I like to try out new backpacking recipes at home before hitting the trail, so today I baked bread in the Banks Fry-Bake that I was given on Christmas. Very successful, it was tasty and I learned things for next time.
Home cooking has changed a bit in the six decades since River Roads Recipes was published in 1959, so it is worth revisiting and updating this classic. I grew up in Baton Rouge eating from that cookbook, but I’ve been cooking this updated version for a few years. It is time to actually write it down.
Tired of the same old mylar packet of freeze-dried stuff? Here are some sources for tasty prepackaged meals and for dehydrated ingredients so you can make your own. As I write this, a lot of the dehydrated ingredients are out of stock, likely due to new converts to emergency preparedness during the pandemic. I’m sure they’ll be back in stock by the time we are ready to go backpacking again.
These are my favorite trail cooking references and cookbooks, with some explanations of why they are so good.
You cannot complete Cooking merit badge at home, but you can make a solid start on it. Plus, your parents will be thankful for you taking care of several meals.
Cooking is a core life skill. Our younger son was in Scouts before this merit badge was required for Eagle, but he learned to cook in our kitchen and on campouts. Later, he taught it to younger Scouts in his patrol. When he moved off campus in college, he was cooking for the seven people in his house, and teaching one of them to cook instead of serving expensive take-out.
I improvised a dinner with wheat berries and veg. Tina asked what I was making and I said “Wheat Berry Surprise”! This starts with Mark Bittman’s Cooking Grains, The Easy Way then I threw in more tasty stuff.
I used wheat berries (whole wheat kernels), but you can use any grain you prefer. Likewise, the greens could be chard, dandelion greens, turnip greens, etc. Most greens will cook more quickly than the lacinato kale. I tossed in some chickpeas for protein.
The cooking merit badge requires a Scout create menus “keeping in mind any special needs (such as food allergies)”, but doesn’t provide a source for allergy-friendly recipes. It does give a URL for FARE, but that doesn’t have an organized recipe section.
The next version of the merit badge pamphlet should reference Hiking Free: Allergy Friendly Recipes For The Outdoors because that is the only book I know of on the subject.
I use what the professionals use, Tucker Burnguard hot pads. They are made of Nomex, with a vapor barrier, so they won’t melt and are less likely to cause steam burns when wet. They aren’t as flexible as other hot pads, so my wife doesn’t use them. But give them a try. If you like them, you are done with choosing hot pads for life.
They aren’t exactly decorative and the label might burn, but the hot pad will protect you. And…it is about time to toss these in the laundry.
Oh, yeah, this is the Tucker Burnguard site. Here is a link to buy them at Chef’s Resource: Tucker 8″ Square Hot Pad with BurnGuard (Nomex)
. I’ve bought several things from Chef’s Resource, so I’m comfortable recommending them.
Made this tonight and it was tasty. This is a simple one pot meal, just right for Cooking Merit Badge. Scouts will learn to dice an onion (not required for the merit badge, but an essential skill), sauté the onion (also not required and also essential), and brown meat (which is always tasty).
They should also learn a bit of “mise en place”, getting everything ready and in its place before starting. The recipe doesn’t make that clear, but a mentor (Merit Badge Counselor) should walk them through prepping the tomatoes and onion first, then getting the other ingredients ready while those are cooking.
A few weeks ago, I noticed fresh peas in the pod at our grocery store. I was about to buy some, but I wasn’t sure how much to buy. I’d always used frozen peas. Well, the conversion factor is roughly a pound of peas in the pod to a cup of shelled peas. This batch was generous, with two or more cups from 1.25 pounds.
Fresh peas are great, so “double the peas” is like doubling the bacon or the chocolate. Not a problem.
I used fresh peas in the pasta last night, and I’ll keep using them as long as they are available.
Worried about recycling the fuel canisters for your backpacking stove? Just poke holes in it with an old-style can opener, let the gas out, then recycle it. Done.
A kitchen splatter guard is just the right size for a backpacking stove windscreen. It costs $7 and weighs eleven ounces. A little heavy but a good choice for Boy Scout patrols.
It is tall enough to shield the flame of a canister-topper stove and big enough to leave room around the fuel tank so it won’t overheat.
I’ve made this on a few backpacking trips and it has always been delicious. It is several cuts above the normal dehydrated meal. It is simple to assemble at home and needs only a few dehydrated vegetables. On an overnight, it is worth carrying some fresh sourdough bread to accompany the chili.
This is from my favorite outdoor cookbook, The Back-Country Kitchen: Cooking for Canoeists, Anglers, and Hikers by Teresa Marrone, page 125. I’m reprinting it here with her kind permission.
Here we are, enjoying the chili with friends at Eagle Spring trail camp, near Mission Peak.
There are many outdoor cookbooks, but The Magic of Fire by William Rubel is the one that makes you want to build a fire in the back yard right now and roast onions.
Let’s hear what he has to say about those roasted onions, the first recipe in the book.
If you’d like to eat better on the trail, you should get this book with the favorite recipes from more than forty PCT hikers. Most trail cookbooks follow a single style, but this one is a wide-ranging trip through different styles of prep (home dehydration, supermarket food, no cook) and eating (big breakfast, vegan, high protein).
What’s Cooking on the PCT 2015 is the first of a planned yearly collection from Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers.