Trail Gourmet: Southern Recipes Perfect for Camping

Beef jerky.
Beef jerky. WmJR
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Long-distance backpackers regularly joke about the things they can’t wait to eat when they get off the trail. And let’s face it—just about any restaurant menu sounds better than the same old noodles you’ve been eating for a week. Not to worry, though—there’s a way to stay on the trail and satisfy those cravings at the same time. Forget the freeze-dried pasta and boring hot dogs: these Southern-leaning dishes are not only delicious, they’re a cinch to make outdoors.

(Note: The following recipes yield about 2 hearty servings each.)

Cheesy Grits

Grits are a Southern favorite, and while they can be eaten any time of day, there’s nothing like a savory breakfast to start a day on the trail on the right foot.

You’ll need:

Medium pot

2 cups treated water

½ cup quick grits

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup shredded pepperjack cheese

Pinch salt

Optional: bacon bits, hot sauce

At home: Combine cheese, salt and optional ingredients in a ziploc bag.

At camp: Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in grits. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until cooked, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add optional ingredients.

Camping food doesn’t have to be the same old foods over and over again.
Camping food doesn’t have to be the same old foods over and over again. Gonzalo Díaz Fornaro

Homemade Jerky

This cajun-style jerky is the perfect, protein-packed snack to fuel you throughout the day.

You’ll need:

2 pounds flank steak

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

At home: Trim fat from steak. Cut along the grain in ¼ thick slices. Combine all other ingredients for marinade in a large bowl. Add steak strips to marinade, coating each strip well; cover and let sit for about 12 hours. Use a food dehydrator, if you have one, or place marinated strips on cookie sheets and let dry in the oven (closed) at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 hours. Allow jerky to cool completely before storing, then keep refrigerated until your trip.

At camp: No prep required—simply enjoy!

Jambalaya is actually pretty easy to make fireside, as long as you prepare in advance.
Jambalaya is actually pretty easy to make fireside, as long as you prepare in advance. Phil Denton

Cornbread Fritters

Another great snack for the trail, or make as a side to go with the jambalaya recipe that’s coming up next.

You’ll need:

Skillet or fry-bake pan

½ cup treated water

Paper towel

2 cups cornbread mix

½ cup canned corn

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup cooking oil

Paper towel

At home: Combine dry ingredients in a bag. Drain and rinse corn; place in leak-proof storage container.

At camp: Combine dry ingredients with treated water, stirring constantly until thick. Add oil to skillet and put on high heat. When oil is hot, dollop batter into oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side like pancakes. Place finished fritters on paper towel to drain oil.

Jambalaya

This recipe is a little more committing in terms of at-home prep (you’ll need to get your hands on a food dehydrator) but it’s worth the effort to enjoy authentic Cajun cuisine by the campfire.

You’ll need:

Large pot

6 cups treated water

1 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon cajun or creole seasoning

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon crushed thyme

3 ounces andouille sausage

4-ounce can tiny shrimp

10-ounce can chunk chicken in water (undrained)

1-2 cups instant rice

At home: Cut andouille sausage into thin slices; break chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine meats, veggies, sauces, and spices in a medium-sized pot. Simmer until heated through. Spread mixture evenly on dehydrator trays and dry thoroughly. Place dehydrated jambalaya in ziploc bag, along with uncooked rice.

At camp: Combine bag contents with 6 cups treated water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and stir well. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, until rice is fully cooked.

You don’t have to skimp on dessert just because you are in the wilderness.
You don’t have to skimp on dessert just because you are in the wilderness. iris

Bourbon Bread Pudding

No meal is complete without dessert, and bread pudding is not only delicious, but it’s surprisingly easy to make.

*You’ll need *

Medium pot

1 cup water (treated)

6 slices day-old sandwich bread

3 tablespoons melted butter

Pinch salt

⅓ cup sugar

½ cup raisins (optional; could also replace with wild edibles)

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch cinnamon

2 tablespoons powdered eggs

1.5 ounces powdered milk

2 tablespoons bourbon

Boilable container or freezer bag

At home: Cut or tear bread into one-inch cubes. Place bread in a ziploc bag, along with salt, sugar, spices, and melted butter. Add powdered milk and eggs to a separate bag. Carry the bourbon separately.

At camp: Fill your pot halfway with water; bring to a boil. Add treated water to milk/egg mixture and pour into boilable bag. Mix well. Gradually stir in bread, adding it all until consistency is not at all runny. Don’t forget the bourbon! Seal freezer bag and place in boiling water for five minutes on each side.

And there you have it—a completely Southern meal for your next backpacking adventure. You’ll never eat packaged noodles again!

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