Hit the trail with homemade fruit leather and other dehydrated snacks

Dehydrated Starwberries
Bringing dehydrated fruit snacks means that you won't have to worry about whether these tasty-looking berries are actually toxic.blackboard1965G via Depositphotos

Snacks are essential for every hiker's backpack. They keep your energy, your mind focused and give you something to do while contemplating the majesty of Mother Nature.

But store-bought snacks and bars are expensive and often contain huge amounts of sugar or preservatives which may seem excessive, even for someone who walks for three to four hours straight. And then there is the packaging. Each snack is individually wrapped for easy transport, but ironically, it just means more waste to transport until you find a trash can.

Making your own hiking snacks, however, is much better. You'll have better control over what you eat and avoid a lot of unnecessary packaging. And the best way to do it is easy: dehydrate your favorite foods.

Ways to Dehydrate

dehydrated mango
If you haven't snacked endlessly on dried mangoes, you're missing out.alisafarov via Depositphotos

There are three main ways to dehydrate your food: in the oven, with a dehydrator, or by building your own dehydrator.

Almost everyone has an oven, so it's no surprise that this device is one of the most commonly suggested dehydrating tools. Simply heat your oven to the lowest setting – often 175 or 200 degrees Fahrenheit – and put your snacks inside. Check them every 30 to 60 minutes to make sure they don't burn or get too hard to eat.

Compared to the other two methods, an oven does the job faster. But because it uses heat, food is often cooked during the dehydration process. It's fine, unless you prefer to eat mostly raw food.

Dehydrators come in all shapes and sizes, cost between $ 30 and $ 150 and usually allow you to dry a plethora of ingredients at a time. Its use is simple and, generally, a transfer process. Aside from preparing the ingredients, setting a timer and pressing the start button, there really isn't much else to do. It is so little effort that, unlike other methods, you can leave the house, leave the machine running overnight or put it away in a corner while it is making sound. job.

Dehydrators preserve food by reheating it – usually at temperatures that are not so hot – and blowing air to remove moisture without cooking it completely. This is why you can still consider what you are dehydrating as a raw food.

The third, more radically DIY, method of drying your food is to create your own dehydrator with a fan, clean air conditioner filters, and dehydrator sheets.

Simply place the fan from the unplugged box on the floor with a 4 to 6 inch wedged edge, power off and air flow directed to the ceiling. Then place one of the air filters on top. On a dehydrator sheet or plastic cloth – the kind kids use for needlework – spread out your food and place another sheet of dehydrator on top. Put a second air filter on it.

If you want to dry more than one layer of food, place another sheet of dehydrator on top of the top air filter, followed by an additional layer of food, another sheet of dehydrator and another air filter – you can stack up to four layers of food on top of the fan this way. Use elastic cords to attach everything to the fan, plug it in and let it run.

Since it does not involve any heat, this method can take up to two days. Check your food about every 2-3 hours.

Tips for dehydrating food

Dehydrated apples
Dry food 101: do not stack your fruit. muro via Depositphotos

There are a few good ways to make sure that you end up with the best batch of homemade dehydrated snacks. For starters, you can dehydrate several types of food at the same time, provided they require the same cooking temperature.

Foods dry at different rates – even if they are similar in size – so remove the pieces that dry first if you can. If you use an oven, this will prevent it from burning. You can also use this knowledge to your advantage by making thicker pieces from food that dries faster. And when you organize your ingredients, make sure they don't overlap, as this would slow down the drying process.

When a batch is finished, which means it is no longer sticky or spongy, keep the snacks in an airtight container to prevent them from being exposed to moisture and to humidity. This will keep your food from spoiling. The drier the food, the longer it will last and storing snacks in the fridge or freezer will further extend the life of your snacks.

Dehydrator recipes

Almost all foods can be dehydrated, including beef strips, tofu and even pancakes. The most commonly dried items for trail snacks are meat, fruits and vegetables, as they contain a highly nutritional punch and good taste after the process.

