Canoe trip foods - ideas needed
I am planning a 2 week canoe trip to the boundary waters canoe area and need some ideas for lightweight (portages between lakes) meal ideas for two. We will have a one burner stove for cooking, no refrigeration, and are not allowed to bring bottles or cans. This is such a creative group and I imagine you will have some wonderful ideas for us on this adventure. While I know there are boil in camping foods, these are not to my chowhound standards. Please help with some creative ideas you may have used or can think about to prepare for a tasty trip.
Here's what I would consider bringing:
Water (and water purification system such as a SteriPen or purification tablets)
Coarse ground cornmeal (for grits or a breading)
Various dried herbs and spices, including pre-ground black pepper
Beef and/or chicken bullion cubes
Crackers (can crush for breading)
Sharp cheddar, block (remove from plastic and wrap in cloth)
Box macaroni and cheese with powdered cheese packet (re-packed to conserve space)
I am bringing a nesting set of pots, knife, spatula, spoon, cutting board, one burner stove. If I can convince my partner, maybe a frying pan for the supposed fish we will catch. We are going rather minimalist as we are both in our sixties and want to be able to portage without too many aches and pains. The less we have carry, the further we can travel into the wilderness.
It depends on the temperature it's going to be kept at. In a hot climate, a few days. In a cool or cold climate, a few weeks or more. The more the cheese is eaten, the better it's texture because it will begin to harden after a while since it's not wrapped in plastic. Frequent eating or simply lightly shaving the hard places off solves this issue.
The drier/harder the cheese, the better it will keep without refrigeration. It's best stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.
Cloth prevents moisture from building up on the cheese. Plastic would hold this moisture right up to the cheese accelerating its spoilage, while the cloth will allow the moisture to evaporate, thus extending its life.
I learned this method from a mega cheese expert who works at a cheese house up in Wisconsin and who knows WAY more about cheese than I do. His biggest emphasis was on re-wrapping the cheese in a new, clean wrapper every single time it's taken out of the refrigerator and opened.
He said done this way, many cheeses will keep forever.
I have two blocks of cheddar that I bought more than two years ago from him that is still sealed in the cheese drawer of my refrigerator. I'm planning on opening one at the 10 year mark and the other at the 15 or 20 year mark.
If you have time to get a book before the trip, Laurie Ann March’s “A Fork in the Trail: Mouthwatering Meals and Tempting Treats for the Backcountry” would be an excellent choice for preparing civilized meals in the backcountry.
When camping, I tend to keep it very simple and leave the fancy stuff for home. Instant food from the supermarket that you would never eat at home can come in very handy if it’s fast, filling, and nutritious, and if it doesn’t have to be boiled for long, so as to not waste fuel. Freeze-dried outdoor packaged food can be bland and expensive.
Instant rice, couscous, and bulgur work well for grains. The problem is to get something sauce-like to go well with them. Mexican tortillas are a nice addition, will keep for two weeks, and unlike other breads can’t get much flatter than they already are. Naan bread is a tastier option, but doesn’t keep as well. Good bagels can be a treat for the first few days, particularly fried both sides in butter. Instead of oil or regular butter, consider a small plastic jar of Indian ghee, which is tasty, stays relatively solid at higher temperatures, and doesn’t go bad in the heat.
Of supermarket instant food for camping, I recommend packages of Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express Entrée (1 per person). They are cheap and tasty pre-prepared and vacuum-sealed rice meals. Because prepared foods tend to be low-key, bring some shallots, garlic, and hot peppers along, sauté them in the ghee, add any relevant spices you may bring along, add the rice mixes and cook through. After a long day of paddling or hiking, this is easy and tastes really good.
For coffee, Starbuck’s instant packages are expensive, but taste good. A better option is to buy two MSR Mug Mate coffee cup filters, which take up little space, and bring your own ground coffee. Hard apples (perhaps seasonal imported ones from New Zealand) keep well, and the cores are small for packing out. Also, bring a few treats along, just generally.
With fishing, getting a large enough pan that works with a one-burner backpacking stove could be tricky. Also, considering that you’ll be tenting, bears love smelly fish! And the entrails, heads, etc, have to be disposed of somehow.
One last thing. If you don’t have one, consider getting a lightweight tarp with multiple cords attached that can be strung up for cooking under if it gets rainy. They would probably have them at REI in Minneapolis and other outdoor stores in the area.
[With cheese in cloth, I believe if the cheesecloth or whatever has been soaked in a little vinegar, it doesn’t go mouldy as fast. Parmesan would be another cheese to consider.]
