BLOG 19. Fresh Food Tricks
by Cliff Jacobson
I like to eat well on canoe trips. Pre-packaged, freeze-dried meals, like the ones you buy at camping shops don’t cut it. My food comes exclusively from grocery stores and where possible, it is organic. I dehydrate hamburger, chili beans and salsa then vacuum-seal them for the long haul. I carry fresh vegetables—onions, peppers, celery, carrots, potatoes—and fresh eggs (I despise powdered eggs!). The veggies will last about 10 days on a canoe trip if they are properly prepared. Eggs will keep for weeks if they’re fresh from the farm and their shells are intact.
|Cliff cooks "pita pizza". Kopka River, Ontario|
TREATING THE VEGGIES
Potatoes and onions need no treatment. I just wrap them individually in a sheet of paper toweling (to prevent bruising) then pack them in a porous (don’t use plastic!) cotton bag.
Peppers, celery and carrots are washed in clean water than allowed to soak for three minutes in a solution of water and chlorine bleach. How much bleach? The old Boy Scout method for purifying drinking water was to add 4-8 drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water. The water was then allowed to stand for 30 minutes, after which, it was aerated by pouring back and forth from one canteen to another. Most of the chlorine gas evaporated during mixing. I use a similar procedure but with more chlorine. I simply fill my sink with cold water then add about one-fourth cup of bleach (it’s not rocket science). The bleach kills surface bacteria and molds.
When three minutes have passed, I pick out the veggies (with very clean hands!) and dry them with paper toweling. Then, I wrap each veggie (separately) in a sheet of paper toweling. The paper-wrapped vegetables are then placed in a cotton bag. Treated this way, they’ll keep for about ten days, if they aren’t bruised in transit.
To prevent bruising, I place the cotton bags at the top of my woven pack-basket or a #3 Duluth pack. The type of pack doesn’t matter as long as it’s an “upright” unit—that is, one that sits upright in the canoe. Packs that are laid flat while canoeing then turned upright for portaging jostle the vegetables when the packs are turned. Still, they’ll work if you’re careful.
To use the vegetables for a meal: Use very clean hands and a very clean knife and cut off just the amount of veggie you will use for your meal. Re-wrap the cut vegetable and return it to its cotton bag. If you are very fastidious and want to keep your veggies “healthy” as long as possible, sterilize your knife blade in boiling water before you begin.
|Cliff prepares supper. Note the fresh salad in the Zip-lock bags (lower right) and the cozy-covered cooking pot.|
The dangers of chlorine: Yes, chlorine is a carcinogen if it is taken internally in large amounts. And, chlorine gas will certainly kill you if you inhale it. But the chlorine you soaked your veggies in has long evaporated. Still, if you are concerned, simply wash the part you cut off. Be aware though, that local surface waters contain microorganisms. Unless you’ll be cooking the vegetable in boiling water, you’re probably better off not to wash it.
Carrying fresh eggs: Farm-fresh eggs will keep a month or more if the shells remain intact. I buy locally raised, fresh organic eggs. Where possible, I select small eggs—they have thicker shells than large eggs. And I specify cardboard, not Styrofoam containers. I wrap each cardboard egg carton in a few sheets of newspaper, taped down at the edges. The carton then goes inside a large zip-lock bag (insurance against a broken egg). This unit is placed at the top of a pack. I’ve packed and carried my eggs this way for decades, on trips that lasted a month. I can’t remember when I’ve had a broken egg!
|No-cook lunch. Along the North Knife River, Manitoba|
Warning! Do not break eggs into a plastic bottle as recommended by some “authorities”. Eggs are among nature’s most perfect food and bacteria will wildly attack them. You can become seriously sick, or worse, by eating eggs that have been broken into a bottle!