The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)

Part I. Packed-In Food

Chapter 2. Foods That Require Minimal Processing

“A crude meal, no doubt, but the best of all sauces is hunger.”

—Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Many of the foods today that we can carry require very little to no processing before consumption. You don’t have to cook an apple in order to eat it—but the tradeoff is that apples can be heavy to carry. Lighter in weight and easier to carry are more processed foods like energy bars and similar types of food, but none that I have tasted make a meal that is fit for the woods. So consider carrying in food that requires a little preparation but which will provide a more satisfying meal to accompany your outdoor adventure.

Trail Mixes and Snacks

Trail mixes combine most of the needed food nutrients we want, and these are great snacks, although again not much of a meal for the woodsy traveler. Good trail mix contains a high-protein nut like a cashew or almond, some type of dried fruit like a raisin for concentrated nutrition, and chocolate for quick energy. You can make similar mixes at home.

Trail snacks, like pemmican and fruit leathers, can also be a good way to tame hunger pangs when you don’t have time to stop and build a fire.

Dave’s Homemade Trail Mix

This is about 3 days’ food if needed in an emergency.

1 cup dried bananas

1 cup raisins

1 cup Hershey’s chocolate morsels

2 cups cashew halves

1 cup pecans

1 cup walnuts

Mix well and store in a 32-ounce water bottle for carry.

Simple Trail Mix

A simple, less expensive trail mix.

8 ounces raisins

8 ounces mixed nuts (or peanuts, an even cheaper option)

8 ounces sunflower seeds

8 ounces chocolate chips

Salt, to taste

Mix together all ingredients. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!

Simple Pemmican

You can make this pemmican ahead of time or at camp. If making it at camp, do everything except melting the lard well away from the fire so that the pemmican can solidify.

8 ounces beef jerky, finely minced

1 cup fresh raspberries

1⁄2 cup lard

1.    Mash jerky and raspberries together in a bowl to form a paste-like mixture.

2.    Melt lard. Stir jerky-raspberry mixture into pot, away from heat.

3.    Pour into a sheet of cotton cloth (about 12" × 12") and twist into a ball. Let stand in a cool area to dry.

4.    Once solidified this can be carried for days and eaten on the trail as needed.

Fruit Leather

In a pinch, the leather can be dried on the dashboard inside a car.

11⁄2 cups fresh raspberries

1 teaspoon honey

1.    Purée the raspberries. You can use an egg beater, food processor, or mortar and pestle for this.

2.    Add honey to raspberries and mix well.

3.    Place a plastic sheet or polytarp section on a table. Spread the purée mixture in a thin layer onto the plastic. It should be about 1⁄8" thick. Leave in full sun to dry (be sure to keep insects away).

4.    The leather is done when it is dry and can be peeled up in a sheet from the plastic. This usually takes 6–8 hours. If it is not done in a single day’s heat, you can store, covered, in a cool place and repeat the next day.

Precooked or Pre-Prepped Foods

It does not take much of a fire to heat a kettle. Many foods are easily prepared within their packages now by just warming them. The biggest advantages to precooked or pre-prepped foods are the time they save and the packaging they come in, which prevents spoilage at ambient temperature. Many of these foods come in a single-serving bag or can serve 2 people. They also make great additives to other foods in larger recipes.

Bagged Foods

Many types of dried or easy-to-prepare foods come in bags and may be worth consideration. Good examples of foods that come in bags and are not packed in much liquid, saving space, weight, and room, are:

·        Uncle Ben’s Rice

·        StarKist Tuna

·        Hormel Bacon

·        Santa Fe Refried Beans

These are some of my favorite meals to make with bagged foods, like rice:

Jerky and Rice Bush Pot

I like using Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice for this as it is an easy, quick trail meal.

1 package precooked rice (8–9 ounces)

4 ounces beef jerky

Heat rice for several minutes in a pot of boiling water (leave in bag). Remove from heat. Cut open bag and add beef jerky, then close bag and let stand in the pot of hot water for about 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Tex-Mex Bush Pot

This meal can stand alone or be served with a tortilla and grated Cheddar cheese.

