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Home food dehydration advise sought

5:54 a.m. on May 19, 2013 (EDT)
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So I am getting into home dehydrating (my camping food, silly goose, not my house) and could use some sage advise.

  • Fruits and basic veggies
    I assume drying these items is pretty straight forward.  If not what should I know.
  • Precooked meals
    What if I wanted to do a spaghetti.  What is the best way to prepare this type of item?  I don’t mean the recipe details, I mean the prep methodology.  For example would I boil the noodle and dry separate from the sauce, or combine the two and dry together?  Speaking of the sauce, should I dry the meat separate from the other sauce elements?
  • Meat in particular
    Are there special considerations when dehydrating proteins?  How about meats with a good measure of fat or grease?
  • Sauces
    Any tips to drying sauces?
  • Food cut sized for dehydration
    Should I be mindful of the size I cut meat and vegetables up, to facilitate dehydration, and later cooking/re-hydration?
  • Shelf life
    How far in advance can I dehydrate items without affecting taste?

Ed

2:39 p.m. on May 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi Ed,

I make a lot of elk and deer jerky in the dehydrator.  The muscle meat works the best.  It also works best when you trim off ALL fat.  

My typical process goes as follows:

Let the meat (roasts or steaks) slowly thaw in the fridge for a couple days.  Definitely do not thaw in microwave.  

Once thawed, unwrap and put the steaks or roasts into a strainer.  Put the strainer full of meat into a big bowl, cover and let it bleed out another day or so in the fridge.  If you get a little mold or drying on the outside of the meat it's no big deal.  Just trim it off and throw that portion away.  

After bleeding the meat out for a day or so pull the meat out of the fridge and cut it to your desired thickness and size.  I prefer thicker cuts so I cut about 1/4-1/2" thick slices of meat and then cut those into strips about half an inch to an inch wide.   

Now begin the curing and marinading process.  I prefer dry rub type of marinades rather than adding liquid marinades to meat that needs to be dried.  Hi-Country brand makes some nice kits for flavoring jerky.  I typically use their original but I mix in some of my own spices and flavors.  Also, be careful of their mixture recommendations.  If you do what they say your jerky will come out very salty.  I just tone their recommendations down a bit.  

After thoroughly mixing the meat with the marinade and cure you will put the meat back in the fridge to cure and marinade for at least 24 hours.  

After it has cured and marinated put your pieces of meat on the dehydrator and babysit it for a day or two.  I rotate and watch it closely to get the proper level of dehydration. 

Good luck and have fun!! 

The picture below is a picture of meat that just got thrown on the dehydrator after being marinated.  


jerky.jpg
   

2:59 p.m. on May 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I'll add a few thoughts as well:


We dehydrate everything (cooked meals) together.  It makes it easier on the trail and you don't have remember anything. 

For meats, we cut off as much fat as we can....and after dehydrating, we freeze the stuff.  That just keeps it a little fresher.  We take it out only when we are packing up for the trail.  We've kept things for six months or so this way without problems.

One tip---weigh everything Before you dehydrate it. That way you'll know how much water to add later, to get it back into shape.  We usually find that it takes a little less water---because things don't hydrate perfectly

7:08 p.m. on May 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I won't claim expert status, but I'll share what I've learned works for me.  This is all based on freezer bag meals.  I put meals together at home in individual bags then add hot water in camp to rehydrate/cook.

Fruit chips or leather are pretty easy.  Blending to reduce any chunks speeds leather drying. Veggies I find frozen bags from the store work well.  They are already blanched so I can just dry them.  If you use fresh be sure to blanch as it is important for preservation and also helps speed cooking later.

For meals I dry separately and then add to single serving bags just prior to a trip.  For pasta and sauce I make a very thick sauce with just tomato, herbs and spices that dries to leather and I hand shred.  You can process in grinder or blender to make powder but I'm too lazy.  Pasta is cooked, rinsed and dried.  I've heard to under cook since it cooks during rehydration but it came out chewy so now I cook more.  I like to use shrimp so I dry that in big batches to add later, you can of course use beef or whatever you prefer.

Fat doesn't dehydrate.  That means you want lean meat to start.  Some folks use water rinses after cooking to remove all grease.  Others prefer to save the flavor knowing it cuts down on shelf life.  Oils in things other than meat, like sauces, also will not dehydrate so you want to avoid.

