With summer heating right up, outdoor explorers from coast to coast are heading into the Canadian backcountry for a night (or two, or more) of camping. Undoubtedly, enjoying a nice meal under the open sky is one of the highlights of any camping trip, and while it is easy to keep it simple and stick to hot dogs and s’mores, getting a little creative with your cooking can really enrich your outdoor experience. Here are a couple of tips for turning your run-of-the-mill camping meal into a gourmet treat:
A quick and easy way to whip up some breakfast burritos is to create an omelette mix before heading out. Whip up some raw eggs with a little milk, add grated cheese and chopped vegetables including onions, diced tomatoes, red pepper and spices. Store your mix in a lightweight plastic water bottle. Tortilla wraps are a lightweight option that can be used for lunch as well, and they won’t get squished in your backpack like bread.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to be bothered with cooking breakfast, these breakfast burritos can be made at home, wrapped in tin foil for storage and are easy warm up on the bbq or fire.
Instant oatmeal is another great lightweight option to bring with you and you can combine it with dried fruit, nuts and other treats for a nutritious and tasty backcountry breakfast.
If you have access to a dehydrator, it is really simple to make lightweight and tasty snacks to take into the backcountry. Especially if you are heading out on an extended journey on foot, minimizing weight is essential.
A good, lightweight and easy option for snacks is dehydrated fruit slices. Making your own fruit leather or apple chips is super easy with these four basic steps.
- 1. Wash, peel and core apples.
- 2. Slice apples thinly and evenly (1/4 inch), use a mandolin if possible.
- 3. Soak slices in 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 quart water to avoid any browning.
- 4. Place rings on dehydrator trays leaving a little space around each slice for air circulation.
For the more adventurous camp cook – making your own homemade beef jerky from your last hunting trip is also a great way to pack along some tasty protein into the wilderness. This recipe is a little more complicated so check out this informative tutorial on making your own beef jerky in a dehydrator.
Packing along some cured meat, cheese and multigrain crackers makes for an easy camping meal with minimal prep time. Summer sausage is an excellent choice, as it will keep just fine in warmer temperatures. Likewise, it is best to pack firmer, aged cheeses with low moisture content such as cheddar, asiago or parmesan. These will keep well and won’t sweat or get flabby in your backpack and can be rolled up in wraps for a heartier meal.
Backcountry Steak Marinade
A nice cut of meat cooked on a fire or grill can be one of the tastiest things you will ever sink your teeth into, and any chef will tell you that a good marinade is key to producing really outstanding flavour. The longer a piece of meat soaks in a marinade, the more flavor it will absorb.
For steak, this soy-sauce based marinade from Layers of Happiness is an excellent choice. Prep your steak by placing your cut of meat in a zip-loc bag with your marinade and put it in the freezer 24 hours before you leave for your trip. Your meat will thaw on your way to your destination, staying cool and preventing spoilage as well as acting as an additional ice pack to help keep your cooler chilled.
Chopping vegetables at home and placing them in a sealed container with butter and your favourite seasoning is an easy way to prep for a gourmet camping meal. Adding some lemon juice will keep the veggies fresh and give them some extra flavour.
If you are heading out on an extended adventure where weight is an issue, try dehydrating vegetables at home.
Couscous and Quinoa
For a lightweight, tasty and easy backcountry meal, couscous can be used as a base for a variety of dishes. Couscous cooks quickly, and can even be prepared with cold water. For some great camping recipe ideas involving couscous, check out The Yummy Life.
Likewise, quinoa is lightweight, versatile, nutritious and easy to prepare. You can even get instant dehydrated quinoa for easier preparation. Combining couscous or quinoa with dehydrated vegetables and freeze-dried chicken is a great way to enjoy a gourmet camping meal without having to carry a heavy load into the backcountry.
Hydrate with Camping Cocktails
Lounging around a campfire can be the perfect time for a drink, and pre-mixing cocktails at home is one way to imbibe creatively. Classic cocktails like the whiskey sour are a perfect way to cap off a fire-cooked meal, or you can experiment with foraged ingredients for drinks like the Fir-Tip Fizz (check out a recipe HERE). Or, check out some more backcountry cocktail recipes in this blog.
Expert Adventurer Tip: Dutch Ovens
Dutch ovens are a time-tested tool for cooking virtually any meal over an open fire. Dutch ovens are generally made from thick cast iron which does make them heavy to carry into the bush, so they may be more suited to vehicle camping. Bread, stew, chili, pancakes… your options for gourmet camping meals are virtually limitless. For an extensive list of Dutch oven recipes, click HERE.
You can find the best campsites to cook a gourmet backcountry meal, as well as plenty of info on hunting, hiking, biking, ATVing and more in our Backroad Mapbooks and GPS Maps. Happy exploring, and bon appetit!