DIY: Dried food
To dehydrate and compose your own meals is pretty simple and fun. It takes some time and effort, but planning your meals and drying the food also becomes part of the upcoming adventures. I like that I get to choose my own meals and seasonings. In this post, I share how i dry my food for outdoors - in room temperature, oven or dehydrator. Some things to keep in mind and foods that I buy dry or simply carry as they are.
Cut it in small pieces
The chances of success drying your food increases with smaller pieces. Some veggies like peas, does the trick themselves. Onions and soft peppers do well to be sliced thin. Carrots can be shredded or sliced in thin coins (if thicker coins - parboil them first).
Dehydrating food in room temperature
The easiest and cheapest method. Most veggies, carrots and apples dehydrates great in room temperature. It simply takes more time than in the oven. You can dry food on trays, put them on a string, use mosquito net windows or special dehydrating baskets. I had a normal sheet tied up under the ceiling in my corridor room when studying, with carrots, onion and zucchini. Cosy dimmed light and dry food for my hike in one! The most important thing is that the food pieces are put lofty and not lumped together. One also has to flip the pieces over when one side has dried while the other is still wet.
Example on fruits and veggies that dehydrate nicely in room temperature:
- French garlic
- Chili peppers
- Soft peppers
To parboil means that you boil the cut up potatoes or veggies in slightly salted water for 1-2 minutes. These get too weary otherwise. For potatoes, this simple trick does wonders for your food experience. A dried and badly or not parboiled potatoes, becomes grey and flabby. Have personal experience of a potato-french garlic-soup that had many similarities to what you usually find in your shower drain ... It was comestible - with closed eyes.
Example on veggies and root-crops that needs to be parboiled:
- Celeriac (if grated, you can dry it without parboiling)
- Parsnip (if grated, you can dry it without parboiling)
Drying food in the oven or a dehydrator
Some wet veggies or fruits takes too much time to dehydrate in room temperature and risks turning bad in the process. When I dry food in an oven or dehydrator, I always put them off during the night. Maybe I'm overly cautious - but still, burning down my house for some veggies? Not worth it.
I put the oven at 50° C/122° F. Then I put what I want to dry on a plate with baking paper and put a small piece of fire wood or wooden spoon in the hatch, leaving a gap for the moisture to escape the oven. In a convection oven, you can dehydrate several plates with food at the some time. One simply have to shift places every once in a while. (How to make your own "sun-dried" tomatoes, check out our previous post Easy campfire food).
There's a lot of different dehydrators on the market. From tiny dehydrators for mushrooms to drying cupboards. I appreciate dehydrators that are built in floors with the fan at the bottom. Always put paper in the baskets, kitchen paper if it's veggies that I'd normally dried in room temperature but didn't have the time to do so. Baking paper if it's something more wet, like tomatoes. Without paper one has to dish the baskets, and I have better things to do than cleaning dehydrator baskets.
Example on what I dry in the oven or a dehydrator:
Wet fruits like melon or mango
This category would include meat and fish, but since I'm vegetarian and have never dehydrated such food, you'd better look for information somewhere else. ;)
Examples on food that I always dry in the oven:
Tomato puree/ mashed tomatoes
Berries for "fruit leather"
Eggs - crack as many eggs you want to bring in a bowl. Stir or part the albumen from the yolk if you have a plan for it (lika meringues) and your happy to mess with it. Spread your egg-batter in a frying plate with baking paper. Put it in the oven 50 ° C/122° F and dry it to a hard cake. Break it into pieces/crumbles and dehydrate it some more. Put the dry crumbles in a bowl and blend them to powder. Done! 1 average egg becomes about 0,3 deciliter of powder and mixes with 0,75 deciliter of water.
Tomato puree and mashed tomatoes - start by reducing (boil away water from) the tomatoes in a pot on low temperature, so you get a batter. Stir while reducing, so that it won't stick to the bottom. Spread the batter on a plate with baking paper. Put it in the oven at 50° C/122 °F and dry it until it becomes like leather. Cut in pieces.
Berries - blend to a batter. If it's very wet, reduce first like with the tomatoes above, otherwise simply spread it out on a plate with baking paper and dry it in the oven.
Examples on food that I buy dry instead of dehydrating it
- Soy mince. There are already dry products on the market, there's also larger pieces for stew and similar. It takes a while first boiling them soft and then frying them - but they're delicious!
- Pasta - spaghetti is the most space efficient form of pasta. Also the hardest one to eat with a wooden spoon only. Me and my hiking friends always seems to forget that part.
- Lentils, yellow peas, rice, bulgur, quinoa etc.
- Powdered soup like "varma koppen" (hot cup, don't know if you can find these out of Scandinavia). I use these (except for drinking/soup) as super simple seasoning for fast meals. This winter I boiled a bag of chanterelle soup in 2 deciliter of water, stirred in 1 deciliter of couscous, a handful of peanuts on top - bon appétit!
Spices, oil etc.
- Garlic. Bring it fresh or start to exercise.
- Green spices like basil, oregano, thyme, parsley etc. Buy them dry.
- Oat cooking cream, cooking fat, soy sauce - I fill small pet bottles with the amount I want to bring. There's cream powder, both animal cream and coconut cream, to be found on the internet, but it's pretty expensive.
Packing dry food
If I'm packing for a trip in the distant future, I pack my dehydrated food in paper bags. Like old flour bags or similar.
Just before the trip. I re-use old bread bags. They're usually more sturdy and keeps water proof. When packing in plastic bags, you need to be sure that the food is completely dry or it will turn bad. I use to pack one full meal in each bag, except pasta, rice etc. Those goes in a separate bag but together with the veggies. Some people like keeping all ingredients separate bags and take a little each time they cook, but I like being able to overview and plan the food at home. It's so dull when your running out of something out in the field. Sometimes I put the onion in a separate bag, to moisturize it and fry it first before proceeding with the cooking. And write! Write on the bags what meal they contain. It's not always obvious out there and especially not for your hiking companions.
Porridge. I pack one bag for each breakfast, salting the oatmeals and write on the bag that it contains salt.
Bread. I mix all the dry ingredients (dry yeast as well) in a large bag and write on the bag which kind of bread it's supposed to be and how much water I need to add. More about baking bread outdoors in another post.
Spices goes in their own bag or in a bucket with a lid, depending on if I'm hiking or paddling.
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Dehydrate in peace!