The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)
Part I. Packed-In Food
Chapter 3. Whole Foods That Don’t Require Refrigeration
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
When deciding what foods to pack in, you want to avoid items that need to be kept cool or refrigerated. It is difficult to maintain a specific environment for your food so it’s a good idea to choose products that can tolerate tough conditions.
Many of these foods require cooking, but their preparation doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You’ll find a variety of recipes in this book that will show many different ways to prepare a few simple ingredients.
Vegetables and Fruit
Many vegetables and fruit can be carried for days without going bad and this makes them a viable option for camp cooking. But remember this: these fresh items hold lots in the way of liquid weight and take up some space in bulk, so there is the tradeoff. A dehydrated or otherwise preserved version of these foods will generally take up less weight and space. However, in most cases any fresh item will taste better than something preserved, as well as being more nutritious.
You will need to experiment with this a bit and much of your testing can be done at home before setting off. This is something that just has to be figured out over time by carrying such foods and observing their condition over days. Some things can be tested in the home by leaving food out much like you do bananas on the countertop and then seeing what happens, but this may not replicate exact conditions in the outdoors due to the controlled environment we create in the home.
Seasonality, humidity, temperature, and environment all affect how long these items last without refrigeration, but for me the best candidates that are commonplace for carrying fresh would be:
· Summer squash
· Other thick-skinned varieties of fruit and vegetables
The more fragile the food is to begin with, the more likely it is to bruise or go off before you have a chance to eat it. Delicate berries like blueberries and raspberries are better used as quickly as possible or picked wild and used in camp instead of carried in.
Dehydrating can be done in the home with modern dehydrators, and this makes a convenient way of packing these type foods. They can also be purchased dehydrated online and in specialty shops, as well as local groceries for some of them. Dried and dehydrated items will work in about all applications and have much less chance of spoilage over time.
When planning meals with fruit and vegetables, remember that storing leftovers can be a challenge—half a potato will go brown and spoil much sooner than a whole potato will! So try to use a whole item for your meal.
Cured meats like salt pork are a great addition to a camp pantry as a meat supplement, and salt-cured bacon has been a staple carry for woodsmen for several hundred years. These meats will last a good long time without refrigerants but are not commonplace in markets in most of the U.S. like they used to be.
Cured meats have had some combination of salt, sugar, and/or nitrates added to them to help preserve them. Curing meats also gives them an attractive flavor and color. Dry salt cures used to be common, and the process was called corning (which is why we have “corned beef”). Today salt water is often used and the process is called brining or pickling.
Cured and smoked hams can be very expensive to buy and time-consuming to make. However, again there is the tradeoff of very tasty and nutritious food that did not come from a package. It can be a great addition if conveyance is available.
Smithfield makes the most readily available cured bacon that can be packed and not refrigerated. Other sources can be found at local country butchers.
A single man can carry a couple of pounds of salt pork and eat well with just a few added sundries. There is absolutely something to be said for a couple slices of hot bacon and an ash cake with a good cup of coffee the morning before a hunt.
Many processed grains make excellent choices for the camp kitchen but the one I prefer most is farina, also known to every small child as Cream of Wheat. It makes a good meal when cooked with hot water and is easy to carry.
Many types of oats and oatmeal are also available and they make it easy to cook a filling and nutritious breakfast even if you have little in the way of cookware. Instant oats can be made just by adding hot water. Old-fashioned oats need to be boiled.
Oats and farina can also be added to many other recipes to make other meals, making these grains multifunctional, which to me is an important consideration. Carrying grains in the form of meal like cornmeal really makes a lot of sense. You can carry a JAW packet and use it like the raw ingredient. For example, corn bread mix can be made into an excellent cornmeal mush.
Grains I like include:
· Quaker Oats
· Nabisco Cream of Wheat
· Malt-O-Meal Hot Wheat Cereals
Cream of Wheat Pancakes
This is one of my favorite breakfast recipes, using one of my favorite grains.
11⁄2 cups milk
1 teaspoon oil (vegetable or corn)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup Cream of Wheat
Oil or lard for cooking (a few tablespoons)
Honey or syrup for serving
1. Mix ingredients except oil and honey/syrup. This should form a thick batter.
2. Add about a tablespoon of oil or lard to a skillet and heat to about medium over the fire. The skillet is ready when a drop of batter placed in the skillet sizzles.
3. Spoon about 1⁄4 cup batter per pancake on the skillet. Cook until golden brown around the edges (2–3 minutes), then turn and cook until done (another 2–3 minutes). Add additional oil if needed to cook additional pancakes.
4. Serve with honey or syrup.
Tips and Tricks
· Remember that hard cheeses like Cheddar don’t have to be kept refrigerated but may not hold up well if carried in hot temperatures for long periods.
· Rinse all fruit and vegetables with water before using.
· While you might be tempted to cut up some of these foods ahead of time (like pineapple or melon), remember that you will have to keep cut-up fruit and vegetables cool, which can be a challenge—particularly if you’ll be out in the bush for an extended period.
· Nuts are another whole food and are easy to carry, store, and eat!
· Plan your meals ahead of time so you’re not left with half-used fruit and vegetables that you have no way to store.