Trail recipe review: Vegetarian Brunswick Stew

After lots and lots of hard work, I had a batch of six dinners made up for some overnights.  Brunswick stew is traditionally a southern dish made with chicken or pulled pork, beans, okra, onions, etc.  There are many variations on the stew and I adapted my recipe from Tim and Christine Connors’ version in the book “Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’”. Here’s what you’ll need for my version:

-1 lb bag of baby lima beans
-1 lb bag of frozen corn of any variety
-1 lb bag of frozen hash browns (southern style or regular)
-1/2 cup of dried mixed bell peppers
-6 vegetable bullion cubes
-3/4 cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein); I tried to find a ham-flavored or a bacon-flavored, but had no luck - those flavors would be great!
-1/2 cup dried onion
-8 teaspoons of tomato powder (really crazy expensive, it’s best to make your own by dehydrating tomatoes and pulverizing them in a blender)
-1/2 cup of instant potato flakes
-Fresh black pepper to taste

Pre assembly prep work: You’ll have to dehydrate all the frozen and fresh stuff first.  The beans, corn, potatoes, bell peppers, and onions will all have different drying times as according to your dehydrator.  Be sure to consult your book for precise temperature settings and hourly times to get your stuff dry.  Also, do the onions on their own!  Otherwise, everything in the dehydrator with them will taste and smell like onion! On onion day, I highly recommend putting the dehydrator outside.  The smell is incredibly strong!  

For the tomato powder, I took five large heirloom tomatoes and sliced them thin, about 1/8 of an inch, and put them in my dehydrator for about 10 hours.  You’ll want to keep checking them to make sure they’re drying evenly.  You want them to be extremely brittle and breakable. After they’re completely dried out, put them into a blender or Magic Bullet and pulverize them.  Voila! You have tomato powder, which is extremely rich in flavor and takes up so much less space in the pantry. For  a more detailed explanation how to make it, check out this YouTube video:

So, all your ingredients are dry and ready to be mixed! Here we go:

In a large bowl, combine the dry beans, corn, hash browns, and bell peppers and mix well.  Using a 1 cup measuring cup, divide the bowl into six freezer bags.  This will be your storage bag for the meal.  

Now, on six pieces of plastic wrap, place one bullion cube in the middle and crush it.  Now evenly divide up the dried onion, add 3 tablespoons of TVP, 2 teaspoons of tomato powder, 1 tablespoon of potato flakes, and some fresh ground pepper.  Wrap this bundle up.  Now you have your two separate bags.  Put the plastic wrap bundle into the large freezer bag.

Directions for camp cooking: 
We always presoak our food to save on fuel.  Remove the bundle of plastic wrap and set it aside.  Pour 2 cups of water into the freezer bag with the dried vegetables and let it soak, up to 30 minutes.  Dump the bag of water and semi-rehydrated veggies into your pot and bring to a boil.  After about 3-4 minutes, check your veggies for softness.  You’re looking for a good “al-dente” texture to them.  Turn the heat off, cover the pot and add the contents from your plastic wrap bundle.  Stir in well, cover, and let it set up for 3-4 minutes.  The reason the bundle is added in after turning off the heat is to prevent the contents of this bag from scorching or sticking to your pot.  Of note, I would recommend abbreviating these directions and writing them on the freezer bag, like in my photo above.  That way, you won’t be stuck remembering how to cook it in camp!

We liked this meal quite a bit.  It is vegetarian and we aren’t, but man was it filling!  The fiber from the beans and the protein from the beans and TVP kept us both full all night after hiking a 15-mile day.  The only thing we wished we had was salt.  I feel like salt would really bring this meal a little bit more together.  Clean up for this wasn’t difficult at all due to the instant potatoes, which act like a scouring agent in the pot and make it easy to wipe out with a baby wipe and rinse clean.  Hope you enjoy it!