If you were to look at other thru hikers guides to trail food you would find very rudimentary arithmetic.  Addition and subtraction.  We are going to burn this many calories, so we are going to eat this many calories.  It is a fifth grade math word problem of the simplest form.  The most important need for a 2600 mile walk is left out, macro and micro nutrient needs.  Yes making sure you have enough fuel in your tank is important but you can have a full tank and not be able to go anywhere if your battery dies or engine seizes due to poor maintenance.  This is why you don’t see Olympic athletes “carb loading” on bowls of white pasta or eating huge amount of junk food in order to get themselves to competing form.

Weight is an issue, we must keep light in order to keep going.  But a pound of junk food like raman weighs the same as a pound of dehydrated vegetables.  If the raman is only adding empty calories then the cost of carrying it is greater.  Why not bring food you can live on?  Why not bring food you would eat and enjoy in the comfort of your home?

Animal Fat

After doing only a little research into first peoples, nomadic tribes, and our ancestors one thing stood out right away.  They all lived off some source of animal based, high caloric, high fat foods.  The first peoples of the North America west coast used a fish they called a candle fish because it was so oily you could light it and it would continue to stay lit.  They ate the oil from this fish meal to meal, everyday.  More and more studies are showing saturated fats are innocent of the cardiovascular diseases they were being accused of.

How do we keep animal fat and its accompanying meat from spoiling?  This problem has also been addressed and solved in history.  Preserving meats is something we humans have been doing since the first hunter found season old meat still eatable in a pot of salt.  There are many techniques for every kind of meat you can imagine some as simple as putting meat in an oven with some smoking wood to add flavor and cook away the bacteria to as complex as soaking a duck breast in duck fat for weeks.  We decided to go with two techniques:

  1. Dry preserving bacon
  2. Dry preserving sausage

Although both techniques utilize dry preservation (a technique of adding salt and potassium chloride rock salt to dehydrate the meat and kill any bacteria present), they are very different.  However, for our purposes they both give us a meat that will not kill us when we eat it despite being months old.  Making the bacon didn’t take much work while making sausage meant grinding the meat, casing the ground meat, and then providing the meat with the perfect conditions to allow good bacteria to grow before drying the meat out in the final step of preservation.  Both methods taught us a lot and gave us the opportunities at very unique gifts to people.  Not every day someone gets two month old sausage and can be happy about it.

We got the meat from our local butcher for these reasons:

-Most local butchers are family owned and have been run by that family for many generations.  You are paying more not just because you are getting better meat but because you are getting centuries of knowledge passed down.  This isn’t just knowledge you can get out of a book but experienced and lived.  The best chefs in the world will tell you there is a immeasurable difference between grocery store meat prepared by the transient worker behind the counter and someone who has been breathing meat processing before he was born.

-It is easier to find out about the animals and farm practices from a local butcher than from the grocery store.  So if you want to get meat that is humanely treated, ethically raised, and/or environmentally sustainable this is more straight forward information to get from a local butcher than from a grocery store which usually part of a conglomerate and uses misleading advertising to make you feel good but not always do good.

-Relationships is what it is really about for me.  Going to the local butcher and helping sustain an age old tradition which is being forcefully destroyed isn’t just rewarding because of the art of butchery but because of the artist.  Getting to know the same people instead of whoever might be at the grocery store makes the world feel a little smaller and less unanimous.

-Quality meat taste best and quality meat is easier to get at the local butcher.

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Finished bacon, can be stored in fridge for up to 4 months. We used meat from animals that were humanely killed, no hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics because thats what we like.
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We made maple bacon, garlic bacon, pepper bacon and other recipes.

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Trimming the skin off, we did this to test the difference.  If you don’t mind the nipples keep the skin on, adds a crunch to fried bacon and is one more source of incredible nutrients and fat.
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Ground Pork butt.  We used pork butt because of the high saturated fat and relatively inexpensive cost.  Grinding the meat and adding the ingredients together freshly makes the best sausage.  Keeping the meat chilled during this whole process provides for the safest techniques.
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The meat is ground first and then all the ingredients are mixed together and then you case the sausage.
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This was an exhausting process.  All said and done I probably prepared sixty pounds of meat taking over fifteen hours.  It was so worth it though.  The sausages turned out delicious.
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The different colors are because of the different ingredients.  These hung for two days in 50-70 degree temperatures while the healthy bacteria we added fermented them, increasing the flavors and decreasing their likelihood to be virulent.

 

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