As I alluded in the post about converting our Honda Fit to a campervan, I dehydrated a couple of dinners for our trip to Florida. When we went on our road trip this past summer, Tyler and I mostly cooked our dinners. Which means that we brought all of the cooking equipment along with us. There was one night while we were at Grayson Highlands, where we opted for dehydrated Mountain House meals. We were hungry after a long day of hiking, and we needed to drive into town that evening so I could send a mandatory work email.
The Mountain House meals were super convenient; just add boiling water and wait a few minutes. Tyler had the spaghetti, which was pretty good, though the meat didn’t hydrate particularly well. Mine was beef stroganoff, which was just okay, but I wouldn’t get it again.
I remember how nice and easy it was for that one meal and decided that I wanted to do that again for this trip. Not only does it make meal prep and clean up in camp super easy, but it also meant that we could pack light! All we needed was our little cat can, denatured alcohol stove and a small pot for boiling water.
A long, long time ago a group of us went camping at Cloudland Canyon State Park. That’s when I first tried making our own dehydrated meals. I made a rice and lemon chicken dinner, which turned out pretty well. Since then I’ve dehydrated a few things and tried vacuum sealing them for longer term storage. However, most things once dehydrated become very hard and have some pokey edges, which always wound up puncturing my vacuum sealed bags. No more vacuum.
This time, I decided to try something different. I learned about a nifty vacuum sealer attachment for glass jars. It was less than $10 on Amazon, so I got it. Rather than sealing the meals in plastic bags, and then dumping them out into a pot for rehydrating, I could seal them in glass jars and rehydrate them right in the jar! Admittedly, for as short of a trip as we were taking, the food would have been fine even if not vacuum sealed.
For our trip, I prepared two dinners: spaghetti with ground turkey, and greek lemon chicken with rice. Some things turned out well, and some things, eh not so much.
Things that worked
- Overall taste of spaghetti meal – it tasted pretty much as it would have if I had just made it at home
- Rehydration of rice and spaghetti – both of these starches rehydrated well. It took a while to let the foods rehydrate, but if we were patient and added enough water, then they weren’t crunchy at all.
- Rehydration of ground turkey – this worked surprisingly well. I assumed the meat would be a bit, well not as good, since the meat in the Mountain House meals did not rehydrate particularly well. I attribute the success to mixing in crushed crackers to the meat prior to cooking. This helped the ground turkey rehydrate more easily. I picked up this tip from Backpacking Chef.
- Rehydrating meals in the glass jars – all we had to do was boil water, pour it into the glass jars, and wait. This made clean up so easy. Our boiling water pot didn’t need to be cleaned. I just washed the spoons we used and swished the jars with soapy water. It didn’t matter too much if the jars were super clean, since we weren’t reusing them on our trip. We just didn’t want them to smell. I washed the jars in the dishwasher when we got home.
- Dehydrated apples – done this before. They always turn out well. I included them in some oatmeal for one of my breakfasts.
Things that didn’t work so well
- Taste of the greek lemon chicken and rice meal – it was bland and not particularly good. I must had made it differently that time we were at Cloudland Canyon because I recall it being far tastier. I even cooked the rice in chicken broth to try to give it more flavor. I’m not sure what I should do to improve it. I’ll probably try some other meals before modifying this one.
- Chicken rehydration – this is difficult. Similarly to the prep from Cloudland Canyon, the chicken stayed kind of chewy and odd. I used canned chicken at the suggestion of the Backpacking Chef. Canned chicken seems to be the way to go, rather than other cooking methods, but it definitely leaves something to be desired.
- Dehydrated asian pear – odd. Its kind of like dehydrated cantaloupe. Not necessarily terrible, but it doesn’t taste like the fresh fruit at all. I would not make this again. I didn’t enjoy eating it.
- Rehydrating zucchini – it remained chewy even when everything else in the meal had rehydrated fully. I dehydrated raw zucchini, so next time I’ll try steaming the zucchini first to see if that helps.
Overall, I’d call our dehydrated meals experiment a success! Dehydrating the food is a lot of effort ahead of time, but the easy meal prep and clean up at camp definitely made it worth it. If I have time before our next trip, I plan on dehydrating the majority of our dinners. I’ll even try some new recipes!