Dehyrating Fresh Green Beans

This is a start of a longer series on dehyrating fruits and vegetables. This will give you a preview of how they look and how to process them.

 

Some things lend better to drying if they've been frozen first. Part of this is the pre-processing that goes into the vegetables before freezing and sometimes the affect of the frozen water crystals do to the vegetable's cell structure (mainly breaking their cell walls releasing extra water from the item). Many recommend starting with a store bough frozen green beans and drying from there. If you're making a dried meal but if you're in the prime season for that vegetable like these green beans are, this is how you would get it ready for your trip.  

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First you have to remove the tough ends of the beans as they don't rehydrate well and are just not pleasant to eat. It can be tedious but worth it in on the end.  

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There are a couple of cuts of green beans that come into play for recipes. Whole beans and frenched-cut green beans are the most common. Whole beans are simple. Hand frenching a whole batch of fresh beans would be slow and kind of awful. The food processor to the rescue. Just put the slicer blade on, lay the beans horizontally to the blade and cut away.  

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Several cups of beans will be cut in seconds. Maybe not fine restaurant quality but definitely camping grade. I also like french-cut beans better because they dry faster and re-hydrate quicker too. 

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Next, you need to steam blanch the beans no matter which way you cut the beans. This is preserve the color and start the break down/cooking process of the beans. After 3 minutes of steaming, dunk the beans in an ice bath to cool them down and stop the cooking process. Or you can just rinse them in cold water to cool them a bit of you're short on ice. If you started with frozen beans, you don't have to do this step. 

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Arrange the beans on a dehydrater tray with a solid liner tray if you're doing frenched-cut beans. If you use the mesh liner, they tend to get struck in it as the shrivel. I learned by experience.  Be sure to give some breathing room. Don't over crowd them or it will take a long time to dry.

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Turn on your food dehydrator to 135F and dry for 4-6 hours for frenched-cut beans or 6-8hours for the whole beans. Be sure to have a dehydrator that has a heat regulator and a good fan. I use the Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A. It was around $70 and pays for itself in one 3 day trip. 

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Quite a difference post drying. The beans should be hard and shriveled and be about 1/4 the volume. Make sure the beans are completely cooled before placing them in their final location. This allows them to release all of their remaining moisture. If you live in a place with higher humidity, the beans could absorb more moisture while cooling. You can place them into their final bag while warm and let them distribute any remaining water amongst the bag to avoid this. 

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To re-hydrate for a vegetable only side dish, combine the dried beans with enough boiling water cover and cover the pot or seal the LokSak bag. The frenched-cut beans should take ~15 minutes & the whole beans around ~25 minutes. This is also a good time to add some flavor. I add homemade bouillon powder before boiling further. A knob of butter is always a nice touch for some needed fat. Any extra liquid could be used in a soup after it's been drained off through a piece of clean mesh/bridal veil material. 

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One the left is the frenched-cut beans and the whole beans are on the right. The frenched-cut beans are closer to their pre-dried state. The whole beans are on the chewy side. Green Bean Hot Dish is one of my favorites to make with these.  

Green Bean Facts

1/4 cup dried = 1 cup fresh 

55grams dried = 500grams fresh

 

1986 Old Town Discovery 158 - My Canoe

This is our family's boat. We've owned it for approximately 6 weeks. Until that time, we either rented or borrowed a friend's. While planning our most recent trip to the BWCA, my friend Diggity suggested that we search craigslist for a boat to buy versus renting for the trip. We needed two boats for five people & we planned on doing more  paddling in the future. 

Two days later, we were in the car racing over to Stillwater to pickup the Old Town Discovery 158. We'd found what we were looking for.  When you're searching Craigslist for a canoe, be ready to go look at it/pay immediately. All of the good boats vanish quickly. We were lucky enough to find ours for $400 with some Old Town Scout paddles. They are a little too long for us but that's something to fix another time. 

Here it is: 

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The most important thing about this boat was that it is red, according to my wife at least. She is correct in many ways. There is something about a red canoe. They even write children's books on it. 

This boat is 15 feet 8 inches long. The perfect length between lake and river use. It has a width of 35.5" and a total carrying capicity of 1,100lbs. More than enough room for a big base-camping trip with a family of 3 if you pack the boat correctly. Plus it turns pretty quickly. 

 The previous owners had wrapped the handle with nylon cord. We're not sure why but it makes the hand hold a little easier. We need to make a leash for tying up when going a shore. 

The previous owners had wrapped the handle with nylon cord. We're not sure why but it makes the hand hold a little easier. We need to make a leash for tying up when going a shore. 

 This boat is from 1986. Bucket seats were all the rage I'm told. This boat currently has them but it's on the list of things to replace. Webbed seats will make the seat cooler, faster drying, more comfortable, easier to attach a  Crazy Creek / Granite Gear under seat bag , and will lower the seated position at the same time. That will make the stability of the boat and paddle position better. At $40-50/seat plus hardware, it's not too expensive for all those benefits. That's what other owners of these boats have advocated for a better feel.

