The other night, I happened to open the TV, when the Ultimate Survival (Man vs. Wild in the U.S.A.) was on, and I have to admit that it was rather entertaining to follow a guy doing things I wish I never have to do. It was nice to learn ways to get across alligator infested rivers, to see how to descent to safety from the Siberian mountains using a self made sled, and things like that.

In my opinion, it is absolutely OK to show the public some semi-suicidal tricks, which may, or may not help you if you happen to fall into the Zambesi river, or if you are stranded in the Siberian mountains, or if the zombies kidnap you, but what bugged the hell out of me, was the constant search of freaking proteins! The main man of the show spent ridiculous amount of time advertising how important it is to find the most protein rich worms to survive. Not a word about carbohydrates or fat!

Where do these professional survivors get their nutrition info? From some Swarzenegger wanna be at the local gym?

Well, of course the hero of the show looks more manly and heroic eating nasty maggots, tarantulas etc., than munching leaves and grass like some pathetic bunny rabbit, but seriously, it is highly unlikely that any of the viewers of the show ever falls into the Zambesi river and hurts themselves following the advice from the show, where as quite a many of the recreational hikers get lost every now and then, and they are facing, if following the instructions from the show, a serious risk of getting starved to death while searching for the most protein rich snail from a salad bowl.

Humans get 40 to 60 % of their energy needs from carbohydrates, 30 to 40 % from fat, and just 10 to 20 % from proteins. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel of the body. When the carbohydrate resources in the muscles and the liver are exhausted, the body begins to utilize the next best thing, fat. Proteins are, in practice, the last of the main nutrients the body wants as a source of energy. The body begins to utilize proteins, i.e. melting its own muscles, as an energy source only after a long period of malnutrition.

Yes, I am familiar with the facts that the body needs a constant source of proteins, and it cannot produce them without outside sources, but the funny thing is that if one can find enough carbohydrates and fat to survive, usually from plants, fish, and animals, the essential proteins automatically follow as a free side dish, where as the opposite seldom happens. In a survival situation, the most important nutritional goal is to find enough energy to get out of the situation, not to build up the muscle mass, and do not take me wrong, if you find proteins, eat them, but the essential nutrients to be searched for are carbohydrates and fats, not proteins.

(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.



About the Slowfood Survivalist’s blog

I immensely enjoy hiking, camping, and anything outdoorsy. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor heavy or bad tasting food has stayed me from the completion of my journeys into the nature (Thank you, U.S. Postal Service).

Except for having best possible camping gear and clothing suitable for the conditions, there isn’t much one can do about the weather. But the food. After many years of outdoorsy activities, carrying either heavy, easily spoiled fresh food or light weight industrial “natural bad taste aroma and loads of preservatives added” food, I decided it is time to do something to improve dining experiences in the forest.

At first, I tried some commercially available MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some of the MREs were good, most of them were not, and the common feature of all of them was ridiculously high price. Instead of coming from the land of the free, I come from the land of the cheap, and I don’t want to spend 30+ euros/dollars for a days food. Another MRE “advantage”, which I don’t need, is speed. I understand that some special forces guys crawling in hostile territory only want to fill their stomach quickly and unnoticed, since setting up a camp kitchen in those conditions would be downright suicidal. Another group that benefits from the MREs is the guys, or girls, who take hiking as competitive sport, and don’t want to use valuable resting time for cooking, and I must admit that I usually carry one MRE with me for emergency situations (never been in bad enough situation yet to open one though). But special forces, competitors, and emergencies aside, to me, the camping and cooking parts of a hiking trip are the most relaxing, and often most memorable parts of the whole experience, and I don’t have any trouble in stopping for an hour to have a decent lunch, or spending some extra time to create unforgettable dinner from low cost, light weight, home made materials.

In posts to come, I shall describe parts of my journey to become a slowfood survivalist, including, but not limited to:

how to dehydrate different ingredients, how to use dry ingredients to prepare delicious meals outdoors, and occasionally, I may blog about gear and general camping tips, related to slowfood survivalism.