DEHYDRATING HAMBURGER AND BEANS
by Cliff Jacobson
Hamburger and beans form the basis of dozens of outdoors meals. Examples include spaghetti, lasagna, beef and been burritos and chili. Add hamburger and rice or noodles to soup and you have a complete meal. One of my favorite tripping meals is a mix of Oriental Raman soup, with dried hamburger and shitake mushrooms. For more flavor and nutrition add one-half a bouillon cube per person, and some dried veggies.
You can buy dried hamburger from Mountain House and Cache Lake. The Mountain House product is freeze-dried; Cache Lake’s is dehydrated. Both are excellent; you can’t taste the difference. Rehydration takes about ten minutes: start the meat in cold water, bring to a boil, “cover and cozy” for ten minutes then have at it. Mountain House says their hamburger rehydrates in three minutes. Maybe; but it’ll be a lot more tender if you give it more time.
Dried hamburger is expensive—around 50 dollars a pound. But you can dry it at home for the price of the meat. Here’s how:
-- Buy the leanest hamburger you can find—85 percent lean, minimum. Ninety or 95 percent is better.
-- Fry the hamburger (like you’re making spaghetti) until it is well browned. WELL BROWNED! Don’t worry, you can’t over-cook it. Under-cooking, however, can be dangerous!
-- When the hamburger is thoroughly browned, and has absolutely no pink color, scoop it into a strainer and pour a full kettle of boiling water over it. The boiling water will strip out nearly all the fat: fat-degradation is the culprit that causes spoilage. The meat is now about 99.5 percent lean.
-- Set the temperature of your dehydrator to 140 degrees F or “high”. Line each tray with three sheets of paper toweling and scoop the burger onto the sheets, using a metal spoon that has been sterilized in boiling water. One pound of burger per tray is enough.
-- Dehydrate for 24 hours.
-- Re-package the dried meat in vacuum-sealed plastic bags or Zip-lock bags. Double the bags—a single plastic bag is not reliable enough. I keep the vacuum-sealed meat in the freezer until the day of my trip. Room temperature double vacuum-sealed burger will stay fresh for about six months; frozen, it’ll keep for two years. Unrefrigerated Zip-locked burger should be used within two weeks. It is definitely worth buying a vacuum-sealing machine if you want foods to last over the long haul.
Many paddlers bring packaged, dried beans on their canoe trips. They rehydrate the beans in a water-filled poly bottle a day before use. This works, but it’s time-consuming, heavy, bulky and messy. I prefer to dehydrate beans and vacuum-seal them in plastic, just like hamburger.
-- Buy canned beans at your grocery store. Pour the beans, with their liquid, into a strainer. Allow the liquid to drain. Do not pour boiling water through the strainer.
-- Line your dehydrator tray with plastic wrap. Or (better) use commercial plastic dehydrator liners.
-- Pour one 8 ounce can of beans on each tray.
-- Set your dehydrator temperature at 120 degrees or hotter. Your beans will be dry in 24 hours. Double vacuum-seal or Zip-lock them and you’re done. Rehydration takes about ten minutes.
That’s all there is to it!
PS. You’ll find more cool cooking tips in my book, Basic Illustrated: Cooking in the Outdoors.