STYLE

Key ingredients for meals when camping or trekking are easy, lightweight, tasty

05/13/2013 04:48 EDT | Updated 07/13/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Cooking over a fire after a day paddling or hiking can be a true pleasure for many outdoor enthusiasts. But making sure all the ingredients needed are packed safely so that no one falls ill or carries too much weight can be a conundrum for the novice.

To the rescue is "The New Trailside Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for the Camp Chef" by Kevin Callan and Margaret Howard (Firefly Books Ltd.), which is full of practical information such as how to build a campfire, how much fuel to take for a camp stove, how to handle an axe and critter proofing your site.

Callan is a canoe enthusiast, magazine columnist and author of 15 books, including "The Happy Camper" and "Wilderness Pleasures." Howard is a longtime home economist and author of 17 books, including "Preserving Made Easy" and "All Fired Up!: 250 Fresh and Flavorful Grilling Recipes."

Camp chefs will learn how to pack and organize food, keep ingredients and cookware lightweight and add flavour, variety and nutrition to the outdoor experience.

"After you've either backpacked or trekked or canoed all day, you want a good meal because you're very hungry," Howard says in an interview from her home in Owen Sound, Ont.

She thinks people are more conscious about what goes into their food these days and are more likely to want to tote healthy ingredients on the trail. One of her goals was to make sure the recipes weren't complex because lengthy lists of ingredients add to the weight of backpacks.

But most important, the authors had to be mindful of safe food handling practices, including keeping fresh food fresh and frozen food frozen, especially on lengthy trips. "Day three is the magic time when some food items are impossible to keep from spoiling without refrigeration. After that meat, even marinated and prefrozen, and eggs won't last," they write.

How to communicate "before and after the ice" to readers was a challenge, Howard says.

"Forty per cent of the recipes had to be for the first three days before the ice melts and 60 per cent were after the ice melts because even on a boat or in a canoe or a tent, you don't have ice for very long, only in the fancy trailers," says Howard, who has spent many years boating.

"So that was a good test for me too because I'd never had that restriction put on recipes before."

For more flexibility with recipes and to ease the weight of food without sacrificing flavour, Howard recommends dehydrating some ingredients if you're going to be on the trail for an extended period. Removing the water also eliminates the problem of bacteria forming and making you sick.

There are dehydrators available that cost less than $100, but Howard says the process can be done simply at a very low temperature in the oven, usually overnight. Foods can then be rehydrated with water at the campsite. Instructions are provided in the book and items that can be dehydrated are indicated with an icon in the recipes.

"Those products that you dehydrated yourself are so much tastier that the ones you buy," adds Howard, whose career has spanned decades.

Yogurt becomes like a fruit leather when the liquid is removed. Milk and eggs can be dehydrated, as well as spaghetti sauce, fruits and vegetables.

There are recipes using quinoa and lentils, which are easier to carry than potatoes and other starchy food.

Spice blends and flour mixtures can be made at home and packaged in little containers.

There are suggestions in the book for menus for three- and seven-day camps, which can be extended to 14- or 21-day jaunts by taking multiples of some of the ingredients.

Label items carefully and pack according to when they'll be used. "If you knew, because you had a menu, that this is for Day 7, it obviously went at the bottom of the pack. It just makes it work better and makes you less frustrated," Howard says.

She has included a chapter on gourmet weekend meals for shorter trips or for those with access to a fridge, such as in a cottage or larger boat.

Howard says Callan was keen to include a chapter on beverages for relaxing at the end of the day.

"Whether it be a group of campers and he was leading them or whether it was mom and dad with the kids, there was sort of that end-of-the-day relaxation period and that was when he had his bush martinis and so on," she says.

A section on cold weather camping and living off the land, including top wild edibles, are included.

MORE:cpStyle