Hard sausages are nice. Eat plain or chop and mix in with grains while cooking. I like adding the shelf stable Chinese sausages to my pot of rice. When the rice is done the sausage is hot too. I throw in scallions, etc.
Cabbage will hold up fairly well and gets smaller as you use it!
I love lentils and they cook fast and don't require soaking.
A tube of tomato paste will add nice flavor and variety.
i'm going to do my best not to repeat, so to add to the list... if they don't appeal, don't judge me :) :
--both heatable with jarred sauce (your own or purchased) and cheese
-shelf-stable tofu (firm or soft depending upon plans)
-instant miso soup
-TVP (textured vegetable protein) - great for replacing ground meat in chili or soup or whatever
-powdered ingredients for cornbread
-dehydrated mushrooms and sundried tomatoes - once rehydrated, the leftover water makes a nice addition to broth
-bisquick - to make dumplings...
-in addition to the aforementioned couscous and bulghur, farro, barley, quinoa
-tapenades - olive, eggplant, etc
-pitas - ready made hummus or the fixings
-ten grain cereal a la Bob's Red Mill
-shelf-stable cream cheese (never know when it'll come in handy)
-nutella - see above re cream cheese
-rice pudding - instant pudding, powdered milk, and rice...
-spring or summer roll rice paper wrappers
-ingredients for bannock :) http://www.netwoods.com/cooking/banno...
Nice! I just sent the link to my sister-in-law. Our husbands (they are brothers) are too late for this year, they are in the mountains right now, but there are some cool things on the site for future trips. Car trips, camping, sailing, etc.... and for those days I want Hardee's biscuits and gravy, and they don't offer Tabasco! Why, I have a bottle right here in my purse!
Emme and 1POINT21GW both provide excellent suggestions.
A lightweight tarp is an excellent investment, particularly in that area, because you can’t cook in your tent and things will get soaked elsewhere if there’s rain. (Lingering odours would make the tent the go-to place for every rodent in the area.) Each time I’ve driven the north shore of Lake Superior I’ve encountered rain and fog at some point. A good tarp makes the difference between being miserable in the rain and absolutely enjoying it as a wonderful natural phenomena and coping with it productively.
People might be surprised when I recommend to Chowhound the modified Uncle Ben’s packages, as well as other supermarket fixes for camping. But believe me, after a full day of hard labour paddling and portaging, the last thing you’ll want is to have to produce a complicated, time-consuming meal. Instead you’ll probably want to just stuff yourself with some satisfying food, clean up, go to the point and watch the sun go down, then hit the sack so you’re fit and ready for the next day. The natural environment should be the focus, more so than the food. When you come out from the park, then go to a nice restaurant and splurge on some fine dining before going back home. It will be all the more enjoyable.
I agree with VF completely. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on the wonderland trail around Mt Rainier and we packed the same basic meal for each of 12 dinners and breakfasts. I didn't regret it, but part of the reason we went so simple was because we were so busy with wedding planning we couldn't spare any extra time to plan backpacking food--you may have more time to plan this out. We used a couscous/TVP/vegetarian chili combination for dinner meals (easy to cook, we added cheese for flavor). For breakfasts we had a whole grain nutty cereal mix to which we added dried milk as we packed it. We could add cold water to make cold cereal with milk, or hot water to make hot cereal (we did this more and frequently added berries we'd foraged by the trails). Lunches were cheese, hard sausage, trail mix, tortillas, peanut butter and dried fruit. Oh, and dark chocolate. Bring that.
Consider a bear canister for safety; makes a good camp seat as well.
Some great ideas here. I absolutely agree with VitalForce that you should make meal prep easy on yourself and save your energy for the paddling. In the convenient-but-not-camping-food department, look for Indian boil-in-bag meals. Trader Joes or TastyBite are good and the most widely available, if you aren't in an area with Indian stores. Use them with instant rice or one of the other grain options given, You will probably want 2 per person for a meal. I also highly recommend making your own dream trail mix -- mine is pistachio + cashew + dried cherries + M&Ms (+ maybe golden raisins). It's great to have absolutely every bite of mix be your favorite things -- make two bags if you and your partner have different tastes. Bulk food stores or Trader Joe's are great for this. Neither of these are the lightest weight, unfortunately, but worth it IMHO (use them in the first few days). Remember that both Nutella and peanut butter are terrific on apples -- really nice when you feel everything else you're eating is starch-heavy.
