with no allegiance or ego to answer to

Joined Apr 4, 2010
My restaurant now is lake or river shore, where the scent of grilled fish competes with bug spray and pine, most of my patrons are barefoot, their toes wriggling through the sand as they grunt above their soft-shelled crab tacos.

I never went to culinary school, cooked as low paid cooks do, sweating long hours in the tiny galleys of no-name restaurants or for those who hired cause they needed help, not experience. I don't work for an outfitter sizzling ham steaks and eggs on eight 16 inch cast iron skillets. Rather I go in small groups of friends and delight in the local ingredients and snobbery of foreign spice. My first job as a kid was flipping burgers is California at Jerry's Orange-O in Glendale (the best burgers in the world) and I smelled just as bad as you when I got home, most likely worse.

I grew up around home cooks and chef friends, was taught a lot but mostly taught myself. For me, culinary school meant giving up the rest of the Friday & Saturday nights of my life, I wasn’t about to let that get in the way of girls and booze. My passion stayed my passion and not a profession.

So as a cook and lover of the outdoors, as a canoe-camper that considers his knife roll, kosher salt and tongs essential gear on long expeditions, someone who cant pack enough fresh vegetables, herbs and beer, I have questions, with no allegiance or ego to answer to, when I ask... 

(Aforementioned preface I thought necessary, sorry)


What would your professional experience suggest for dishes whose ingredients can keep unrefridgerated yet stay away from the dehydrated or freeze-dried side of the spectrum?


Canoe-camping allows you to carry a wealth of ingredients compared to backpacking. Are their any dishes you think, trailside, three days in, no refrigeration, stored in a backpack with minimal amount of gear to cook over, would impress just as much, for those of us backpackers?


Also, the most important issue of all, Beef Jerky! I would go on an all beef-jerky diet if I could, but let’s face it, my colon would hate me and most jerky out there sucks anyways, what’s your recipe?
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Joined Mar 21, 2008
For jerky a simple salt brine with black pepper and a meat cure is all I use. An hour or so in the smoker then into the dehydrator to dry down.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Give some thought to the kind of spread the yuppie raft outfitters put out every night. Then ask yourself how much of that really requires refrigeration. Then take a tip from some of the things they serve.

Excluding the fact that somebody has to carry it in, backpackers who wish to eat "gourmet" should have no problems on something as short as a three-day trip.

If you start, for instance, with frozen meats there's no problem. Fresh produce certainly should hold for much of that trip. And so forth.

One thing to consider: your sleeping bag is a two-way insulator. If you wrap something cold in it it will stay cold for quite some time. You could, for instance, wrap refrigerated steaks or a package of trout in it, and they'll be fine for the first night. Meanwhile, frozen quail can be defrosting in a side-pocket for the second night.

Sausages and bacons will keep for two-days longer than forever, so they're good choices as well, both as direct eating and to use with other dishes.

Fresh eggs are also simple to carry-in and cook just about any way you like them.

Basically, you're only limited by the strength of your back and your imagination.
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Joined May 5, 2010
Gourmet can also mean simple. Some cheeses need not be refrigerated, Prosciutto can easily be packed and carried. Possibly a French baguette ( if good for only a couple days ) 

I like the idea of fresh eggs. In the USA we wash off the good bacteria on the shells. That's why eggs have to be refrigerated. When the are fresh, they need only be stored at room temperature.

It would seem that dehydrated meats and fresh vegetables is the way to go.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Chefross, the OP specifically asked that we stay away from dehydrated and freeze dried.

If those were options, there aren't too many restrictions. Just about everything is now available in one of those forms, or as an MRE.

Reeock: Something you probably know, but it bears repeating. Pre-cooked or partially pre-cooked products are a lot easier to deal with over camp stoves and open fires. For instance, if you bake a few spuds at home, you've got the makings for home-fries. Use some of that bacon grease and you're good to go.

Take a tip from the colonial days as well. Rangers, miltia, and other woods runners would precook meat and poultry, put it in an airtight container, and pour melted lard over it. This will certainly keep for a few day backpacking trip (they actually carried it for weeks, supposedly with no spoilage). There, again, the lard can be used as a frying grease when it's no longer needed as a preservative.

BTW, presoaked grains and pastas cook fairly quickly. You could, for instance, put some spaghetti and water in a zipper bag at lunchtime. By the time you're ready for supper, it will cook, in boiling water, in just a few minutes. This works with pastas, rice, and other grains. Couscous, of course, just needs to be soaked in boiling water, and is a perfect backpacking "grain" for that reason.

