground beef in pan, remove drippings, then pour beef into strainer. Press remaining drippings from beef with paper towels, then place beef on paper towels or newspaper to catch additional grease. Once beef has cooled, place in dehydrator and dry between 125-145 degrees until beef is crumbly and hard. Store as with vegetables in refrigerator or freezer – Due to the ability of fats to turn rancid, meats should be used up within 6 months of dehydration.

Drying poultry: Use white meat. Broil or grill until completely cooked. Slice into thin strips or cubes, press additional moisture out with strainer and paper towels. Place in dehydrator and dry at 125-145 degrees until hard. Note: To rehydrate meats, place in hot water (preferably your rice or pasta water) for 20 minutes or more.

Drying spaghetti sauce: If you don’t feel like making your own, you can simply pour jars of sauce on special dehydrator trays and dry until no longer tacky. Roll the “leather” up and refrigerate. It takes some testing to determine how much leather to use, but I find that I use between 3-4 oz of water for 1 oz of leather and 1 oz of macaroni together.

Don’t have a food dehydrator? Don’t worry. You may be able to use your oven. It you can set it between 100 and 145 degrees, you can cover cookie trays with wax paper and dry. Keep the door open a crack and use a second tray to regularly “flip” the items over to ensure complete airflow.

Cooking equipment
When I wrote the first edition of this guideline before the turn of the century, I highly recommended stainless steel pots with lids and pot grippers. I still recommend lids and pot grippers, but I have seen the light (Ultralight, that is) and changed my ways. The new Teflon-coated Aluminum pots work incredibly well. I thought for sure I would destroy my first set of orange Teflon coated pots within the first year. I fully expected to be back to my enduring stainless steel pots - I am quite happy to say that the orange pots are still going strong with nary a scratch in the Teflon, including even the times my young son used them as a drum. Care must be taken to use wood, nylon or lexan utensils with these pots (A wonderful item is the bamboo “UTU” which is a three-in-one 1-oz scraper, server and knife) and avoid leaving them on the stove when empty. I have since picked up an even lighter Teflon coated aluminum set of cookware, which exhibits similar performance. Though the gripper will leave some surface scratches will at the lip of the pot, the scratches do not seem to affect performance.
Whatever you choose to cook with, several precautions are in order – Avoid pots with welded or brazed handles. The weld that holds the handle on will weaken and break over time, usually when you have just picked up a potful of your favorite meal or hot water. Your best bet is the lightweight pot lifter or pot gripper that is separate from the pot. A tight fitting lid is another necessity – A good lid will cut your cooking time or boiling time, allow you to carry a potful of water from the nearest stream without getting it on yourself, and possibly will double as a frying pan if need be.

You can easily conserve fuel when cooking meals with the use of a pot cozy. A cozy is a form-fitting jacket with a top and bottom, made of either reflectix or ensolite foam. By bringing your food to a boil and turning off your stove and placing the pot in the cozy, you can let your food “cook” in its own heat for up to 20 minutes. You may wish to bring it back to a boil after 20 minutes, but from experience, it is usually ready to eat as soon as I remove the cozy.

Finally, enjoy yourself – This is what you came to do, remember??

 


Selecting a Dehydrator

By Ken Harbison

The two features you should really have in a dehydrator are:
1. a fan (avoid the ‘natural convection’ designs) and
2. a thermostat (it may add $10 to the price, but is worth it).

You can get a decent one with 4 or 5 trays for $40-50 at department stores. The larger models can dry more, but are much more expensive and harder to store. It costs only about $0.30 to dry a full load in ours, so it isn't worth paying a lot more just to handle a larger load.

You can buy more trays (about 2/$16-25), to handle larger loads. One reason to get more trays would be to get a removable screen in order to dry taller objects - like whole peppers, etc.

You need a solid drip tray, as for doing fruit leather, but it should come with one. More would be useful (2 for $6-9) if you want to do lots of fruit leather.

Something very useful is a fine screen to go over the larger openings when doing small pieces. You can buy them from the manufacturer for about 2/$8-12. We made ours from polyethylene canvas for embroidery ($0.25 on sale) from a craft store.

 


TVP for Backpacking Meals

By Joanne Mitchell

Even the most dedicated carnivores can find TVP useful while camping. TVP (textured vegetable protein) is a meat substitute made from soybeans. An excellent protein source, dry TVP is lightweight, does not need refrigeration, and rehydrates quickly into a substance very much like ground meat in texture. It is inexpensive, too.

TVP is made by mixing soy flour with water, cooking it, and extruding it to make various shapes and sizes. It has no cholesterol and very little fat or sodium. It comes in granules, chunks, and cutlets. The larger sizes take longer to rehydrate, and hence are not as useful for camp cooking.

Granules (or flakes) of TVP can be rehydrated by adding hot or boiling water and letting stand for about 5 minutes. Or they can be simply added to a soup or stew as it cooks and they will rehydrate during the cooking. They take roughly an equal volume of water. That is, 1 cup of granules of TVP requires 7/8 cup of boiling water to rehydrate, and provides about 1 ¾ cup of final product.

TVP comes in flavored (“beef,” “chicken,” etc.) and unflavored forms; the unflavored form is easy to use. It has little flavor of its own but will soak up flavor from spicy sauces. Or you can add a little soy sauce (from a package from a Chinese restaurant) or catsup to the rehydrating liquid to add flavor.

