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Commercial Meal Taste-Off: Chicken Salad

Periodically we try out commercial made trail meals to see what others are making. It is always interesting (to me at least) what works and what is awful. Some are actually quite tasty – but almost always those that are great come from Packit Gourmet or Mary Jane Organics, not the freeze-dried food companies (Such as Mountain House, AlpineAire, Richmoor, etc).

This past summer I had tried PackitGourmet’s Asian Curried Chicken Salad on a dayhike for Ford and I. The blog entry for it is archived in the old FBC Blog. We really enjoyed the lunch – it was fresh tasting and had great flavor/texture. Packit does their salads as a “BYOB” deal (you provide what cracker/bread or tortilla you like). Works fine for me!

Everything laid out including the bread I packed along:

pigcs

All the fixings:

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Making the sammies:

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As I noted in the blog entry, we enjoyed the sammies. The freeze-dried chicken was not stale so it rehydrated up fast, as did the vegetables. It did not have excess liquid to deal with. It fed two perfectly.

So today to check out a different version I made up a pouch of Alpine Aire’s freeze-dried Chicken and Almond Salad.

chickensalad

I have a vague memory of eating said salad back in the summer of 2001 while backpacking to my first alpine lake. Back then I was incredibly impressed. I can say that was not the case today 😛

The amount of packaging versus Packit Gourmet’s salads is a good double. The salad could be easily bagged in a foil pouch half the size. The large bag could make a real issue if using a bear canister where space is at a premium.

On the other hand, the AlpineAire one comes with pilot biscuits (crackers) so you don’t have to pack your nibbelage.

But….be forewarned:

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I opened up the foil pouch and inside was a smaller Mylar pouch with the crackers. Most of the crackers were smashed. Ah well. I had a feeling it would be that way. Memory tells me my crackers were smashed back in 2001 as well 😛 What did strike me as odd is that is preventable: the tuna companies do it by putting the crackers in a ul plastic shell to protect.

I made the salad according to the directions and let sit for 15 minutes. When I came back the salad had a good 2 Tablespoons of liquid that had not absorbed.I mixed it well and let it sit another 5 minutes. No dice, it was still there. So I ended up draining off the liquid. Which would have been a pain in the rear for backpacking.

Oddly the crackers are quite good tasting – but not for the salad. They are sweet tasting, better suited to PB & Nutella! So I served it on whole wheat bread with some Swiss cheese.

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It wasn’t bad, it is in the “Ok” section for taste. But you get that feeling the freeze-dried chicken has seen better days – by that I mean: the meals are packed for storing for 2-3 years and you can taste that the chicken isn’t at its freshest. When freeze-dried gets older it doesn’t absorb water as well – and the runny texture showed that. Well, that and the chicken was a wee bit jerky like.

Both kits were equal in weight and price but the choice is clear on the winner: Packit’s. Now could one make it from scratch? Sure, but I can say that the kits are much cheaper unless you really love eating chicken (it comes in big #10 cans). It is a neat lunch to have on trips when you crave fresh food!

~Sarah

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