Dehydrated food can be a healthy and tasty way to eat when you're camping. With a little bit of planning, you'll be set for any upcoming camping trips. Dehydrating is also a great way to store your garden bounty during peak harvest season.
The reduced weight is essential if you are backpacking, but eating foods you've dehydrated yourself makes cooking convenient, whether you are at a campground or in the backcountry. The best part about making your own dehydrated meals is you are in control. You can either stick to the basics or get creative with flavors you prefer.
Whether you are using a dehydrator or an oven, it is best to avoid commingling different flavors. Unless you are going for onion-flavored fruit, stick to one batch of food at a time.
Be sure to chop finely and evenly to ensure consistent dehydration. You'll want to space out the food in a single layer when dehydrating. Things can be crowded, but you don't want them touching. Parchment paper helps keep foods from sticking.
Dehydrating can take many hours depending on what you're drying, the size of your pieces and many other factors. If you are using an oven to dehydrate foods, you can flip the pieces over mid-cycle. If you are using a dehydrator, it can be beneficial to rotate the trays a time or two, especially if the fan is at the top or bottom of the unit. This will help with consistent drying.
Revisit the Classics
Jerky and fruit chips are tried-and-true dehydrated classics.
Venison jerky can preserve the flavors of the hunt all year. Experiment with different seasonings on your jerky. Adding cumin can give it a nice smoky essence of chili. Or a bit of maple syrup will make a sweet meat treat. Using a jerky gun will provide the most consistent final product if you are making jerky out of ground meat.
Perhaps the easiest thing to dehydrate is fruit. Slice some strawberries, apples or bananas for a yummy fruit chip snack. Experiment with other fruits, too. Dried mango tastes like a tropical vacation. Fruit chips added to a handful of nuts make the perfect trail mix.
You can take it to the next level and make your own fruit leathers, too. Blend up a fruit smoothie and pour this thick liquid onto the solid dehydrating trays. A few hours later, you'll have a chewy treat.
Rehydration and Cooking
Once you get the hang of dehydrating, spaghetti, chili mac, curry and so much more can easily become gourmet camping food. Sauces can be dehydrated down until they are dry and easily crumble. When reheating, some people prefer to soak the sauces for at least an hour before cooking. Others pour boiling water over the dehydrated sauces directly, and then soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
Want to impress you campmates with a tasty, and healthy, vegetable soup? Simply dehydrate sliced onions, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, celery and any other vegetables you like and place the finished product in a zip-top bag with a bouillon cube, or two, or an appropriate amount of no-sodium beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon granules. At camp, boil water in a pan large enough for all the ingredients and add the vegetables and bouillon. Let simmer until the vegetable reconstitute and the flavors blend.
Plenty of dehydrated foods are ready to eat, and others just require adding some hot water for a few minutes. This means less time cooking and more time around the campfire.