This boat is from 1986. Bucket seats were all the rage I'm told. This boat currently has them but it's on the list of things to replace. Webbed seats will make the seat cooler, faster drying, more comfortable, easier to attach a Crazy Creek/Granite Gear under seat bag, and will lower the seated position at the same time. That will make the stability of the boat and paddle position better. At $40-50/seat plus hardware, it's not too expensive for all those benefits. That's what other owners of these boats have advocated for a better feel.

 The boat did not come with portage pads to begin with so I made a trip to visit  Midwest Mountaineering  to check out their selection. The sheer weight of my boat (~87lbs), because of this, I wanted something big and padded. That's how I ended up with  Superior Portage Pads  product. They had the right amount of density for my liking. Not too mushy with a little firmness for control. They also seamed like they would stay a little drier with the cover material they chose. Not bad for $35. I also enjoyed that they were bolt around the yoke versus having to drill. That gives me extra piece of mind that I didn't mess up drilling the yoke on the canoe compromising its strength. I am thinking I will saw down the bolts a little bit to make their profile on the underside of the yoke to be narrower. There was a few times on our most recent paddling trip where I was slipping the day pack up to my son and it got caught on the extra length of the bolts. I will definitely follow up if I decide to modify them. 

The boat did not come with portage pads to begin with so I made a trip to visit Midwest Mountaineering to check out their selection. The sheer weight of my boat (~87lbs), because of this, I wanted something big and padded. That's how I ended up with Superior Portage Pads product. They had the right amount of density for my liking. Not too mushy with a little firmness for control. They also seamed like they would stay a little drier with the cover material they chose. Not bad for $35. I also enjoyed that they were bolt around the yoke versus having to drill. That gives me extra piece of mind that I didn't mess up drilling the yoke on the canoe compromising its strength. I am thinking I will saw down the bolts a little bit to make their profile on the underside of the yoke to be narrower. There was a few times on our most recent paddling trip where I was slipping the day pack up to my son and it got caught on the extra length of the bolts. I will definitely follow up if I decide to modify them. 

 One of the main reasons we were drawn to this boat (besides being red) was the material it is made out of. It is Old Town's Three Layer Polyethylene. For the most part, this boat is indestructible. We wanted to be able to do both Rivers & Lake paddling. This material gives us the leeway to do that. It's also a little easier to repair if /when we need to. As you can see from the image, this boat has been well used over the past 30 years and is still in very usable condition. There is also a little fade in the hull caused by the sun. I plan on applying some  303 UV protective spray  to bring back some shine and prevent further fading. An annual treatment is said to be good for the life of the hull. 

One of the main reasons we were drawn to this boat (besides being red) was the material it is made out of. It is Old Town's Three Layer Polyethylene. For the most part, this boat is indestructible. We wanted to be able to do both Rivers & Lake paddling. This material gives us the leeway to do that. It's also a little easier to repair if /when we need to. As you can see from the image, this boat has been well used over the past 30 years and is still in very usable condition. There is also a little fade in the hull caused by the sun. I plan on applying some 303 UV protective spray to bring back some shine and prevent further fading. An annual treatment is said to be good for the life of the hull. 

 Paddling with my son in the BWCA. We definitely tried to have all the packs closer to him to balance out the boat. He also enjoyed getting to sit in an actual seat versus duffying it in the middle of the canoe.  

Paddling with my son in the BWCA. We definitely tried to have all the packs closer to him to balance out the boat. He also enjoyed getting to sit in an actual seat versus duffying it in the middle of the canoe.  

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Balancing on a log is surprisingly easier with a canoe on your head.

As mentioned above, my canoe weights around 87lb. Making it quite heavy. Luckily I am still relatively young and strong. So portaging this boat is fine for the time being. On this particular trip I was the only one strong enough to portage both canoes (the other was an Old Town Discovery 164 @~76lbs) so I was sometimes doing 600rods a day. As we move towards more campsite moving trip, the allure of a Kevlar is enticing. 

That's my boat for the time being. I will keep updating this post as we make adjustments to the ship throughout the years. This will not be my last canoe but I think we'll own this boat for a long time for river fun. 

BWCA Cooking - Green Bean Hot Dish

When I started to research this dish, it was all comfort food to me. Something hot, creamy,umami loaded goodness. Definitely prefect for those colder days where a good warm up is due.

The original recipe called for a Knorrs Mushroom Sauce Dry packet. As far as I tell, that product has been discontinued by knorrs. The obvious replacement is condensed cream of mushroom soup which comes in a can. In a place where they allow cars, this is excellent. Just be sure you get one with a pull top lid so you're not trying to jab a knife through the sealed can. In places like the BWCA where cans we not allowed, we have a problem with this solution. This is how I solved it. Place the contents of the condensed soup can into a vacuum seal bag, remove the air like normal, and freeze the bag until ready to depart for your trip. This will not keep the bag microbe free but should slow them down. Remember the can started microbe free, so only what we introduce should grow.