Size makes a difference both when drying and when rehydrating.  Anything that can be reduced to a paste or pulp  can be dried and powdered.  Chunky things dry slower and really rehydrate slower.  I like to toss my shrimp or chicken in the water pot while it heats to give them a head start before I pour the water into the bag with the other ingredients. 

Sauces just require a fruit leather sheet or similar to pour them on for drying.  Again, no oils or fats makes things much easier.  Add olive oil in camp from a squeeze bottle if needed.  Chunks of anything in the sauce slow things down so blend or fine chop.  Once it gets solid enough peel off and flip over so the other side can dry.  I start chunking mine at this point to increase surface area. 

I keep everything bulk bagged and in the freezer until needed.  Pasta and rice would last for years but I don't make that much in advance.  Veggies are good well over a year but may begin to lose some flavor/nutrition so again, I don't make too much of anything at once.  Meat is the tough one.  If you remove all the fat beef should be good for at least six months in storage and a month on the road.  I tend to use shrimp and chicken because I trust it more but chilimac has to have beef so I dry the meat as close to use as possible.

Again, I don't know everything but if you have more questions I'll share what I know.

9:54 a.m. on May 27, 2013 (EDT)
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Check out 'The Hungry Hammock Hanger'  website, this guy also known as Babelfish 5 on YouTube, has lots of good videos that provide recipes and instructions for dehydrating and packaging your own meals.

Mike G.

 

11:54 p.m. on May 29, 2013 (EDT)
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I don't know if it's sage advice or advice from sage but spaghetti sauce dries well in thin layers. I dry meat, onions and noodles and sauce separately then put them in one bag. It's not as fast as mountain house but faster than cooking. Hint, the sauce rehydrates with very little water. Careful or you will end up with soup. Don't worry if the sauce looks really dark either, it's ok. If it is unappetizing you haven't hiked far enough.

11:54 p.m. on May 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Oops I hit post twice

5:58 a.m. on May 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Any experience with drying sour cream FromSagetoSnow?  After testing my new curry sauce with great success the other day my next project is to create a workable stroganoff so I'm trying to work up the courage to do a test batch of sour cream.  Everything I see says very thin and on lowest heat setting but I am still working up the courage to try.

11:59 a.m. on May 30, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger, If you can dry sour cream and make it usable you are the man.  I have used fresh stuff in packets, that's it, I've never even considered  drying it. 

1:00 p.m. on May 30, 2013 (EDT)
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The info I've found says it works as a flavoring agent but you can't turn it back into sour cream.  The plan is to powder and freeze it then add it right before a trip when I make up the individual meals.  If it works for stroganoff I have a green chili sauce I want to try next and I'm betting it will be good with that too.

I will try to post results assuming the process and testing doesn't kill me 8p

12:37 p.m. on June 1, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger,

Do you dry and package spaghetti sauce and pasta separately?

This thread has intrigued me enough to start experimenting.

I normally bring whole foods because my regular trips are short (two night two day mostly). I have a longer trip coming up with a bear canister and need to fit that container as well as offset a little weight.

10:39 p.m. on June 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Generally I dry everything in bulk and store separately.  Then I make up individual meals right before a trip.  So yes, sauce and pasta are cooked and dried apart, then put together in a freezer bag later along with meat which was also dried by itself.

Experimenting is really what it is all about.  You have to find what works for you.  Testing at home is really important.  Every batch of anything I make includes at least enough extra for one test meal.  My wife bravely helps me test them at home so we can work out any issues here rather than in the field.

Have fun with it and be prepared to have some failures.  I had a batch of pasta that came out too tough so I used it in soup for dinner at home one night 8)

10:06 p.m. on June 13, 2013 (EDT)
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I used to dehydrate my own backpacking and cycle touring foods. I used a gas oven without the heat turned on and used a big sheet pan like restuarants use and spread the vegys or meats out and put them in the oven with just the pilot light lit. Then left them in for as long as it took to dry. Turning the food items and the pans in the oven for more even drying.

One can also dry foods in bug netting with a frame inside to hold the food items apart. And dry it outside in the sun or shade kinda like the Indians used to do. The netting keeps the bugs off the food and fly's from laying maggot eggs on meats.

2:54 p.m. on June 14, 2013 (EDT)
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sounds appetizing...especially the part about the maggots.

April 23, 2014
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