Recipe by Contributing Writer G. Thurman.
Good food is a thing of beauty and joy in life. Food has the ability to lift a person’s spirits, satisfy hunger and comfort the mind. Nowhere is this more apparent than on long wilderness backpacking and hunting trips. There are a plethora of options out there today on the market for freeze dried back packing food that provide much needed calories with minimal weight. My biggest complaint about these meals is the sodium content is astronomical and after about day three of eating them, to me they all taste the same.
After my last high country deer hunt I knew there had to be a way to make my own meals that were palatable but also provided the necessary nutrition for these types of calorie burning activities. This is when I invested in a bigger home dehydrator and a couple of other simple tools to make my own meals.
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For making your own dehydrated meals you will need a dehydrator that you can control the drying temperature. Solid tray liners for drying, I personally like the silicone kind that are primarily sold to make fruit leather as they are easy to clean, and a vacuum food sealer to package and help preserve the meals. For reference on drying times, temperatures and general food preparation on dehydrating, I highly recommend the book, Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling by: Alan Kesselheim.
When preparing these meals the combination is only limited by your imagination. Fruit, vegetables, and meat can all be dehydrated to create a meal. You can dehydrate ingredients separately but most meals can be dried all together. I personally like hearty meals on the trail that fill me up and keep a good calorie burn throughout the day. My favorite trail meal is homemade venison spaghetti with spaghetti squash instead of noodles for that added nutrient boost.
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 2 TB olive oil to drizzle over the squash
- 1 TB of kosher salt
- 1 TB spoon red pepper flakes
- 2 lbs of ground venison, grass fed beef or ground turkey can be substituted
- 1 quart jar of homemade marinara sauce, store bought is fine but go with the good stuff
- 1 container of mushrooms, white buttons or porcini’s work well
- I medium size zucchini or 2 smaller ones
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Place spaghetti squash cut side down in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the bottom
- Drizzle olive on both squash halves and sprinkle with kosher salt
- Roast squash for 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender, allow to cool for 10 minutes after roasting
- Separate spaghetti squash strands with a fork by scraping the center
- Set aside in a bowl
- While squash is baking, brown the ground meat in a skillet
- Make sure to drain all fat and grease if any, this is very important for dehydrating
- Rough chop the zucchini into small pieces
- Rough the mushrooms into small pieces
- Once the meat is browned add the quart jar of marinara sauce, and all other ingredients to the skillet and allow too simmer for 15 minutes.
Dehydrating and Packing:
- Spread the cooked mixture onto the lined dehydrator trays as evenly as possible and about a half inch thick.
- Set the dehydrator to 140 degrees
- Dehydrating time is usually a 20-24 hour period, I usually rotate trays every 6-8 hours
- The end product should easily crumble apart and not be leathery
- Portion out the meal into desired amounts I like 4.8 ounce amounts for 1 entre serving
- Vacuum seal, label and date
- Store in a cool dry place, these can keep for several months especially if stored in your freezer
When ready to cook your meal it is as easy as adding boiling water to the mixture. You can cook it in a pot allowing it to simmer for 10-15 minutes. My preferred way is to dump it in a quart size freezer Ziploc bag, add six to 8 ounces of boiling water, seal the bag and let it set for 10-15 minutes. Making your own meals for back country hunting is just another way to personalize the adventure with the added bonus of knowing exactly what is going into your body.
About the Author
Gabriel lives with his wife in Wichita, Kansas where he works in the healthcare field. But his true passion is hunting mule deer in his home state. Gabriel is an active member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. He and his wife enjoy growing, harvesting, and preserving their own food. Nothing brings Gabriel more joy than taking people hunting and introducing them to a more nature based lifestyle. Connect with Gabriel on Instagram: @gabethurman