Category Archives: Food Dehydration

CAJUN JAMBALAYA FROM DEHYDRATED INGREDIENTS USING MINI TRANGIA CAMPING STOVE

In the turn of the millennium, right before Katrina, I spent two years in New Orleans. In the party town I was invited to a number of parties in local households, and according to my experience, there just were no parties without some version of Jambalaya being served. And there are some good reasons for that; Jambalaya is at the same time both simple and sophisticated. Garnished with some fresh herbs, it can be served on your finest silverware, or scooped into disposable cups by your drunken friends from a shared large bowl. It is relatively easy to prepare in large quantities using very limited number of pots and pans, and it tolerates a fair amount of variation in ingredients. And most importantly, most often, despite the variable ingredients, it tastes damn good.

A little while ago, while preparing Chef Emeril Lagasse’s version of Cajun jambalaya (recipe is at the end of this article), I decided to try to develop a hiker/backpacker friendly modification of this wonderful dish.

First thing to do was to dehydrate everything heavy and/or easily spoiled material, ie. veggies and meats. I seasoned thin slices of chicken breast and shrimps with Emeril’s Bayou Blast (recipe below), hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Then I fried the chicken well done (you cannot be over careful with the chicken), chopped it to small cubes, and dehydrated them together with shrimps and tomatoes over night in conventional electric oven. At the same time onions, garlic, celery, and green peppers were dehydrating in my homemade food dehydrator.

The only “wet” ingredient I did not dehydrate was the Chorizo sausage for two reasons; first, Chorizo and other similar kind of sausages are so heavily salted, that they stay good for days, if not weeks, at room temperature, and second, the sausage is pretty dry to begin with, and any attempt to dehydrate it would probably only melt away the delicious fat in the sausage.

The reason why I used Chorizo instead of Andouille of the original recipe was the fact that when you ask for Andouille sausage at the arctic circle, most of the shop keepers just roll their eyes, and the friendliest ones advice you to take a quick 800 km (500 miles) flight to Helsinki, where some small exotic delicacy shop may, or most probably, may not have Andouille available. So, my Andouille is Chorizo. Sorry, chef Lagasse.

Then it was time to test whether it is possible to turn rattling small bits in plastic bags into mouth watering Jambalaya. My original plan was to prepare one portion of Jambalaya using only the Mini Trangia camping stove, but since a friend of mine wanted to join me for a nice day in the forest, and I didn’t want to see him starve, I changed my plan to also test the little Trangia stove’s ability to heat up a larger carbon steel pan packed with enough food for two hungry guys.

So, I started with rehydrating all of the dehydrated stuf in the Trangia pot. After about 30 minutes, I added some chicken broth concentrate (a cube of the same stuff works equally well), and some oil, and let the whole thing simmer for about another 30 minutes. At this point you can add some bay leaves into the pot, but due to the fact that I have never been able to tell any difference between two dishes, one with, and one without bay leaves (maybe something wrong with my taste buds), I skipped the bay leaves. Then I poured the content of the trangia pot into the larger pan, added the rice and chopped Chorizo, and let the Jambalaya simmer till the rice was cooked.

The end result was an absolute success! The only difference to the freshly made Jambalaya was in the texture of the chicken and the shrimp. They were not bad at all, but the truth is that de-, and then rehydrated meat and seafood can never be as tender as freshly cooked ones. However, taste wise it would have been almost impossible to separate the camp site version from the fresh one.

This test also proved that the tiny trangia stove packs enough punch to heat a relatively large carbon steel pan. I wouldn’t try use this combination in the middle of the winter, but at least at above freezing temperatures, it seems to work just well.

And then the recipe for the Cajun Jambalaya, and the spice mix. Unfortunately, the link to the original source of the recipe did not seem to work anymore, but all the credits for the recipe (except the Chorizo part :)) belong to chef Emeril Lagasse and www.foodnetwork.com

CAJUN JAMBALAYA
Ingredients

12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 ounces chicken, diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Directions

In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

How to dehydrate eggs

Eggs are wonderful things. However, from a hikers point of view, there are some issues with them. a) they are somewhat delicate to handle (you know, all of your eggs in one basket etc.), b) in comparison to their nutritional value, they are rather heavy, and c) even though they stay good at room temperature for quite a while, it still would be nice to find a way to store them for a little bit longer.

To get rid of all of the mentioned problems, one can easily dehydrate the eggs. Dehydrated egg powder does not break and soil the content of your back pack, the weight reduction is about 80%, and the egg powder stays good for months, if not years.