We often use take couscous - great quick fix with anything. Quinoa also a good one. Otherwise as people have mentioned - dried tomatoes and mushrooms are a great addition. And don't be scared to take fresh things for the first while - up to about 5 days, you can get away with fresh tomatoes, things like courgettes etc.
I wouldn't take anything like dried beans unless your fuel supply is limitless - not worth the time & fuel to prep.
Salami is also great - can add it to pasta sauces etc.
Ooh and don't forget spices & curry powder - small & lightweight but can make all the difference!
oh and a few more things - apologies if there are repeats
- you can buy small bags of coconut milk powder - great if you take some curry pastes/ ingredients
-red lentils cook fast and are delicious with just some stock, but you can add anything to them
-if you;re struggling for the sauce element, a few 'instant' type sauce mixes are worth having. Super light & space-saving, and you can add real food (like dried sausages/ mushrooms etc) to them to make them more tasty
As some one who has enjoyed the outdoors for many years I began to realize meal preparation and cleanup should not interfere with the focus of the trip( and it was) be it fishing ,kayaking, hiking etc. so I discovered with some exploration that some ethnic stores that were foreign to my experience. Just yesterday I shopped a kosher Moroccan store buying couscous za'taar and beans .I realized after woods that they also were selling store dried (just add water ) mixture of veggies .that would be great for a camping trip .I also at another store that sold Indo/paki products bought a meal in a pouch for $.99.like they have in supermarkets now at a higher price.Years back I found a German butcher that sold this flat dried sausage that was excellent and easy to store.
Various notes, as I've done several canoe-camping trips, though I've never been up to the BWCA:
Agreed on couscous -- couscous, dried vegetables, and seasoning will make a nice lunch, too, if you just add cold water at breakfast-time and let it hang out for a few hours.
I bought a dehydrator basically for canoe-camping, so that I could make my own stuff -- successes included rosemary-chickpea pesto (to add to pasta or couscous), lentil soup, dried pineapple, dehydrated garlic (sliced), which has much more fresh-garlic flavor than garlic powder, and dried tsubushi an (i.e. red bean paste). If you cook beans/rice you can then dehydrate them for quick-cook foods that aren't nasty like minute rice. (It won't be as good as fresh-made, but it'll be good.) And my non-veggie husband made what he said was the best beef jerky he'd ever had. If you keep doing this, you'll probably want one too.
You can buy the powdered cheddar for mac & cheese in bulk -- I like adding it to freeze-dried tortellini for a more protein-y dinner than just mac & cheese. Also can be good added to biscuit/bannock mix. Pre-make fry-biscuit and pancake mix if you're going to make them -- dried buttermilk powder = amazingly tasty pancakes.
I have the vegetarian version of the Fork In The Trail book someone else suggested -- the veggie one is awesome, so the original is probably great too.
Asian supermarkets have a lot of dried foods, too. Dried mushrooms, dried seaweeds, other dried vegetables.
Also, if you haven't done this before -- take some add-boiling-water-to-pouch foods, because you may get tired and cranky and calories will be more important than taste. That's a lot of why I have a dehydrator -- so I can make chowish just-add-water foods. Label everything. Put meals into bundles, so you just reach into your food bag and grab an entire meal. You don't want to stop eating because cooking sounds too hard. Try out a few meals at home to make sure they're approximately the right size (try after an afternoon doing something physical, so you're hungry and have sweated out some electrolytes), because leftovers will bring animals, so you want meals that you will eat all of.
Instead of commercial Bisquick, you could partially mix up the ingredients for a batch of Scottish scones at home, then cook them griddle-style as bannock on the frying pan component of your stove.
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (from powder)
You could either mix the buttermilk on site or figure out how much powder would be required and add it to the mix at home, just using portions of it at a time divided into small freezer bags. Thoroughly cut in the butter with your fingertips. Add the milk and mix, turn onto a floured board, knead slightly so it coheres. Divide into pieces that will fit 2 or 3 in the pan and expand while staying separate. A light touch is necessary. Oil or butter the griddle pan, heat to medium-hot, cook 5 minutes or so on each side until risen and light brown.
The butter and milk should ideally be somewhat cold, as they would be in the morning. Getting the cooking temperature right could be a challenge depending on the stove’s ability to maintain a range of steady temperatures besides off and full-blast. Try it ahead of time, and try various thicknesses of the dough to see which cooks through best.
Or, buy some Bisquick. There is also the Outback Oven, which is said to work quite well. But it’s more weight to carry on those long portages!
