Spring Planning: Dehydrators
Dehydrators come to mind once one gets into planning for cooking & eating on the trail, and quits the MountainHouse meal plan (you know – 2 bags a day and 3 energy bars!). And wants to start DIY in the food bag! Spring is a great time to start, your dried items will be fresh for summer trips and you will get inspired to get out hiking.
I have included 3 of my favorite dehydrators. You may notice they are not fancy, nor expensive. Why? Simply, they do the job! They may not be as sexy looking as an Excalibur, but the money saved is gas in your car, to get you to the trailhead!
The Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express 4-Tray Food Dehydrator is an ugly workhorse. It gets the job done. And at under $50, many are shocked they can afford one so easily! This Nesco will do what you need, drying vegetables, fruits, leathers and leftovers from meals.
My personal dehydrator is the L’Equip 306200 500-Watt 6-Tray Food Dehydrator, Gray. It is a sleek, and reasonably attractive dehydrator. I like the style, and it is what won me over from my Nesco years ago.
Nesco also produces a similar model to the FD-60 that comes with 4 trays and a jerky gun, the Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator All-In-One Kit with Jerky Gun. If you like jerky made from ground meats, this may be a choice for you! At $65 it is still quite affordable.
As for buying the plastic liners, so you can dry liquids? Don’t waste your money. From my experience you will go crazy picking at the sheets to get food off. Instead, go to Costco and buy a roll of parchment paper. That roll is huge and costs very little (it is like getting 4 rolls at the grocery store for the price of 1). Cut a template to fit your trays, then cut away as many as you need. For liquids, you can roll up the sides a bit. It is also good for small items like beans and hamburger. Often you can get 2-4 uses out of each sheet as well. And no cleanup.
For storage of dried items, I recommend mason jars tightly sealed. Shake your jars every month or so, to distribute any remaining moisture (it will have some, that is OK though). If your dried food contains dairy, meat or was higher fat, store in the freezer till trail time, and use within 3 months. Dried vegetables, fruits, beans and pasta do fine for up to a year.
We have a set of articles on TrailCooking, Dehydrating 101, to get you going, which include: