Drying your own food is by far the best way to prepare camp meals. You can pick up a good dehydrator for less than $100 (thankfully, my wife and I received one for a wedding gift). But you can also place items on racks in your oven (use a cookie sheet for sauces), set on the lowest temperature possible, for six to eight hours.
Sauces are the best to practice on. One jar of spaghetti sauce placed in the dehydrator or oven is reduced to a thin slice of, what looks like, fruit leather. Then, once at camp, you simply place the dried sauce in a small amount (½ cup) of boiling water and it turns right back to the original spaghetti sauce.
Vegetables are also quite easy to dehydrate. My wife and I routinely spend the winter months buying up different veggies on sale and then dry them in bulk for use later on. Some of our favorites are broccoli, celery, green and red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, corn, peas, and egg plant.
Meat takes a lot more preparation. It first must be cooked before drying. Some meats, such as cooked ground beef, should also be rinsed over and over again with hot water to eliminate the grease content and reduce the chances of bacteria forming. Alana and I prefer drying ground turkey or ground venison. It has less fat and therefore less chance of spoiling while we are out on the trip.
We also prefer to buy some dried foods at the bulk food store. Onions really stink up the house when dried in the dehydrator, and we can't seem to get our banana chips or pineapple slices to look as appetizing as the ones you can pick up at the store.
Here's a great Pita Pizza (pictured above) recipe that uses some of these dehydrated items:
- 2 pita breads (more if needed)
- 1 can of dehydrated tomato paste (paste to be dehydrated at home or use dried spaghetti sauce)
- 2 tbs. dehydrated green and red pepper
- ½ cup dehydrated mushrooms
- ½ cup dehydrated black olives
- 1 fresh red onion
- 1 dried salami (or other dried meats)
- Grated cheese (any kind)
- 1 tbs. olive oil
Directions: Coat pan with olive oil. Prepare toppings on pizza. Place pizza in pan and cover for five to seven minutes on a cook stove (longer over the fire). Cut up into pieces and share while the next pizza is being prepared and cooked.
Toppings can be changed to suit personalities; just remember to keep it light and stick to food not easily spoiled.
Kevin Callan is the author of 15 books including "The New Trailside Cookbook" and "The Happy Camper." A regular keynote speaker at major North American canoeing and camping expos for over 20 years, he has received three National Magazine Awards and four film awards, including top award at the prestigious Waterwalker Film Festival. Callan lives in Peterborough, Ontario, birthplace of the modern-day canoe.