TVP is available in the bulk food section of Lori’s Natural Foods in the Rochester Regional Market at 900 Jefferson Rd, and in bags at Tadco, also in the Rochester Regional Market at 900 Jefferson Rd. I have occasionally seen it in Wegmans Nature’s Marketplace departments.

Experiment with it at home before setting out on the trail. You will be surprised at the ease and convenience of this high protein food.

 


Food Dehydrating and Meal Preparation

By Erv Tschanz

With a little pre-preparation and packing, you can have great meals in the field. You do the prep work at home, where you have the gear and time. Measure the weight and volume of food before and after dehydrating to get a better idea of how much to pack when dried.

Item Fresh Wt. Dry Wt. Dry Vol.
Frozen green beans 1¼ lb. 1¾ lb. 1 cup
Frozen baby peas 1 lb 3 oz 1¼ cups
Fresh sliced carrots 1½ lb 2½ oz 2¼ cups
Ground beef 1 lb 5 oz 1 1/8 cups
Pot roast 4/5 lb 6 oz 1¾ cups
Ham 1¼ lb 7 oz 1 1/8 cups
4 chicken legs with bones 1½ lb 6 oz 2 cups
Rough guide: How much to take per person

¼ cup of dehydrated vegetables
¾ cup oatmeal (old fashioned 5-minute)
4 oz dry spaghetti
pilaf (rice, wheat, lentil) 2 oz dry weight = 1 cup cooked

To rehydrate dried food:

Use water per package instructions plus about 1 cup per cup of your dehydrated food. Place meat and vegetables in water and bring to boil for 1 minute. Take off heat and add seasonings, powder or sauce mix. Use a “pot parka” to insulate pot?this will allow dinner to rehydrate and “cook” within the next 15-30 minutes. Place back on the stove for additional heat just before serving.

Note: The use of a “pot parka” will allow you to save fuel and frees up the stove to make hot drinks, soup, or melt snow for water. A typical “pot parka” can be made from a piece of insulation that is held around the pot with shoelace or duct tape. Don’t forget circular pieces for the top and bottom as well. Easiest to use—an old ensolite sleeping pad or “reflectix” material available at Chase Pitkin.

Tips:

To cook pasta in minimum water, add 6 oz pasta to 2 cups of water and boil 1 minute and leave in pot parka for 15-30 minutes. To this you can add some olive oil or tomato paste and 1 spaghetti seasonings packet.

Rice and pasta that have been previously cooked and dehydrated will rehydrate quickly in the field when hot water or sauces are added.

Too much water? Thickeners can consist of cornstarch, shredded cheese, flour, dried veggies, instant potatoes, dried milk, or non-dairy creamer.

Add non-dairy creamer to dry milk to improve flavor.

Meal Ideas
2 pkgs Lipton Potatoes Au Gratin
6 smoked bratwurst (sliced)
1 cup dehyd. peas
serves 6
2 pkgs mac ‘n cheese
3 cans ham
serves 3
3 pkgs Near East Rice Pilaf
8 5-oz cans chicken
½ lb almonds
serves 8
6 cups 5-min oatmeal
12 cups water
1 lb raisins
serves 8
1 pkg Lipton Scalloped Potatoes
1 cup dehyd. vegetables (beans, carrots, mushrooms)
1 cup dehyd. ham
serves 2
2 pkgs Near East Rice Pilaf
1 cup dehyd. peas
2 cups dehyd. chicken
serves 4
1 pkg Near East Rice Pilaf
1 ½ cups dehyd. green beans
½ cup mushrooms
12 oz (dry wt) dehyd. turkey or ham
serves 3
1 pkg Lipton Rice and Sauce mix
2 smoked sausages or 1 can chicken
serves 1
Other Meal Ideas:
  • Noodles, cream of mushroom soup, veggies & tuna
  • Minute rice, vegetable soup, canned seafood (tuna/shrimp/salmon)
  • Noodles/rice, sliced hard sausage, veggies, onion (fresh, dried or powder), spices, gravy mix
  • Soup mix, instant potatoes, chipped beef

For comparison—1 freeze-dried meal that serves two 11-oz portion (2 full bowls) is enough for 1 backpacker.

 


Sources for Food and Equipment Purchases

Swan’s Market 288-5320
Call for hours?open limited hours
231 Parsells Ave, Rochester
Homemade German sausages that keep very well

Hartmann’s Old World Sausage Shops, Inc. 266-4960
1256 N. Clinton, Rochester
Smoked meats and sausages, custom-smoked meats that keep very well, sourdough rye

Tadco Distributors 292-0790
900 Jefferson Rd, Rochester (Regional Market)
Dried eggs, bulk food, flours, TVP…

AlpineAire Bulk Freeze Dried Foods 800-322-6325
http://www.alpineaire.com/us/us
Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and meats, powdered cheese and spaghetti mixes, powdered drink mixes as well as the standard line of meals for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Backpacker’s Pantry Freeze Dried 800-641-0500
www.backpackerspantry.com
Evolution cookware (non-stick pots), which won Backpacker magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for 1996.
Outback Oven (turns your pot into an oven), which won Backpacker magazine Editor’s Choice Award for 2001.
Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and meats, powdered cheese and spaghetti mixes, powdered drink mixes, as well as the standard line of meals for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Piragis Northwoods Company 800-223-6565
www.piragis.com
Canoe camping gear, including the Bakepacker (Standard and Ultralight), the aluminum ring with grid that allows you to bake cakes, muffins, etc over an inch of boiling water. Also “The Bakepacker’s Companion,” a cookbook for the Bakepacker.