I've found that a universal herb mix makes more sense, when backpacking, than carrying individual herbs and spices. There are plenty of commercial versions if you don't want to mix your own.
Joined May 22, 2010
Powdered milk and some practice will allow for some fantastic breads. Premix all your dry ingredients ahead of time.

Lard is fantastic for shortening, and cooking. Flavourful and safe.

Dry cured meats of all types.

brined meats (though heavy).

Vegetables & fruits are a non-issue, use common sense when deciding which ones to use.

Since you are canoe camping, fish is obviously the protein of choice.

Learn about the edible plants in your area, or, dare I say it, mushrooms. (see disclaimer below)

*Mushrooms can be very dangerous, even fatal. Do not eat wild mushrooms without positive identification.

in fact... forget I said anything about mushrooms at all. Don't eat them, you will die.
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Joined Apr 4, 2010
heirloomer, love the lard! (sounds like a good mantra) speaking of...I'm planing duck confit, full leg not shredded, for my next trip along the Maine coast, any tips or side ideas other than potatos? Have you ever stored cuts in fat on trail? What do you think that max stay is in weather of, say, 70-75 days, 50s at night for duck? thank you so much for your thoughts.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Reeok: Hard to say what the staying power of confit would be. Duck fat has a relatively low melting point, so might not work the same way as lard. I'd be sure and lock it in a zipper bag just to be safe from leaks.

If you're not planning on using the confit the first night, I think I'd freeze it and wrap it in my sleeping bag. That would give you at least 3 days where it would be safe. Further depondent sayeth not.

As for sides with the confit: What about carrots? In the interest of speed, I'd steam them in a little boiling water until almost tender, then finish with a quick saute in a little of the duck fat and sprinkle with chopped fresh tarragon.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Confit: it'll be fine, but you want to heat it back up. Nothing's going to grow in it but surface stuff.

Charcuterie is where it's at: learn how to preserve meat so it's better than fresh.

Take up basic butchering, whack a couple rabbits or birds on the trail, and you're golden. Cheap and very light to carry -- don't carry them at all until you've bagged them.

Last but not least, get your priorities straight. Start doing serious research on what's edible along your route. If you do well, you should be able to go hunter-gatherer right up until dinner-time, at which point you light the fire and start cooking. With luck, you'll get only a mile or two because you're so focused on food.

What --- is that a bad thing?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
If you do well, you should be able to go hunter-gatherer right up until dinner-time

Spoken like a man who's never depending on hunter/gatherer techniques for dinner.

Gathering targets of opportunity as you walk is one thing. But living off the land is a fulltime occupation, leaving little time for much else.

I suggest, Chris, that you try it one time. See how well you do on, say, a 3-day backcountry trip on which you carry in no food. I guarantee, you will never again confuse it with recreational backpacking. And you'll discover, real fast, just how tasty rattlesnake can be.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
You misunderstand slightly. It depends on whether you care whether you get anywhere in particular or not. If you don't care, you carry a small amount of food and basically muck around playing hunter-gatherer for a couple days, and it works fine. I have done this -- not in a long time, and certainly not by myself, but I've done it. If on the other hand you have some sort of destination in mind, you're dead right: hunter-gatherer is totally not going to work unless you get very, very lucky and are very good at it.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Most of the time, in most parts of the country, that also means no animal protein in the ways we usually think of it, because the critters are either protected at all times, or have specific hunting seasons.

Even assuming it's in-season, and you have a license, who's gonna be wacking those rabbits? And with what? You really think you can walk up on a wild rabbit and hit it with a stick? Lot's of luck on that one. And, as you've said several times recently, ain't no way you're gonna kill something furry.

I've done it on a multi-day basis, once for an entire week. But that means, as you imply, setting up a permanent base camp, not merely taking a hike. And those of us involved were experienced hunters, campers, and "experimental anthropologists," with some realistic expectations of success.

Even then, gathering food is a sun-on to sun-gone proposition. And your idea of what constitures food undergoes quite a modification.
Joined Jan 27, 2010
Both of you have a point. For me, we plan how many days and what we have to carry and how many it should be carried. But for you, 50 days plus is really a serious one. I've never experience such days spending on mountains or other camp fires. But when you run out of food, you must also have a second plan on what and how you will do to survive. :)
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