1 package precooked southwestern rice (8–9 ounces)

11⁄2 cups water

6-ounce can of precooked ground beef

1 teaspoon chili powder

Add rice to pot with water. Boil until the mix is heated and thickens. Add beef and chili powder. Cook until heated through. Serve.

Chicken Casserole

You can use leftover chicken for this recipe instead of precooked.

1 package precooked wild rice (8–9 ounces)

11⁄2 cups water

1 package precooked chicken (about 12 ounces)

2 tablespoons dehydrated vegetables

1⁄4 teaspoon garlic

1⁄4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Parmesan cheese, grated

Add all ingredients except cheese to pot. Cook down until thick on low heat. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve with bread or biscuits if desired.

Curry Chicken and Rice

I like Uncle Ben’s Butter & Garlic Ready Rice for this dish, but you can use your preference.

1 package precooked chicken (about 12 ounces)

1 package precooked rice (8–9 ounces)

11⁄2 cups water

Curry powder, to taste

Add all ingredients to pot and cook over low heat until rice is cooked and chicken is heated through. Serve with bread.

Canned Foods

Canned foods are another example in the quick-and-easy category, but care must be taken to check just how much liquid is used in the canning of the product or you may be wasting weight carrying water and could easily substitute something else of less weight and bulk.

Now with that said, from where I stand there is one great advantage to canned food: You have a ready container after the fact for drinking or for cooking other food later without carrying a separate pot. This can be especially handy on a short trip.

The best types of canned foods have pull-top lids so there are no jagged edges from the opening process.

Foods in this category that are readily available are:

·        Yoders canned meats

·        Hormel Chili

·        Campbell’s stews

·        Van Camp’s Pork and Beans

Jarred Foods

Some foods that come in plastic jars don’t require refrigeration after opening and are worth a mention if for no other reason than emergencies. These foods include peanut butter and honey. Alone and without some type of bread or crackers, this is a rough lunch indeed, but it can become a welcome gift in an emergency. Peanut butter and honey are the perfect short-term survival foods in my mind. You will also find jams, jellies, and sauces come in jars and can add a special touch to a meal.

Unfortunately glass jars require special care to keep from breaking. They can be wrapped in things like a layer of bubble wrap or heavy cloth and then duct-taped for travel if needed. Most foods found in glass jars these days can be found in or transferred to plastic jars if needed.

Dehydrated Foods

There are also lots of foods on the market that are dehydrated and only require that water be added to make them very palatable and in most cases very tasty. I am not referring in this text to dehydrated camp meals in a bag, as I find the majority very bland indeed but instead mean inexpensive foods that can be added to other ingredients to make a meal. Again many of these type foods need only be added in some quantity to other bagged foods like rice or beans to make an excellent meal.

There are 2 types of dehydrated foods, those that require the addition of hot water and those that just require the addition of water.

JAHW (Just Add Hot Water)

If you’re going to be lighting a fire for cooking or warmth anyway, dehydrated foods that require hot water are simple to use and can add a lot of variety to your meals.

Soup greens by Harmony House are a good example. They can be purchased in bulk from many places and are a staple in my outdoor pantry. They add flavor to any meal as well as providing needed vitamins and nutrients.

Hunter’s Stir-Fry

This is a great recipe that uses dehydrated soup greens.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons dehydrated soup greens, rehydrated

1 cup (or the amount to your liking) fresh game meat, diced

Seasoned salt, to taste

Add oil to skillet placed over a medium-hot part of the fire. Add greens and meat. Cook through, stirring occasionally. Add seasoned salt to taste, then serve.

Dehydrated potatoes are another great example of this. There are several brands as well as flavors out there. These can also be used to thicken a stew made in the pot; add while simmering.

Rice and Sausage Dinner

You can use any kind of pork or game sausage for this dish.

