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[pct-l] Re: Drying Food

This post is a sharing of my experience using a dehydrator to prepare
trail foods.  It may not be for everyone, so if you'd rather read about
the exhilaration of the hiking experience, scroll down quickly.

I've had very good experiences drying several categories of foods for
the trail.  First off, the right tool for the job: I think the advantage
of a dehydrator over an oven is the airflow in the dehydrator entrains
and removes the moisture at a lower temperature, resulting in drying
without cooking.  After fooling around with my household oven, I did
some shopping and settled on a "Mr Coffee Food Dehydrator" ($30 at
KMart).  There are several brands and models to choose from, with all
kinds of gizmos and processes described that would seem to defy the
basic laws of physics and chemistry.  Don't be taken in by those.  I
picked the Mr Coffee because it was a very basic unit: heating coil,
fan, 5 racks, and a plastic tray for sauces (they call it a "fruit roll
insert" that allows you to put liquids into a drying tray).  Later I
bought a second dryer to raise capacity and got a different brand,
White-Westinghouse, I believe.  It's performance was inferior: uneven
heating and very long drying times.  So I returned it and got a second
Mr Coffee.  That was over a year ago and both dryers are still going

As far as veggies go, I use dried veggies to fill out soups and sauces,
not as snack food.  Bell pepper (all colors), onion, roma tomato,
mushroom, and zucchini slices all dry well and really improve pasta
sauces.  Corn, peas, and carrots are great in soups or ramens (I get the
economy bag of frozen mixed veggies).  Drying time varies.  I keep a
notebook next to the dryers and keep records so I can refer back to past
experience.  In general, try not to mix veggies on a single tray.  That
way you can remove the quicker drying varieties more easily when they're

For fruits, apples and bananas are my staple snacks.  I've tried others
for variety, but the result is usually "interesting, but...".  I buy
bananas when they're on special and just slice then into about 3/8 inch
discs, 10 trays at a time.  Apples, I quarter, core, and slice (about
3/8 inch).  For a candy effect, sprinkle or dip the pieces in dry jello
mix, cherry or raspberry flavors are delicious.  

Jerky.  I buy round steak or london broil when they're on special, chill
just short of freezing (easier to slice thinly), slice (about 1/4 inch),
marinate to taste, and dehydrate (10 to 12 hours).  If you freeze it,
you can make large batches (you know, when the meat's on special), and
it lasts forever.

Sauces.  I buy canned pasta sauces (the cheap stuff, like Hunts).  The
cans are 20 oz.  I pour about 10 oz into a "fruit roll insert" and
dehydrate 20-24 hours.  The result is a 1 or 2 meal roll of sauce that
goes into a zip-lock.  I usually don't bother to spice before drying,
wait until meal preparation.

If I'm really resourceful and efficient, I can plan drying sessions so
that all the trays are occupied for the duration, either with large
batches, or by cycling in shorter drying time items, like corn and peas,
while sauces are drying (I have fewer "fruit roll inserts" than drying
trays).  Even if you don''t fill all the drying trays, you should still
put at least 5 on each unit to optimize air flow.  I've used up to 7
trays on a single unit with good results.

One final thought, for a $30 investment, I really believe a dehydrator
gets the desired results better than using an oven.  Hope this helps, 
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Cc:            pct-L@backcountry.net
From:          Jim <Airbrne27@jps.net>
Date:          Mon, 16 Nov 1998 10:46:34 -0800
Subject:       Re: [pct-l] Introductions
Content-type:  text/plain; charset=us-ascii

Actually i was thinking instead of introducing myself i might have
another group such as this except call it the "lurker" group.  Seems
like there are allot more of us lurkers out there then i thought.

Ok an intro from me...  i am 37 yrs old, SoCal native , married twice, 6
kids.  i was introduced to hiking/backpacking by the boy scouts, (which
i got kicked out of) my hiking skills were refined you might say by the
U.S. Army.  All my hiking in the Army was point A to point B.  This is
probably because those perfectly good airplanes dropped me at point A
and i had to hike to point B to get home.  I carried a standard issue
rucksack, and machine gun so i have come to the conclusion that the Army
has not read a single word or Jardine!  I backpacked some of the
Appalachian trail when i was in North Carolina.  I have since moved back
to SoCal and am currently hiking the PCT in sections.  I am currently at
Bishop and am planning my next rip from Muir Trail Ranch to Sonora pass
next year.

I have learned a lot about my equipment, and myself during these forays
into the wilderness...that is if you can call the JMT wilderness, more
like a biped freeway.
Food is my biggest issue, i don't dehydrate, probably never will. So i
look for variety from commercial sources.  i enjoy trying new recipes
and i will never ever ever eat a Power bar again!


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