You can try combinations of your favorite foods and create custom snacks that are perfect for you, but if you need a little inspiration, here are three recipes to get you started.

Fruit leather

Fruit leather
You can make fruit leather with most fruits. They are made of mango. Odelinde via Depositphotos

A healthy staple on the trail, fruit leather is a great way to get essential nutrients when you don't want to carry the weight of fresh fruit.

  • ½ cup raspberries, fresh or thawed, frozen
  • ½ cup blueberries, fresh or thawed, frozen
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • A pinch of salt

1. Mash your food. Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and run it until you get a puree. If you don't like raspberries or blueberries, you can replace them with the same amount of any other fruit.

2. Dehydrate. If you are using an oven, heat it to 200 degrees or as low as possible. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone mat. You must make sure that your tray has a raised edge all around to prevent any liquid from escaping. Pour the mash onto the pan and spread it evenly. It should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Place it in the oven and bake it for about four hours, or until the leather is no longer sticky. Remove it from the oven, then cut it into strips 1 to 2 inches wide. Roll it up or keep it flat, depending on your preference, and store it in an airtight container.

If you are using a dehydrator, you will also want a tray with edges. Wipe the surface with a small amount of oil to prevent the puree from sticking and pour the fruit puree into the pan. Spread it evenly about a quarter of an inch thick. Dry it at 130 to 140 degrees for four to six hours – the time will depend on the amount of mash you put on the pan and the amount of water in the fruit you have used. The process will be done when the mash is tough and no longer sticky. Take it out of the tray, then cut it into strips 1 to 2 inches wide. Roll it up or keep it flat and store it in an airtight container.

Kale chips

Kale chips
Eating your green vegetables has never been so tasty and crunchy. bhofack2 via Depositphotos

Kale chips are a great, ultra-light way to get your vegetables on the trail. Crisp and tasty, they're also easy to dehydrate yourself and much cheaper than store-bought products.

  • 1 bunch of fresh kale without the stems
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • (Optional) 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • (Optional) 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • (Optional) Other seasonings to taste

1. Tear the kale leaves into pieces. Keep them on the size of the tortilla chips. Rinse and dry.

2. Season the kale. Mix the olive oil, salt and seasonings, then pour the mixture over the kale. Use your hands to massage it into every nook and cranny.

3. Dehydrate. If you are using an oven, heat it to 300 degrees. Place the kale on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye out for kale while it is in the oven, as it will turn from green to black in minutes. When the edges of the leaves begin to brown, remove them from the oven. Let the shavings cool and store them in an airtight rigid container to prevent them from being crushed.

If you are using a dehydrator, transfer the kale to one of its trays and dry at 125 degrees for four to six hours, or until the kale is completely dry and crisp. Remove it from the dehydrator and store it in a rigid airtight container to prevent it from crushing.

Dried mushroom

Dehydrated mushrooms
If you've chosen an herbal diet, mushroom jerky is something you can definitely get. muro via Depositphotos

Jerky is a staple food of the trails. Ditch the expensive beef varieties and try this easy and tasty mushroom meat instead.

  • 4 caps of Portobello mushrooms cut into ¼ inch strips
  • ½ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

1. Prepare the marinade. Combine all the ingredients except the mushrooms in a flat bottom dish.

2. Add mushrooms. Mix everything to ensure a uniform coating.

3. Marinate the mushroom strips. You can let them sit for two hours, but ideally you will let them marinate overnight. When they're done, remove the mushroom strips from the marinade and shake them lightly to remove any excess sauce.

4. Dehydrate. If using an oven, place the mushroom strips on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees for two to three hours, or until they are dry and fluffy. Store them in an airtight container.

If using a dehydrator, arrange the mushroom strips on a tray or two and dry at 145 degrees for four to six hours, or until they are dry and fluffy. Store them in an airtight container.