 Green beans Hot Dish on the Left.  Linguine with Meat Sauce  on the Right

Green beans Hot Dish on the Left. Linguine with Meat Sauce on the Right

Green Bean Hot Dish

Feeds 4 side servings 

Carry these in a quart size zip lock bag

  • 3/4 cup Dried French-cut green beans
  • 1 teaspoon dried chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons Sliced Almonds
  • 12oz can that's been sealed/frozen condensed cream of mushroom soup or just the can if you're not in the BWCA. 

Carry in very small in a plastic bag

  • French Fried Onions for topping at the end. Usually found in the snack aisle if you can't find them. 

 At Camp

 Bring 12oz of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add the green beans, onions, and almonds to the pot. Removed from Cover the pot and let stand for 10minutes. Then add contents of frozen mushroom soup and bring to a simmer for 10 additional minutes. Very into individual vessels and top with copious amounts of French Fried Onions or less if that's not your thing.

 

This is based on a recipe originally found in The Back-Country Kitchen: Camp Cooking for Canoeists, Hikers and Anglers

 

Moose in the Northwoods

We were finishing packing up our camp on Horseshoe Lake in the BWCA at the end of a 4 day trip. At first, I thought it was a very obnoxious paddler or a loon having a difficult time getting speed up for take off. Then I remembered that moose tend to be loud and not be discrete about their movements. As the fog cleared across the lake, we saw a Northwood's treat, a calf and it's mother crossing the marsh/swamp across the lake. It was a perfect way to end our trip before packing up our base camp.

Two hours later, we finally pushed off. It's funny how quickly the first part of pack up goes and the last 20% takes 80% of the time.  

BWCA Cooking - Meat Sauce

A little glimpse into some of the cooking we did for our 2017 Boundary Water trip. This is a dehyrdated meat sauce with linguine noodles in one pot. In the other pot is a green bean hotdish. This was a great comfort after paddling in the rain for three hours. I became interested in making my own dried camping meals out of customization and cost savings. My wife has issues with some pretty common things like Garlic, Black Pepper, spicy/acidic foods. All are pretty strong staples of the camping kitchen. So finding options devoid of these is pretty difficult so I invested in a dehydrator and here we are. Also those freeze dried meals can add up quickly, especially with a larger group. Homemade is a time investment but I find the whole process to be intriguing and fun. 

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Sausage Tomato Pasta Sauce - Backpacker/Paddling friendly

  • 8oz Italian style sausage (bulk or casings removed) -more if you want meatier sauce, spicy also an option here
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I like red but green works well too) 
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2 gloves garlic minced (or omitted as we do in our house)
  • 8oz tomato sauce (canned or homemade) 
  • 1 tsp dried crumbed basil (Less if you prefer) fresh could substituted but will dry slower
  • 1/2 tsp dried crumbed oregano (less if you prefer)
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • 7 Tbsp tomato paste

Carried separately: 

  • 1/2lb Linguine noodle broken in half, or better yet, pot sized noodles that come pre-cut to the right length.  
  • Shelf stable Parmesan cheese for topping.  

You'll notice no salt added here as the canned tomato products have lots of it already. I try to buy the less salted versions of anything canned if I can but sometimes the extra sodium is good  when you've been working hard. I do add some to the pasta water as it's the only way to season it right away. The tomato paste in this dish intensifies the tomato flavor and stands up to rehydration at camp.

Here's how were going to make this travel friendly. Removal of much of the fat from the sausage and then drying the mixture afterwards. It should be held in the fridge until you depart for your trip. I also like to vacuum seal the mixture for added protection and portability.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium making sure to break the it up by stirring. Cook until no longer pink. Remove sausage from the pan and place into colander, rinse with very hot water to remove the excess fat. Set cooked sausage aside. 

Be sure to have some  fat left in the pan, now add the tomato paste. Cook it for 5 minutes to release some of the can off flavors that may be present. Next add bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic to skillet. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all those good bits of sausage into the mixture. Cook mixture until tender with a little snap left. ~10 minutes. 

Now add the tomato sauce, herbs, Andy drained sausage back to the skillet. Let this simmer for an additional 10 minutes, letting the flavors come together. Turn off the heat.

Spread the mixture over liner sheets or plastic wrap lined trays of a dehydrator. Dry at 150-160 until the mixture is brittle. around 7-10 hours. Cool the mixture completely before packaging to elimate moisture condensation. Remember to keep thing in the fridge until you depart for your trip.

  At Camp

Open sauce package and add 1 cup of boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes. In the mean time, get an additional 3 cups of water boiling with a little sea salt (~1tsp) in a larger pot. Boil linguine for 5 minutes then add the hydrated sauce to the pot. Turn heat down a little bit and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. At the end most of the liquid water should have absorbed into the pasta and/or sauce.

Serve into individual bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese.  

 

This recipe is based on a recipe found in  The Back Country Kitchen: Camp Cooking for Canoeists, Hikers and Anglers