Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Further Adventures in Cold Soaking

My last attempts cold soaking backpacking meals were pretty blah. With another season of overnighters approaching, I decided a fresh set of experiments were in order. After multiple tries in the kitchen, I've come up with recipe for cold soaking I'm far happier with.

Step 1: select the right pre-cooked, dehydrated base. Jasmine Minute Rice and Idahoan Mashed Potatoes work great. Many foods do not. Instant polenta for example, takes a couple of minutes to rehydrate in hot water and doesn't do anything when cold soaked. Instant Rice and Quinoa was a bust because while the rice is cooked, the quinoa wasn't, and so therefore it won't ever properly rehydrate. Even the the Gefen Instant Mashed Potatoes that are similar to the Idahoan mashed potatoes didn't rehydrate as well as the Idahoans.

I've also been skipping oatmeal as a base, but that's because it doesn't need the to be carefully rehydrated. Mixing oatmeal, some extras like powdered milk, breakfast mix, hot chocolate or protein powder and water, followed by some vigorous shaking is all it takes turn oats into a meal. I suppose you can soak oatmeal overnight, but I'm too impatient.

Step 2: add the right amount of water. Many cold soaking recipes call for adding just enough water to cover the food. I've found it far better to add the exact amount of water called for on the package. Both Minute Rice and Idahoan Potatoes call for a 1 to 1 ratio of food to water. As a general rule, you should add enough water that you say: oh crap, this is never going to work! Yeah, you want that much water.

Step 3: wait. For mashed potatoes, I found that stirring and waiting for 5 minutes was all it took. For minute rice, I found 45 minutes to be the magic number. Sure, you can eat cold soaked instant rice after 20 minutes, or 2 hours -- but it's not going to taste quite right. The former will be a bit crunchy, the latter will be mushy. But after 45 minutes, the rice tastes like, well, rice.

Step 4: add toppings. Once the food is hydrated, I go crazy with the toppings. Pretty much anything can work as a topping, here's a bunch I've had success with:

  • Raisins
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Gravy Mix
  • Taco seasoning
  • Almonds
  • Tuna fish
  • Olives
  • Olive Oil
  • Bac'n pieces
  • Dried shredded coconut
  • Peanut Butter

None of the above is rocket science. But I've found that with a little care, cold soaking doesn't have to be the compromise in flavor and texture that I'd experienced in the past. Pick the right ingredients, take your time and the result is a tasty meal!

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