The process is ridiculously easy. First, take 3 to 5 eggs, and break them into a bowl. Beat the eggs with a whisk or a fork to a homogenous pulp. Then pour the eggs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. (one baking tray can handle up to six eggs). Set the oven temperature to about 45 C (about 113 F). Be careful with the temperature. The goal is to dehydrate, not to fry the eggs. Then place the tray into the oven, and wedge the oven door open with a wooden or metal kitchen tool.

After about 6 to 9 hours, the consistency of the eggs should resemble that of the Kellogg’s corn flakes.

Collect the “corn flakes” into a bowl, and grind them to as fine powder as possible. It is possible to use the old fashioned mortar and pestle, as well as some kind of a sieve and suitable grinding tool to obtain the egg powder, but based on my experience, an electric mixer is the most convenient tool for the job. If you decide to use the mixer, cover the grinding bowl with a lid, saran wrap, or something like that, otherwise you will end up having half of the dry egg flakes all over the table (trust me, been there, done that).

Once the the eggs are in the form of powder, store them in a cool, dry place, protected from light.

Due to the fact that most of the recipes in the world measure the amount of eggs in the number of the eggs, it is advisable to split the egg powder into separate “one egg” portions.

In comparison to other commonly dehydrated ingredients, rehydrating the eggs takes a bit more time and effort. If you pour boiling water on your egg powder, like you would do with practically any other dehydrated stuff, you end up having denatured, cooked egg protein, which is still edible, but not good for anything you would use the fresh eggs for. Start the rehydrating process by adding about 0.5 dl (1.7 fl oz) of no warmer than the body temperature water per one dehydrated egg. Close the container (a small freezer bottle or an empty plastic soda bottle are good for this purpose) , and shake it well. Keep on shortly shaking it every now and then for the next few hours. As I mentioned earlier, rehydrating eggs properly, really takes some time. Therefore, in a hiking or camping situation, if you wish to enjoy crepes in the evening, start rehydrating around lunch time. That may sound like a lot of work, but during the day the eggs will practically rehydrate themselves in your back pack. Just a little shake every hour or two, and that is all.

As with any other food related stuff, keep your containers and utensils clean, and use only the cleanest water. If you are located in warmer parts of the world, to avoid the growth of unwanted bacteria, reduce the rehydrating time accordingly (you should be able to get decent rehydrated eggs in less than four hours).

How to dehydrate pea soup, and prepare it with a mini trangia stove

Pea soup has been, and still is, commonly used food in the Finnish military for several good reasons: a) it has excellent nutritional value, b) the main ingredient, dry beans, is very light weight, and has a very long storage life, c) the soup itself is easy to prepare for a large group of people, and d) in practice, it cannot be over cooked, and it can be reheated for several times.

Pea soup is also a very good dish for any campers, hikers or survivalists, who wish to enjoy tasty and nutritious hot meal every now and then. However, the soup has some unpleasant properties. One, preparing the soup from scratch, ie. from dry beans, takes a good 16 hours (at least 12 hours to soak the beans, and few hours of cooking), two, home made soup does not stay good for a very long time, and canned soup does not taste good to begin with, and three, as all of the soups, also the bean soup, even concentrated canned pea soup, contain lots of water, and is a bitch to carry around.

Fortunately, to circumvent these problems, it is possible, and very easy too, to dehydrate the soup.

Dehydrated pea soup, even with some meat in it, stays good for weeks in a backpack, and the weight reduction in comparison to the wet soup is about 80%, and best of all, preparation of delicious pea soup from dehydrated ingredients at a camp site is as easy as it can get.

Due to the facts that soup spills easily, and that a large flat area speeds up the evaporation, for dehydrating soups, or any other relatively liquid stuff, a conventional oven is better than a regular food dehydrator.

To begin the process, heat an oven to about 50 C (122 F), and line an oven tray with baking paper. Then spread the soup (either home made or canned) evenly on to the tray. One average size tray can handle anything between 500 and 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) of soup. Place the tray in to the oven and wedge the oven door slightly open with some wooden or metal kitchen utensil. Dehydrate for 14 to 24 hours (depending on the amount and the water content of the soup) till the soup is dry and the consistency brings corn flakes into your mind. Pack the dehydrated soup into a ziplock bag, and store in a cool dry place. If your soup contains meat, I recommend freezing it for long term storage.

To prepare pea soup at a camp site, try to remember what was the original volume of the soup, and heat up equivalent amount of water, and pour it into a pot on top of the dehydrated materials. Then simmer the soup on low heat (use the simmering ring with Trangia burner) for 20 to 40 minutes till the peas, and especially the meat, are rehydrated, tender, and hot. The slowly boiling soup can pretty much be left alone for the whole time, but a little stirring a couple of times during the process is recommended.