I've only made bannock a few times, so I don't have a "perfect" recipe yet, but it's basically just flour, a tiny amount of baking powder, and salt, plus I added spices and cheese powder to a batch to use as dumplings in soup. I'm still experimenting with the consistency there, so I'd say hit up google and try a few things at home.
I'll type up my pancake recipe when I'm at home -- it's my normal buttermilk pancake recipe, just with powdered buttermilk and egg replacement powder. I mix everything together in a plastic baggy and don't bother reconstituting it separately -- the only thing that is separate is the small amount of vegetable oil that goes in the batter, and I just squirt that out of the bottle by eye.
The dry buttermilk powder (Saco brand is what I have around me) makes such tasty pancakes that I've switched to using it at home instead of soured regular milk. Though I use real eggs at home. :)
I've never actually used commercial bisquick, so I'm not exactly sure how it behaves -- my basic biscuit dough recipe is 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 cup milk, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/4 cup butter, and will work with oil in place of butter just fine -- you can't make perfectly flaky biscuits with oil, but you can make tasty ones. It would probably make fine bannock as well.
Lots of good ideas here! I lived in Ely MN for 5 years and survived many a wilderness trip to the Bee-Dub. Don't forget the DEET, but this time of year, the skeeters won't be too awful bad.
I am sure you have googled for backpacking recipes. In my experience, the prepacked freeze dried camping foods all taste like boiled dachshund--you will have a much better experience if you pack grocery store foods. You may have to relax your chow standards--but food cooked and eaten outdoors, after a long day in the canoe all tastes good. Take spices, fresh garlic, maybe an onion or two. You will not want to be carrying a lot of fresh food--some of those portages are killer, and keeping the weight down is important. (Bourbon comes in plastic bottles now--a nightcap around the fire is a sure cure for sore muscles and sunburn!)
NO need to take water--you will be surrounded by water. Take a filter, and get your water out in the middle of the lake, not near shore.
There used to be a line of precooked, dehydrated bean dishes called Bean Cuisine. They were delish, but of course, they are no longer being made. This site http://www.soupsonline.com/c-100-simp... has some packaged mixes that sound pretty good. I never have done dried beans on the trail, but some of my friends do--put your beans into the soaking water in a plastic jug the night before. They do take a looong time--maybe save that meal for a layover day.
Take hard cheese--parmesan or asiago or romano--an a little grater. Cheddar type cheese will last for several days, and butter, in a plastic bottle, will last the length of your trip. Eggs, in a proper container, will also last a few days. You will be able to buy frozen meat/bacon in town before you leave--wrap it in every insulating thing you have (sleeping bags work well) and you can keep it cold a day or two. After that, eat your fish. (But don't count on catching fish--I have seen some hungry peeps out on the water!)
Bears rarely eat campers :) but they will haul your backpacks off if you leave them unguarded. You will watch an orientation film at the ranger station when you check in for your permit (you do have that already, don't you?) and the film explains how to hang your bear bag high between two trees. You need 50 feet of strong cord, and a couple of little pullies to make life easier. Bear barrels are also available, and are simpler. If you leave your tent up and go for a day trip, unzip the door before you leave. Saves the bears the trouble of unzipping the walls for you.
I don't know which entry point you are using--Grand Marais has great food and interesting shops. Ely has some good restaurants--the Chocolate Moose is a favorite, but noisy. If you are going out of Ely, stop at the International Wolf Center, the Bear Center, and, my personal favorite--Soudan Underground Mine State Park, for an experience you will never forget.
Good point about the odds of catching fish. We did the BWCA years ago and had great expectations of eating fresh fish every night. Four adults, two with much experience fishing MN lakes, and we didn't catch a one. I forget what we ate but we all relished our nightly cocktails of powdered ice tea mix and vodka.
I usually buy my dehydrated stuff in bulk, and then take it and the stuff like bisquick and pack it in ziplock bags, then I put the ziplock bag, still slightly opened, and put it into a "vacuu-suck" bag, and vacuum seal it in case it gets wet.
Then I have a dry ziplock bag inside with it to reseal it in case stuff goes in the water or gets dropped in a puddle.
I usually take Mountain House stuff. I like the Chili Mac, though I add chili powder to it. Same for the chili mac that comes in an MRE pouch. It provides protein and carbs and the kids eat it too lol.
I realize weight is an issue, but you may want a bit more variety than dried/freeze-dried items. Maybe bring along a few small steaks frozen solid. Wrapped/insulated well, it should keep awhile and cook them maybe 3-4 days out, when defrosted.
