If asked what some of my favorite meals to eat while backpacking are, there are a few that naturally come to mind as ones that I would be willing to eat almost every day.
#cabbage #kale #greenonion #ginger #almonds #chicken #oliveoil #vinegar
On the PCT in 2013, our last day before reaching Stevens Pass after leaving Snoqualmie 4 days earlier, we came to what I think was the top of Trap Pass mid morning and ran into a couple breaking camp. We stopped for a snack and to dry out our rainflies.
Like any backpacker who has overpacked and runs into fellow hikers, they began to offer us food that they had deemed extra. I remember passing on the offer of Top Ramen but I was hungry enough to succumb to some Jolly Ranchers and homemade dehydrated coleslaw (not together, of course). I fell in love.
When I got home, I looked up the recipe the hiker had described online. It is an old Boy Scout standby and a great way to get your vegetables on the trail. Their recipe has you marinate the cabbage in vinegar ahead of time but because I can carry packets of vinegar I don’t do that.
This is the time of the year when I start to dehydrate a large assortment of vegetables and other additions for meals, generally without concern for the exact recipe. By the time I get to June, I have enough to start combining together for meals.
Coleslaw on the trail is basically cabbage, oil and vinegar. It is a good source of fiber and vitamin C & K, along with calcium, iron and vitamin A and other minerals. You can add an assortment of other things to give more flavor and nutrition.
The easiest way to do cabbage is to buy the prepackaged shredded cabbage. It is super cheap! I will go to Costco or Cash N’ Carry and get the big bags that also have carrots and red cabbage but for the pictures here I just picked up a bag from the grocery store. Blanching or steaming for a few minutes before dehydrating allows faster rehydration and softer “noodle” texture if desired.
The cabbage takes about 4 hours to dry in the dehydrator on the Fruit/Vegetable setting. I tend to make a lot of cabbage as I will toss it into as many of my other meals as I can. It even makes a great “noodle”. It doesn’t have the calories of them, but I just find other ways to get those. Bags of shredded broccoli slaw are also great for dehydrating.
I love green onions, kale and ginger in my coleslaw.
I try to add ginger to anything I can, not only for it’s health benefits (it’s anti-inflammatory) but because it gives foods a great flavor and some heat when you add enough. I buy the large packages of ginger at the Asian market by me, peel it, cut it into large pieces then put it in the food processor.
Green onions, kale and ginger take about 3 hours in the dehydrator. When dry, I crumble the kale and ginger further with my hand before putting it together with the cabbage.
I then assemble the vegetables with an assortment of nuts, seeds and sometimes dehydrated chicken. If you don’t eat meat, there is already protein in the coleslaw from the nuts and even the cabbage. You can always just add more nuts or sunflower seeds.
I buy the cans of cooked chicken at Costco*, break it into small pieces and dehydrate.
It’s not the best stuff, but because I don’t cook my meals on the trail I need the chicken to be a bit more soft than if I cooked the meat myself. You could probably use the $5 rotisserie chicken, too, but I find that the stuff they use in the cooking process doesn’t suit me. Might be the potato starch.
The chicken will usually cook in about 11-12 hours on the Meat setting, depending on how well you break the pieces up.
Check on it then and break up any larger pieces to see if they are dry inside. Continue drying a few more hours if you find any pieces still white/pink inside (not dry).
After the meat is dried thoroughly, I put it in the food processor to make the pieces even smaller and easier to rehydrate with cold water.
Truth is, I don’t usually measure and just divide up by sight. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the ratios to suit you. One serving might look something like:
- 1/2 cup dried cabbage
- 1/8 cup kale
- 1/8 cup almond slivers
- 1/8 cup chicken (or other protein source)
- A generous pinch each of ginger, green onion and sesame seeds
I get my oil and vinegar packets at Minimus. Someday I hope to find ACV packets because I’m not brave enough to carry that stuff in a bottle! Just what I would need, to add the smell of vinegar in my pack to a few days of trail stink. Actually, the vinegar might smell better. Hmmm…
When I am ready to eat it on the trail, I simply put in enough water to cover and let it sit for an hour or so. This coleslaw meal here is one I made last year stored in my fridge and it was just as good today as it was when I first made it! I had it today for lunch at work.
I imagine you could take the ingredients for this coleslaw into the wild without dehydrating them and they would be good for a couple of days.
I also toss this up fresh for lunch in my off-trail life. If making it to eat at home or you want to carry oil in a bottle, sesame seed oil tastes even better than the olive oil. Super delish.
There’s no excuse not to get your veggies while backpacking, even on long trips. Adding things like dehydrated cabbage to meals (even those Mountain House ones) is a great way to do it. Veg on!
If you are new to dehydrating or want more information, especially if you need your meals to last more than a month without refrigeration, please visit my Dehydrating 101 page to find out how to do it safely!
*For some reason I was looking at the Costco chicken label again this week (6/6/2017) and noticed it had modified food starch. Obviously something to avoid normally but it’s hard to find canned chicken without some kind of additives. I don’t remember it being on there in the past but it may have. Everything I find online says it contain gluten but you should do your own research to make sure.