Confession time: I'm a real food snob. I like to eat things that I know the contents of. I want them to be composed of actual food not some food product which once resembled some kind of natural substance. I'm not big on additives, sodium, weird chemicals, fake sugars, or preservatives. This isn't to say that I don't sneak Lunchables when they are on sale and my son is asleep. I tend to LOVE Lunchables in a very nostalgic way. However, I openly admit they aren't food and they won't really sustain me.
The real food snob thing tends to really come out when we backpack. Jules likes to live on Snickers bars and Pop Tarts. In fact, he often will judge a day on how many Snicker's bars it will take. "Today's a 4 Snickers day...." It makes my pancreas hurt just thinking about it. He also finds Mexi-Velveeta cheese dumped over murshy pasta a culinary delight. I just can't do it. I get why he does it, but I'm not down. I want real food.
This has required a bit of patience on both our parts. Much like combining a household, we have to combine our backpacking routines as well.
Since I'm in charge of the cooking and food within the house, I've also become in charge of the meals we eat when we are backpacking outside the house. Since he has to also carry the food, and is stuck eating whatever I bring, Jules has given me a few parameters:
Can't Weigh A Lot - We have to carry it, sometimes a lot of it, so it needs to be light as possible. Sometimes, we have to mail it and that can be expensive with heavy items. This includes packaging, cooking needs, and bulky items.These are not crazy requests, but when combined with my real food snobbery, they made things a bit complicated. What has come about is the need to find foods what are highly versatile and also extremely flavorful. Once dehydrated, they are then combined with staples like potatoes, rice, or pasta to create multiple meals. Salsa is the best one to date.
Has to be Palatable - This should read, "It can't taste healthy." After a long day of 'packing, Jules wants food that tastes good. It is great that it isn't filled with crap, but it should taste like it! This also means there needs to be variety. I can eat the same thing over and over and still like it, not so much Jules.
Small and Not Messy - Since our food is jammed into a backpack with all our clothes, it can't leak or spill or smell funny. As important as food is, it also has to compete for space, so it needs to be as tiny as possible.
Easy to Cook - Not only can the food not take a lot of time, it can't be crazy complex. We have to conserve as much fuel as possible and we only have 2 bowls (and a Nalgene or two) to use. He also wants to eat, not fuss over food.
Lots of Calories - Both Jules and I have high metabolisms, plus we are burning calories faster than we can eat them. The Barracuda is burning calories growing as well as with all the walking. The food needs to be dense and really stick with us. If we want to eat again in an hour, it won't work.
Last at Least 1 Week - Sometimes we are carrying food for a week, sometimes it will be sitting in a hiker box which was either packed or mailed weeks previously. It can't spoil.
Water Tight - All you have to do is read about New Mexico to understand this one. The food needs to be able to be submerged in water and still be dry inside.
Dehydrating salsa might sound a bit crazy since it is mostly water, but when concentrated you only need a small amount. You can also add it to potatoes. You can add it to rice with chicken. You can add it to tortillas with cheese. You can add it to pasta with beef. Jules might just eat it straight if we could find a way to hike with chips.
Pour the salsa onto the fruit leather tray of your dehydrator. You can also fold wax paper over about three times and pour the salsa onto it. Be sure the waxy side is the side touching the salsa. Experience has shown me it sucks to peal off otherwise. You do not have to worry about full coverage or how thickly it is poured on. Since you are not making fruit leather, thinner is probably better.
Dehydrate it at 140 degrees for close to forever. I usually set the tray on the bottom of the stack and just let it go on and on with everything else dehydrating on top. Check every 8 hours or so and poke at it. You don't want any part of the salsa to be squishy. At 16 hours or so, it should be close to done. Often we let it run overnight.
The salsa will be crackled all over and look way too thin to be able to pull off. Use the tip of a butter knife to pry the salsa up. It will crack and be highly brittle. This doesn't matter because you are going to pulverize it in a bit anyway.
Take the sheets of salsa that come off and place them into a plastic bag. Make sure it closes really well. Then beat the snot out of it. You do not want to put this salsa into a food processor or blender or anything where you will be breathing the dust. It has dried chilies in it and it will burn something crazy.
What you are left with is salsa powder. It will last easily 6 months without any kind of spoilage. A teaspoon works well on the top of potatoes and about a 1/4 cup mixed into rice while it is cooking makes really nice mexi-rice. Half a cup of the powder mixed in while reconstituting hamburger gives you a fajita like taste.