1⁄2 pound sausage

1 package Knorr Rice Sides (about 5–6 ounces), flavor of choice

2 cups water

2 tablespoons instant potatoes

Brown sausage in skillet over medium flame. Add rice and water. Bring to a boil. Remove to a less hot part of the fire and let simmer. Add potatoes to thicken a few minutes before serving. Serve over fresh toasted bread.

Quick Chicken and Dumplings

1 package precooked chicken (about 12 ounces)

1 chicken-flavored bouillon cube

1⁄2 of a 4-ounce package (about 1⁄4 cup) instant potatoes

1 teaspoon dehydrated vegetables

1⁄4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 package just-add-water biscuit mix (about 7 ounces)

1.    Add all ingredients except biscuit mix to bush pot. Fill about 3⁄4 full with water. Bring contents to a boil and let reduce to 1⁄2.

2.    While stew is boiling, prepare biscuit mix according to package directions. Drop 1" lumps into boiling liquid. Dumplings will form. Add a few at a time to a total of about 4–5.

3.    When dumplings are cooked through (about 3–4 minutes), serve stew.

Bushcraft Tip

Other dehydrated foods for easy fix’n are many types of pasta-based meals, which are high in carbohydrates and taste delicious. I like to boil a package of pasta Alfredo, then add 1 package of precooked chicken (about 12 ounces) and Old Bay Seasoning to taste.

Sausage Gravy

1 pound sausage (can be any sausage of game meat or pork)

1 packet (about 1 ounce) peppered gravy mix

1 cup cold water (or amount indicated on gravy mix packet)

Fry meat in pan on medium heat until browned. Add gravy mix and water. Stir on a lower heat until thick and sausage is cooked through. Serve on any breakfast bread or biscuit.

JAW (Just Add Water)

Many types of mixes for breads, cakes, cookies, pancakes, biscuits, and muffins are on the market now that only require the addition of water to make an excellent addition to or dessert for any camp meal. So many batter-type mixes are available now that it almost makes carrying the old standards of flour, baking soda, and baking powder obsolete. The usefulness of the JAHW and JAW foods is only as limited as the imagination.

There are a great many brands of these items on the market today. Sometimes the best places to find them are at discount and dollar stores. Look for mixes that specifically say “complete” or “just add water.” Biscuit-type mixes are very versatile and can be used for everything from drop biscuits to ash cakes to hush puppies to dumplings. They can be used as stew thickeners as well.

Corn Fry Bread

This is a simple fry bread recipe using a just-add-water mix.

1 package (about 61⁄2 ounces) just-add-water corn bread mix

Water as per mix instructions

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Bacon grease or lard for frying

Stir together corn bread mix, water, and sugar. This should form a mixture thick enough to form cakes by hand. Fry in skillet with bacon grease or lard over medium heat, until browned on both sides.

Hush Puppies and Cream Cheese

You may be used to eating your hush puppies with mayonnaise or ketchup (or nothing at all), but give cream cheese a try!

1 package just-add-water hush puppy mix

Water as per mix instructions

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Cream cheese spread

1.    Mix instant hush puppy mix in a bag with water to form a thick batter that will fall from a spoon in a lump. Heat 2–3" of oil in a skillet.

2.    Once oil is heated, drop balls of mix into hot oil. They should rise almost immediately to the top. Turn once during cooking, Cook about 2–3 minutes each side. Remove when brown. Serve with cream cheese spread.

Tips and Tricks

·        Mother Earth Products sells single vegetables in bulk dehydrated as well as fruits and other mixes for soups.

·        You can repackage some items at home to reduce bulk and weight (throw out the box but keep the inner envelope, for example).

·        One key safety element when reusing cans is to ensure, if you plan to drink from this container, that you check for sharp edges.

·        The nutritional value of peanut butter alone makes it well worth having a small jar in any kit.

·        Pancake-type mixes are much less versatile than other mixes but can be used for some things.

·        Dried milk is a great asset if you choose a good brand. Country Cream is a good one for sure.

·        Powdered eggs can replace fresh ones in anything needing them including just straight-up scrambled eggs or omelets. I recommend Sonstegard brand.