When the soup is done, season with some mustard, which, in addition to tasting good, also thickens the soup a little bit, and enjoy.

One full Mini trangia pot of soup contains about:

Energy 2500 kJ

Proteins 35 to 60 grams (depending on the meat content)

Carbohydrates 85 grams

Fat 25 grams

Pasta stew from dehydrated ingredients with Mini Trangia

Pasta is one of the best sources of carbohydrates for a camper/hiker/survivalist. It weights next to nothing and stays good for a very long time. If, in a post apocalyptic scenario, I would have to pick a single source of energy, I probably would fill my back pack with dry pasta.
Pasta is also a very good foundation of  a variety of delicious meals in pre apocalyptic situations. In fine dining culinary circles, it may be important to know from which northern Italy river valley the durum wheat of your fresh pasta comes from, and how well it fits to the aroma of black truffles. However, in most of the home cooking, as well as survival situations, pasta is the filling material, and the sauce gives the taste to the whole meal. Therefore, in this excellent camping dish, the pasta part comes from an instant noodle pack. You know, those 39 cent packs of noodles, which contain some very thin curly noodles and a pack of industrial waste bad taste aroma seasoning. But the sauce is made out of pure love. For those of you who do not know what love is, it is:

Dehydrated tomato paste        1 dl (½ cup) Fresh
Dehydrated ground beef           100 g (3 oz) Fresh
Dehydrated mushrooms            30 g (1 oz) Fresh
Dehydrated onions                        ½ Fresh
olive oil                                                  30 ml (1 oz)
Beef bouillon cube                          1
Oregano                                               ½ tsp
Basil                                                        ½ tsp
Black pepper                                      ½ tsp
White pepper                                    ½ tsp
And some water (+some processed cheese, if available)

 

The cooking process is easy:
Pour some boiling water on top of all of the dehydrated ingredients and the spices . Let them rehydrate for 15 to 30 minutes. Add the oil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add 1 pack of Instant noodles (about 50 g (1 ½  oz)), and for the love of God, discard the seasoning pack.
Simmer for about 3 minutes.
Add about 3 tablespoons of processed cheese and mix carefully.
The beef bouillon cube has enough salt for most of the people, but if necessary, now it is time to add salt to your own taste.

This dish passed the ultimate quality test; my kids asked for seconds.

Mini Trangia Apple Pie

OK, you Rambos, Mad Maxes, Conans, and other mother’s little warriors, admit it! Every now and then, after surviving months with only rattle snake soup to eat, and wolverine’s blood to drink, it would be nice to have a piece of sweet, delicious, grand mom’s apple pie.

If you are man enough to admit that, here is the recipe;

First, mix milk powder, salt, and yeast to about 150 ml of +42 C water. Let the yeast wake up for 5 to 10 minutes, and carefully mix the solution with the rest of the dough ingredients in a ziploc bag. Place the bag in a warm place, which, in wilderness, usually is a pocket close to your skin, for one to 4 hours. Properly closed ziploc bag does not disturb your activities too much, and while the yeast is doing its magic, you can hike to the next camp site or continue doing your things at the present one.

Before baking the base of the pie, it is time to prepare the apple jam, or sauce, or what ever you call the stuff on top of the apple pie. After rehydrating dry slices of apple for about 30 minutes, simmer the slices with cinnamon and brown sugar till the apple slices are soft, and the excess water has evaporated.

Then to the baking of the dough; Squeeze a ball of dough onto the frying pan, which in this case is the lid of the Mini Trangia. Flatten it to about 1-2 cm thick disk, and fry each side for about 4 minutes. Unfortunately, this requires some hands-on time. To avoid burning the dough, it is necessary to hold the pan about 10 to 15 cm above the flame, but trust me, the taste of the final product is worth of all the work.

Now, the remaining work is to scoop the apple jam on top of the baked dough, lift your feet up, think of your childhood and grand mom, and enjoy the apple pie. To get even closer to your childhood experiences, you can heat up the apple jam for about two minutes, and properly burn your tongue (just like when you were three years old).

In my honest opinion, the only way to improve the apple pie would be a scoopful of vanilla ice cream on top of the pie. However, due to the fact that preparing ice cream in the middle of nowhere with the Mini Trangia is beyond my expertise, I must say that I’m quite happy with the current product.

The easiest way to dehydrate potatoes (and onions)

Dehydrated potatoes are one of my favorites among all of the food stuff for camping and hiking. They are cheap and light weight, they have very long storage life, and they can be used with almost any ingredients one happens to find from his backpack for nutritious and delicious camp site meals.

