Last week began the start of the dehydrating season! As we are starting to get back in the swing of backpacking, it is also time to restock the freezer with backpacking friendly meals.
The first thing I ensure we have prepped is a bunch of vegetables to add to meals that tend to feel not too healthy, like box macaroni and cheese, peanut noodles and any meal that is just carb + salt. This recipe is super simple and maintains the backbone for our meals that aren’t simply rehydrated as cooked. These veggies go great with my backcountry peanut noodle dish.
The majority of our backpacking is squeezed into weekends, rather than long thru-hikes, so when I dehydrate I don’t focus on removing all moisture and oil as we keep the foods in the freezer and only pull them out that weekend. Primarily, we dehydrate to reduce weight rather than to make it shelf-stable, so the recipes reflect that. There are a few modifications you can take to ensure the vegetables are shelf-stable, including dehydrating them raw or not using oil as part of the cooking process.
This batch included red and yellow peppers, zucchini, broccoli, crimini and white mushrooms, and onions. The peppers and onions were small diced, the zucchini and mushrooms were thinly sliced and the broccoli was broken into small florets. If you are like me, and especially sensitive to onions, feel free to throw on some swimming goggles and look super glamorous while chopping. Each vegetable was sauteed in olive oil, with salt and pepper. As these are vegetables to be added to other dishes, I try to keep the flavors as simple and complimentary as possible, adding minimal spices. For other dishes, I cook in butter, ghee or bacon fat to add deliciousness. However, I like to keep spare veggies vegan in case any backpacking buddies have dietary restrictions. Feel free to switch fat sources if you don’t know any vegans, or skip the fat source altogether if you require it to be shelf-stable.
I sauteed the vegetables for two reasons: they tend to rehydrate faster and they taste a lot better when they have already been cooked and seasoned rather than adding that in the field. I have often found that it is easier to perfect the flavor at home and simply reheat or rehydrate on the camping stove, rather than bring many elements together, usually at sunset when things are getting cold and I am hangry.
After the vegetables are sauteed, I spread them on the dehydrating sheet with minimal overlapping and put in the dehydrator for 4 hours at 125°F. If necessary, I rotate the pans and allow to dehydrate for another 4 hours. I have found vegetables to be much more forgiving than jerky in a dehydrator, so the dehydrating times are very flexible.
In the end, the vegetables should be dry and flaky, and look kind of gross. Rehydrating often depends on what I am eating them with, for example, peanut noodles, where they get added to the boiling water when I am cooking the noodles. If you want to rehydrate the vegetables on their own, mix 2 parts water to 1 part vegetable, soak for 5 minutes then bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.