The Middle-Eastern spice and herb mix, Za’atar, is a great suggestion by Scunge for part of a camping breakfast or lunch. Mix it with some olive oil until it’s a runny paste, perhaps add a little salt, then smear it on a warmed pita or naan—absolutely delicious. You’ll have to brush your teeth afterwards though!
Based on backpacking trips, I've got two suggestions for you: 1) brie and sturdy crackers, it's got lots of calories and gets better tasting when it gets warm; and 2) something so that you don't have to only drink water. I like water and drink a lot of it and you'll need to do so also, but I've been on trips where we ended up fantasizing about drinking a Coke after four or five days of nothing but water. Throw in a few Crystal Lights so if it is a problem, you can at least have something that tastes different.
A quick question, are you using an outfitter or are you gathering all of the gear on your own? If you're using an outfitter, they certainly could help you with a list of food ideas and gear you need. I saw mention of a tarp, that is a definite yes. I haven't been up to the BWCA in years, (heck, the WWW was tiny back then) but I know there are websites with lists of things you should bring with you that might not be obvious.
re: John E.
Thanks for the tip, John. We are going it alone, strapping the canoe to the car, assembling our various gear, etc. Its just this is the longest trip we have ever tried to manage without a resupply. I am truly concerned about taking enough light foodstuffs which will keep us for two weeks and also not attract too many critters with its wonderful aromas.
Besides the two “A Fork in the Trail” cookbooks, another potentially useful book would be Tim and Christine Conner’s “Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’”. The books can be had from Amazon.com in a couple of days. In the latter book there are plenty of recipes for lightweight meals partly reconstituted on the trail, which could be fixed up with additions in some cases. They are also advocates of drying food, but there are lots of off-the-shelf dried possibilities.
Instead of Tupperware, you could consider wide-mouthed and non-leaking Nalgene bottles for reconstituting dried food while still in the canoe and Lock & Lock containers (the L&L available at Walmart in various sizes). The Lock & Lock containers can’t open accidentally and don’t leak. But they would add a bit more weight.
Amyamelia’s earlier suggestion of bringing along a bear canister for packing some food in (as well as hanging food and other things with smells away from the tent) is a good one. They’re completely inaccessible to bears, mice, racoons, etc. And, as mentioned, they make a good seat in camp. See the REI website for reviews.
For pasta, De Cecco cappellini cooks in 2 minutes -- will save your fuel.
Hillshire Farms and other fully cooked kielbasa, etc. is good. If you start off frozen, you might be able to save them for Days 3-4.
For long-term protein, I implore you to see out American country ham. Here in the South, it comes sliced and vacuum packed. It is common to see it out on s stand away from refrigeration. Unless it gets really hot, you'll have protein into Week 2. You only have to sear it a minute of so each side.
Adding to the book recommendations: http://www.amazon.com/The-Back-Countr...
I like the way they tell how to pack meals.
My husband does a lot of backpacking, in fact, just took off today for 8 days in the high country. No fishing. Over the years, he and his brother have perfected their routine. They plan every single meal, have it and the ingredients packed. No "pantry" of items to bring to choose from; the ingredients needed are packed with the meal. They plan, plan, plan.... then gather their stuff, assemble the meals, pack it. They have each day's meals in a bag. Breakfasts are simple, dry cereal, milk powder (all pre-measured, in baggies, for each b'fast), lunches are mostly on the trail, with a variety of hard candies, nuts, peanut m&m's licorice, dry salami, etc. They split the dinners, each bringing so many dinners for two, stuff like mac-n-cheese with dried hamburger, noodles/gravy, spaghetti. They dry their own hamburger.
I think the key is their planning. Every meal is planned and packed, as a meal.
We backpack, so weight is always an issue, but i love to allocate some of that to popcorn. You probably need to eat it out of it's pot, so you have wait for some cooling, but it's a great treat after dinner.
Make some ghee as it will keep better than butter. And/or bring oil.
I bring a baggie with flour and spices for coating the fish that we hope to catch.
Asian markets are a great source of packaged sauces which you can use on noodles or couscous or rice or even on any fish you catch or a protein you bring the first day.
Some dried foods can be soaked in a waterbottle before cooking to cut down on how much gas you use up.
Plan big breakfasts. You'll want them and the energy for the day.
Peanut butter for quick lunches. With rolls or crackers or tortillas...
Everything tastes better outside after a hard day on the trail (or lake)...
Two minor suggestions...........along about Day 10 or so, one of those Summer Sausages diced up or the precooked bacon can liven up a meal, especially if you happened to take along one of the small Penzey's spice jar mixes.