However, before a happy camper can take advantage of the wonderful properties of dehydrated potatoes, the potatoes must first be hydrated, and that can be somewhat tricky process.

For quite a many of enthusiastic beginners, potatoes have been the reason why they have only tried to dehydrate anything twice – the first and the last time. The end product of the dehydrating experiment has been an ugly mess, in which horribly discoloured strips of potatoes are glued together into a blackish-bluish-brownish lump of something disgusting. Therefore, there must be something wrong with the potatoes, or the dehydrator, or the whole idea of successfully dehydrating anything at home.

Wrong.

About 70-80 % of the dry content of potatoes is starch, a long chain polysacharide, which in addition to being the major source of energy in potatoes, has some very glue-like properties. In fact, starch is a fundamental ingredient of many water soluble glues, and as some of the older, or more eco-conscious, readers may know, a boiled potato alone can be used as substitute for paper glue. Another undesirable property of potatoes is their tendency to turn black or brown when in contact with oxygen, i.e. air. The discoloration is a product of several enzymatic reactions within, and among, the cells in the potato.

From dehydrator’s point of view, a good thing is that once we know what causes these problems, there are ways to fix them. First thing to do is to choose a potato variety with the lowest possible starch content. After cutting the potatoes into thin slices or strips, a quick cooking or steaming session kills the enzymes responsible of discoloration, and after careful sieving and separating the individual pieces of potatoes, they are ready for the actual dehydrating process. Bad thing about all this is the required ridiculous amount of work.

Fortunately, our friend, the big food industry, has exactly the same problems with potatoes, and they have tools to handle the problems. As you may have noticed, within the other small print on the bags of frozen groceries, especially potatoes, you can usually find words like “pre-steamed” or “pre-cooked”. The big, if not so surprising, secret is that the big food industry did not pre-steam the veggies to “let you spend quality time with the family by reducing your time in the kitchen”. They did it because, due to the properties of starch and the enzymes, they had to.

Whatever the reason for the pre-steaming has been, love towards the mankind or industrial necessity, frozen potato products are an excellent starting material for home dehydrating experiments. They are cheap, pre-cut, pre-steamed, pre-separated, and, against the standard industrial procedure, usually do not contain any additives.

My personal favourite for dehydrating is a frozen potato-onion mix. Not that I particularly wanted the onions, which are easy enough to dehydrate by themselves, but I was not able to find other so perfectly sized thin strips of potatoes without them, and for most of my potato dishes I also use onions.

The work flow for dehydration is as simple as it can get:

1. Spread the frozen potato strips onto the mesh of the dehydrator.

2. Dehydrate for 6-9 hours at 40-50 C

3. Store the potatoes in ziploc bags, protected from light and moisture.

Classic arctic reindeer stew with potatoes and lingonberries

 

Traditionally, the reindeer stew was prepared in the deepest darkest Lapland, way above the arctic circle, by the toughest survivors, the Lapps, using frozen pieces of reindeer meat,fried in reindeer fat. The liquid part or the stew came from melted snow, and most probably, the only spice in the stew was salt. I find it hard to believe that the reindeer herding Lapps would have had any exotic spices, such as pimento (all spice) with them. I also doubt that potatoes or onions, not even mentioning milk and butter (essential parts of the mashed potatoes), played any significant part in the every day menu of the Lapps. Therefore, I believe that the the original, or the classic, or the genuine reindeer stew contains reindeer meat, reindeer fat, water, and salt. Add anything else, and you are probably mocking the tradition. However, if you go to any Scandinavian restaurant and order the reindeer stew, you will get mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and stew, which contains reindeer meat, water, and some, or all, of the following; onions, salt, pimento, black pepper, white pepper, beef bouillon, butter, oil, or even some herbs (Blasphemy!!), and every single one of those restaurants call their stew classic, traditional, genuine, original, or something like that. Shocking secret behind the “ancient, traditional, etc.” reindeer stew is that the best known, and appreciated recipe was, in fact, developed in the kitchen of hotel Pohjanhovi in Rovaniemi, Finland, less than 70 years ago.

Based on the text above, and the fact that I’m 1/64 Lapp :), I dare to call my reindeer stew as classic as any other reindeer stew. If you feel offended about that, feel free to call my reindeer stew anything you want. (I would suggest; “Slowfood survivalist’s intentional insult towards traditional cooking, minorities rights, historical facts, and anything decent.”)

But if you want to have a damn good dinner in the middle of nowhere, I recommend trying my recipe. The reindeer meat in the recipe can be replaced with the meat from deer, red deer, elk, moose, or any other four legged deer like creature, as well as the jam made out of freshly picked lingonberries can be replaced with commercial lingonberry or cranberry jam. Also, the potatoes can be substituted with some commercial dehydrated mashed potato product, but that, IMHO, ruins the taste of the stew.

