Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dehydrating Flavors for Oatmeal

I am a creature of habit. I like to do the same things in the same order over and over. I even like to eat the same things, in the same way, over and over. The Barracuda has a bit of this. When he likes something, he likes it and that just doesn't change. When something works for him, it works and that doesn't change either. As far as we are concerned, there is no reason for experimentation once you have found what works. Not so much Jules. Jules gets bored. Jules likes variety. So in order to make everyone happy, we go with the tried and true and then try to jazz it up a bit.

Enter the oatmeal.

Oatmeal is a great one for backpacking. It is light, rehydrates and heats in almost no time with very little water, and it is highly filling.

You can buy flavored oatmeal in a dozen or more flavors now, all prepackaged and such. The only problem is that it rarely only contains oatmeal, the packages are very messy when opened, and they are really darn expensive. You then stuck with a bajillion little wrappers to carry around with oatmeal powder gunk on them which inevitably gets wet and then you have oatmeal goo on everything. It's gross. I don't like it. So, much like everything else, we just make our own.

As a general rule of thumb, I packaged 1 cup of oatmeal and 1/4 cup of flavoring per person. This many seem like a lot, and initially it is. However, there is a turning point in any hike when you realize you are not able to consume enough calories. You become constantly hungry in the back of your mind. Even when your stomach is distended and you can't eat any more, you're still kinda hungry. At that point, 1 cup is about right. It fills you up, but doesn't slog you down.

The entire package gets opened and dumped into boiling water. I never measure how much water, I just add until the consistency is about correct. Everything rehydrates in less than 5 minutes. This is usually our lunch so that we can pound between 4 and 6 miles before eating at a nice stopping place. It is filling enough we can then pound another 6 before stopping to do dinner and bed.

The flavorings are simple enough: cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, and apple cinnamon. The cranberry and blueberry are just dried berries from the summer with a sprinkling of brown sugar added. By using jam and cinnamon applesauce we can also stretch oatmeal flavors with products on hand which have been presweetened, but don't contain high fructose corn syrup.

Dehydrating jam and applesauce are a bit of a pain. Luckily you don't need very much. Pour the contents out onto the fruit leather tray of your dehydrator. I tried waxed paper here and it was a complete fail. The plastic fruit leather thing is the way to go.

The Barracuda wants to try strawberry, but I personally think that sounds nasty. I'll probably cave and we can give that one a go, too.

Dehydrate at 145 degrees for a good 14 hours or more. You want them to look like fruit leather and then dehydrate another 8 hours so they are incredibly brittle.

At this point I peeled the blackberries off, ground them up and then dehydrated them again for another 8 hours. They just wouldn't stop being incredibly tacky feeling.

Once they dry out to the point they are stiff or crumbling (or you are just so sick of them you never want to deal with them again), you can package them safely without worry of mold. You want to pulverize the fruit into either small chunks or fine powder in a food processor. If the fruit is in larger pieces it will not rehydrate as fast as the oatmeal and you will either be left with extremely stretchy oatmeal or crunchy fruit. I often will throw in bits of dried apple rings with the apple cinnamon oatmeal as well to give it some added texture.

For the adventurous, you can mix and match your flavors however you would like. Any more than 1/4 cup of any flavoring to 1 cup of oatmeal is a bit overpowering, however.

These are all packaged in mylar and labeled. The mylar can be reused indefinitely and is water tight so you can rehydrate while moving if necessary. This works well when you are freezing. You cut the package open, boil the water and then let it cool till scalding. Add the water to the package and reseal with duct tape. Place the package inside your shirt and walking will gently stir and rehydrate while keeping you warm. Any left overs can also be safely stored in the mylar, duct taped shut, and eaten later in the day. We bring the mylar home, wash and reuse. Since it statics shut, the food residue powder doesn't really come out.

We do not oxygen absorb our backpacking food. For one, it is more weight and two it is really expensive. If we were planning on packaging for months in advance we probably would just to ensure freshness.

7 thoughts:

Mr. H. said...

I really like how you are putting these together and you have given me some great ideas on how to use our fruit leather. I honestly never thought to add it to oatmeal...such a perfect way to use it. Where do you purchase those mylar bags?

Granola Girl said...

Mylar is totally awesome. It can be spendy at times, but if you 'trol around eBay you can often find people who are selling it at a very good price. The bags come in multiple sizes. We have big ones for like 5 gallon buckets, and then small gallon and half gallon sizes. They can all be cut down and then sealed up in whatever size you want, rinsed out, reused that kind of thing. Originally we bought a ghetto version of a fancy mylar sealer and it totally wasn't worth it. A metal level and an old Goodwill iron work better.

Check out P.A.W Productions channel (Delta69alpha) on YouTube. These dudes are HARDCORE, but they know what they are doing as they believe they are staking their lives on it. We have found that watching people who feel this strongly means we get really good and accurate information even if we do not necessarily think the Apocalypse is coming anytime soon.

Mr. H. said...

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

I just looked at it, should have figured they would be in Idaho.:) I like this video series.

If you have not seen it, here is a video series that I enjoy...some of this information is really good -

The Wilderness Outfitter's Channel

Mel said...

We usually go with plain oatmeal or oatmeal with brown sugar. I love the idea of adding fruit, though. Also good point about watch survivalists!

Granola Girl said...

When Jules first started watching Survivalist videos on YouTube, I was a bit concerned. He explained the whole idea of them really being experts and such. To me they looked and sounded a little crazy. Now we laugh about it as we are putting together first aid kits and mylaring stuff shut. :)

Moonwaves said...

Well, dried strawberries taste like jam so I can't think of any reason they wouldn't be really good as a flavouring. I was very boring with my dehydrator last year and apart from one batch of banana slices and one batch of redcurrants I did nothing but strawberries and apples. Not even one lot of leathers - although I only have a very basic one so doing leathers does involve using parchment paper and just seemed like too much hard work last year.

Gail Walsh said...

would you put a little maple syrup in the oatmeal before dehydrating?

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