Modern Trail Food

When you're preparing for that late summer camping, fishing, or hunting trip, don't forget to whip up some trail food!

| September/October 1981

When I spend a day outdoors—whether fishing, hunting, hiking, or (more likely) working around the homestead—I don't always want to stop what I'm doing in order to head home to eat. To solve the problem, I studied some of the foods used by our pioneer (and native American) ancestors. As a result, I'm now able to eat on the go ...and my trail food is better tasting and more wholesome than are most commercially available pack-a-long snacks.

In the old days, a woodsman or woman often had to eat whatever was available, and that sometimes didn't amount to much! So such people learned to carry stashes of one or several trail foods with them, which they used to supplement the (frequently meager) edibles they were able to find, as well as to serve as full fare whenever necessary. The on-the-go goodies were lightweight and compact, and could be prepared before hitting the trail. They kept well and provided plenty of carbohydrates and protein for both quick and long-lasting energy.

My own "pocket pantry" is composed of approximations of those traditional snacks, as well as a couple of modern homemade trail foods. I hope you'll find them as handy, easy to fix, and enjoyable as I do.

Jerky in Your Oven

You'd have to go some to come up with an edible that's more firmly anchored in history than is jerky. Mountain folk, cowboys, and native Americans alike counted on this dried meat as a staple. However, if you've priced the commercially prepared version lately, you know that ten pounds of it would be close to an even swap for a pickup truck! Making jerky at home is much less expensive, but—if you have to buy the meat—still pretty costly. On the other hand, if you can use meat from your own livestock or (best of all, in my opinion) venison, you can make the trail/survival food for pennies.

Start with a piece of firm meat—a flank steak is a good choice—about 3/4" thick. Trim off the fat and cut the lean into strips 5" to 7" long and 1/4" thick. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper on the meat, and baste it with any of your favorite homemade marinades. (Or, if you prefer, you can use the store-bought flavoring called Liquid Smoke.) Insert a round wooden toothpick through the end of each ribbon, then place a layer of aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven, raise the upper rack to its highest level, and—using the toothpicks—hang the meat from that rack. Prop the oven door open slightly, and turn the heat to 140°F (or the lowest setting possible). It'll take between six and eight hours for the strips to "cook." When they're dry but flexible enough to bend without breaking, let the finished jerky cool before storing it in sealable plastic bags.

All-Natural Energy Bars

Dried meat provides you with protein in a lightweight, chewy package. However, for quick energy the body requires carbohydrates, which I get from an updated version of pemmican.

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