If you have some more advanced cooking gear, and possibly some butter and cream/milk with you, and the aestheticity of the dish is important to you, prepare the stew and mashed potatoes separately.

(Shepherd’s) Cottage Stew

One of my favourite camping dishes is a stew made out of ground beef and some veggies. Till now, I have called it a Shepherd’s Stew, and I was about to publish it under that name. Fortunately, just in time, a British friend of mine told me that preparing something with any other meat than lamb, and naming it shepherd’s stew, or pie, is equivalent to blasphemy, and if I want to stay in good relationships with shepherds, especially British or Irish ones, I should name my dish correctly.

Therefore, in order to avoid the wrath of the shepherds of the British isles, from now on, the dish will be called Cottage Stew.

Then to the newly named stew itself. There are several reason why I like my basic Cottage Stew so much;

1. All of the ingredients are very easy to dehydrate, and the reductions of weight is significant.

2. The recipe is pretty much fool proof and the required hands on time at the camp site is minimal.

3. The dish can be easily prepared using the most basic, one pot cooking gear, such as Mini Trangia.

4. The recipe is easy to modify. If you don’t have processed cheese with you, the dish is almost as good without it. If you happen to have some extra stuff, such as dehydrated mushrooms or herbs in your backpack, just add them into your stew, and the end result may be better than the original. If your closest friend happens to be a cow, or you have some other reasons to avoid meat, the dish can be converted to vegetarian version by replacing the meat with ground soy protein or equivalent.

5. The stew tastes damn good.

Slowfood Survivalist’s Beef Jerky

I was about to start with instructions of how to dehydrate some basic items for camp site meals, when I realized that the initiating factor leading to my dehydrating hobby was the wonderful taste and structure of genuine beef jerky. So I decided to begin with my favourite basic beef jerky recipe.

Claiming your beef jerky recipe to be the best in the world is stupid. If you do that, the guy next door will do exactly the same, and since neither one of you can afford to organize a world wide poll to solve who’s jerky really is the best, you will probably end up with a life long argument about nothing.

Therefore, I’m not saying my beef jerky is the best. Yours may well be better, and if the perfect beef jerky must be gently smoked with the cedar strips, carved from the keel of the Mayflower, who am I to argue against that.

So, for those who already know the best beef jerky recipe, quit reading this right now.

However, if you are interested in getting familiar with a damn good , highly modifiable basic beef jerky recipe, keep on reading.

My beef jerky preparation begins with the selection of fresh, good quality, low fat, and tendon free meat, such as sirloin steak or equivalent. It is a good idea to place the meat into the freezer for 3 to 4 hours (that is for about 1 to 1.5 kg (2 to 3 pounds) of meat, larger pieces need a bit longer time). Partially frozen meat is a lot easier to cut to thin slices than a piece of fresh meat. To avoid long chewy stretches of fibers in your beef jerky, the cutting should be done against the direction of the muscle fibers.

When the meat is cut to about 5 mm (1/4 in) slices, it is time to marinate it. My basic marinade contains three liquids; soy sauce, which takes care of required saltiness, red wine, which, in addition to tasting good, adds the total volume of the marinade, and keeps the salt level reasonable, (as information to those of you with kids, or an alcohol problem, the alcohol of the wine evaporates during the dehydrating process), and Worchestershire sauce, which just tastes good. To spice up the marinade, I add some onion powder, dried garlic, black pepper, and some hotter pepper product such as Habanero Tabasco.

The ratios of the liquids can be altered to adjust the saltiness, or they can be replaced with something more suitable to your taste buds. For example, a good friend of mine replaced the soy sauce with a teriyaki sauce and didn’t use red wine at all, and, according to him, his beef jerky is better than mine. 🙂

Similarly, it is advisable to try different spices. If you don’t prefer garlic, don’t use it, and Habanero Tabasco can be replaced with any other non- or low-fat hot stuff, such as dried habanero flakes or something like that, and a dash of liquid smoke, or perhaps a teaspoon or two of honey may do the trick for you.

However, if you have not prepared beef jerky before, I honestly believe that my basic recipe is pretty sure thing to begin with.

Anyway, when the meat and the marinade are ready, place them into ziplock bag(s), marinate over night, dehydrate, according to the instructions (recipe), and become the jerky master.

Feel free to experiment with my recipe, and if, one day, you become the undisputed beef jerky king/queen of the world, a link to the humble beginning to your glory, would be greatly appreciated.