When going on longer trips, food planning can become difficult. Many foods cannot last over a week in a hot barrel, and some of those that can, like canned beans, are heavy and leave a lot of garbage behind.
In order to get around this problem, it is possible to dehydrate food in advance, and then simply rehydrate it once you’re on the trip. Dehydrated food weighs very little, and is extremely compact. In fact, on our last trip to the Yukon, we were able to pack 10 apples into a space the size of one!
So how does one go about dehydrating their food, and how would you rehydrate it while on a trip?
There are 2 methods of dehydration that we’ve used, and both offer advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, how you decide to plan your meals will depend a lot on your own situation. The difference between the two will come out in Part 2 of this blog, but for now we’re going to look at the basics of dehydrating and rehydrating food.
To properly and effectively dehydrate food, the best thing to do is to buy a dehydrator. These are available at stores like Canadian Tire or Walmart, and are cost under $200 for a decent sized machine. Alternatively, you can set a convection oven to the lowest possible setting, and keep the door open a crack, but this will waste a lot of electricity, and heat up your kitchen. Plus you can’t use the oven for hours at a time.
The machine itself is made up of mesh shelves, a heat source, and a fan. To dehydrate food, you just place it on the shelves (you can use parchment paper to dehydrate wetter items), turn on the dehydrator and wait. A long, long time. Dehydrating fruit or vegetables can take up to 12 hours, and other more liquid items can take even longer. You can speed up the process slightly by cutting (or spreading) the items very thin, but it will take a lot of time either way.
Once the food is dry (easy to break in half, like a potato chip) you can pack it up in sealable plastic bags, and take it with you. If the food is fully dry, it does not need to be refrigerated, and can last for weeks or even longer in a sealed container.
For fruit, you also have the option of dehydrating until it achieves a tough leathery consistency, but is not yet brittle. This is much more pleasant when you’re looking to dehydrate it as a snack, like apples or mangos, but is a little bit heavier, and can go back quicker than fully dried foods.
Most dehydrated food is meant to be cooked into meals. To do this you simply need to add it to a pot with a lot of water, and cook it until it is soft again. If you don’t add enough water, the food will not soften enough, and if you add too much you can simply wait until it boils down to a level that you’re comfortable with. Go with a lot of water.
For items like fruit snacks, you do not need to rehydrate at all, and can eat these at any time.
Bonus: If you plan on doing a lot of dehydrating, it pays to purchase a vacuum sealer as well. Vacuum sealing does a much better job of removing air than a sealable bag, and keeps food more compact and fresher for longer.