Saturday, September 13, 2008


A food dehydrator.

I've been thinking about getting one, to preserve leftovers and extra garden tomatoes (we live in our RV but have a little plot in the managers' garden.) I also thought I might dry food for my Appalachian Trail hike, but wondered if it might be easier just to buy Ramen and instant potatoes en route.

Not any more. I got the dehyrator and the sliced tomatoes came out so well I got totally turned on. Ten good-size tomatoes dried down to about half a sandwich bagful. Are they ever good! Super-concentrated tomato flavor just like.... yeah, sun-dried tomatoes.

I dehydrated a pint of cherry tomatoes (dried down to half a cup) and YYUUMMMM..... sweet little tomato raisins! A really novel GORP addition!

So I'm trying other stuff. I cooked up a bagful of kidney beans, stored a couple servings in the fridge, and dried the rest. Only took about 3 hours, and while they dried to about their original size at purchase, they rehydrate in minutes..... Instant Dried Beans! They came out a little mushy but excellent for quick soup or even gravy. Next time I'll stop the long cooking just before they're done, and see if they hold their shape and substance a little better.

Right now I've got a chicken/cabbage dish in the dryer: chicken chunks, cabbage, chopped onion, sliced garlic fried up olive oil and spread in the dryer. I learn something each time: It doesn't work to combine chunk protein and a leaf vegetable. I just had to rescue the completed cabbage to keep it from charring to ashes before the chicken gets done. Kind of like microwaving -- food pieces have to be the same size and thickness for even processing. And they do burn if left too long; there are dehydrators with temperature controls but mine isn't one of them Vigilance substitutes for technology for a lower price tag.

However, four thigh/drumstick chicken legs and a whole small head of cabbage, which barely fit in the frying pan, are now going to fill a sandwich bag. 4 single-serving main-dish meals in one sandwich bag! My next purchase is going to be a Seal-a-Meal....

I'll rehydrate stuff for taste/useability testing, and then I'm ON for making my backpacking meals. I'll pack 'em in boxes for Steve to mail to me every couple weeks on the trail. I'm not carrying 2 weeks' food at a time, probably just a week's worth, and will buy stuff in towns in between mail-drop pickups.

This is getting to be fun, and I'm starting to think I might actually make it to the starting line.


Doug said...

My wife and I dehydrated all our own meals for the AT. I was a vegan at the time and couldn't count on good nutrition along the trail. We did 28 mail drops. We dehydrated ingredients separately and then combined them into meals and used a vacuum sealer. We pre-cooked pasta and rice and then dehydrated it. That makes it quick cooking on the trail. We also dehydrated sauces to make up meals.

We ate so good that by the end of the trail when we met other people on the trail we kept getting asked how far we were going. We'd say all the way, or to Maine....we're thru-hiking. People wouldn't believe us. One day hiker in Maine, a local who saw a lot of thru-hikers, told us we couldn't be thru-hikers. "We looked to healthy." All those thru-hikers fueling their bodies with Ramen and snickers for 3 or 4 months would become very emaciated and sick looking. The importance of good nutrition is lost on many thru-hikers.

ShirleyPerly said...

Interesting! I've never had a food dehydrator before but it sounds like it's going to come in very handy for your trip. Glad to hear you're getting excited about your AT trip!