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[pct-l] Dehydration

<<I am curious whether anyone out there has experience dehydrating food
for the PCT or another similarly long hike, and can give me some idea
of how long I should expect to need for the process of dehydrating food
for myself for the PCT next year?

I'd like to have 1 - 2 servings of dehydrated fruit and ...>>

I would hesitate to give an overall plan, but I can give you some details 
of my current jerky operations.  I'm still trying to get out of Dodge this 
year, but still some more lines of C++ and a divorce left to go!  Maybe 
next year _would_ be best...

According to store packages, 1 oz of Teriyaki jerky has about 70 cals. 
 According to another cook book, the equivalent in meat should be much more 
(in the several hundreds), so I'm not sure what the real number would be. 
 My plan is to produce 3 oz per day for 140 days of hiking, and I'm almost 
done.  When you see it, this seems like a lot of jerky, but on actual hikes 
here in CT it seems about right.  It goes right down, tastes nice, gives 
good energy, and (they say) retains over 90% of nutrients.

The store butcher at Big Y cuts it for me so there is little cutting to do 
and I don't pay for the fat, which is a no-no in jerky.  They use Top Round 
cut, which after buying many pounds, costs me$3.49 a pound, worth it for 
the quality of the jerky.  Wide and thin strips are best.  Long is 
optional; it makes for fewer strips to handle but I end up cutting them 
after drying with kitchen shears to fit them into plastic bags.  I bought 
more-expensive Saranex bags, designed for long-term storage, because they 
are supposed to prevent flavor/odor transfer.  I had a few strips in a 
normal Zip-lock sitting on top of a covered bowl of dehydrated Dr. 
Bronner's for a few days and they tasted like peppermint!  -- But I haven't 
yet tried the same with the Saranex bags.  I have been storing the filled 
Saranex bags inside gallon-sized Zip-locks in the freezer to be removed 
just for mailing.  They take up a lot of room so we have had to eat more of 
the frozen food, but to keep jerky for longer than a month or so, it is 
necessary.  Total cost is probably about $1.00 / oz, not including labor; 
store-bought is about $1.50 / oz.

I've been at it, more or less regularly, for at least three months.  The 
eight-tray dehydrator I'm using holds approximately 7 pounds of meat, which 
dries down to 1/3, or about 37 ounces, which is about 10 days worth.  I 
usually marinate the meat for 24 hours in the fridge with either normal or 
garlic teriyaki sauce, with brown sugar, lots of black pepper, lots of red 
pepper, and some Liquid Smoke, but I have tried many other recipes and all 
seem to be good.   The drying takes also 24 hours to get the meat nearly or 
actually brittle, which is better for long-term storage.  For handing-out 
samples you want to pull it off earlier to leave it a little chewier.  The 
garlic Teriyaki tastes fantastic but the house does smell horrible after 24 
hours of hot garlic air.  I have also avoided marination by just sprinkling 
on salt, pepper, and garlic/onion powder, which seems to work fine too.

Cleaning the trays is really tough, but a LOT easier if you do it every 
single load.

So -- for 10 days worth of jerky, here is a schedule, approx 1 hour work 
per day except for the ordering and cleaning:

	Monday -- order 7 pounds to be cut for pickup the next day.
	Tuesday -- pick up the meat; start marinating that night (takes ~1/2 hour 
once you're efficient, takes also an entire shelf in the fridge).
	Wednesday night -- put meat into dehydrator and fire it up.
	Thursday morning -- unstick jerky and turn it over.
	Thursday night -- pull jerky off trays; pat-off any oil with paper towels; 
trim off any leftover fat; place into large Zip-lock; wait to seal bag 
until it cools.
	Friday -- cut jerky into short strips, weigh and transfer into small 
Saranex bags, label bags (optional), collect small bags into larger ziplock 
and place into freezer.
	Saturday -- clean trays.

It should be obvious that you can pipeline -- do marinating at the same 
time as drying, etc -- and also combine some of the days, but my experience 
is that with work, training hikes, gear prep, and all the other aspects of 
life that conspire to keep us from our long endorphin fixes, I always end 
up at this pace, which I can sustain.  Doubling this schedule to add other 
food types gives 28 weeks, or 6-7 months prep time, which seems about right 
to me.  You can see why having room in the freezer (or even buying one) 
makes sense; dried food isn't supposed to last 10 months at normal 
temperature.  If you label the bags with a permanent marker you can try to 
eat the first-produced jerky first in your hike (I haven't labelled 
anything, so far).

Spaghetti sauce also took 24 hours to dehydrate; use the less-oily kind if 
you buy it.

The process is obviously highly labor-intensive. The fruit and vegetables 
I'll buy from a health food supermarket because it just takes too much work 
for 4 1/2 months of food, at least for me.  I did some broccoli (little 
pieces everywhere) and onions (but I can easily buy it) and hot peppers 
(ditto).  Besides, where would I find mangos to dry?  (Dried mango is 

I have no idea what other hikers' experiences are, and I haven't yet tasted 
the jerky after a few months of storage.

Sorry to hear of Dr. Lowder's death.  But, to tell you the truth, that's 
the way I want to go.  Much more noble than in a hospital bed, surrounded 
by antiseptic busy strangers, stuck up with needles and tubes, and drugged 
into a stupor.  I hope that when I'm 70, or 80, I'm still hiking, and that 
one of those hikes, maybe in Alaska, or Morocco, does me in before anyone 
can rescue me.  Just like Dr. Lowder.

Any questions don't hesitate to contact me --

-- Dave

David B. Stockton

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