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Trail Chef: Backcountry Thanksgiving

Celebrate Turkey Day in the great outdoors with this complete menu.

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Why would you ever give up the glories of an indoor Thanksgiving packed with food, family, football, and, perhaps most importantly, artificially generated heat? Here are five good reasons: 

1) Some strenuous trail time will go a long way toward battling that holiday paunch.

2) In this age of nature deficit disorder, you need to get those kids outside as much as possible.

3) Everybody else will be holed up with turkey stomachaches while you savor crowd-free campsites.

4) Everyone can use a little break from a house full of relatives.

5) With this four-course meal, you won’t even miss Mom’s special bird.*

Not sold yet? No worries—there’s no reason why this backcountry feast can’t serve you just as well next summer. These recipes for easy trail turkey, biscuits, potatoes, and even pumpkin pie are too good to have just once a year.

The Bird: Wild Turkey Jerky

Makes 12 ounces. Recipe adapted from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’, by Tim and Christine Conners.

2 pounds cooked lean turkey breast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

At home

Partially freeze the meat to make it easier to slice. Cut thin (1/16 to 1/8 of an inch thick) slices across the grain of the meat. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl to make the marinade. Layer meat in a plastic container or zip-top bag, then pour marinade over the slices, making sure to coat all surfaces. Marinate overnight in the fridge, occasionally turning to re-coat.

Remove meat and place in a single layer on cookie sheets or dehydrator trays. Place in a dehydrator or oven at 145 degrees for 4 hours. Reduce heat to 130 degrees and continue heating until meat is thoroughly dry. Let cool, then pack in zip-top bags for the trail.

Note: Cold jerky just not doing it for you? Check out our Readers Choice Award-Winning recipe for warm chicken, stuffing, and cranberries in our December/January 2010 issue, on newsstands now.

The Bread: Campfire Biscuits on a Stick

Serves 2. Recipe adapted from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’, by Tim and Christine Conners.

1 cup Bisquick

1/3 cup water

At home

Pack Bisquick in a zip-top bag.

In camp

First, build a fire. Next, find a good cooking stick—think a sturdy, marshmallow-roasting stick. Add water to the bag, seal it, and squish with your hands to mix. Add dribbles of water until dough develops a moist (but not runny) texture. Cut off the corner of the bag and carefully squeeze dough onto the end of your stick, twirling the stick until the dough is firmly stuck on. Bake over the campfire (or coals), rotating until the biscuit is golden brown.

The Taters: Unstuffed Potatoes

Serves 1. Recipe adapted from Backpacker: Backcountry Cooking, by Dorcas Miller.

1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes

2 tablespoons toasted, sliced almonds

1/4 cup powdered milk

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dried mixed veggies

1 fast-food packet butter

At home

Combine potatoes, milk, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in one zip-top bag. Pack veggies in a separate zip-top freezer bag.

In camp

Place powdered ingredients in a pot and add 1 cup boiling water. Stir well, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Add 2/3 cup boiling water to the veggie bag. Let this stand 10 minutes. Drain water from veggies, then add veggies to the potatoes. Top with butter and almonds.

The Pie: No-Crust Pumpkin Pie

Serves 3. Recipe adapted from

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

At home

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well-blended. Spread to 1/8-inch thickness on a dehydrator tray or cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Dry at 135 degrees for 8 hours, or until brittle. After 5 hours, flip the pumpkin by placing another wax-lined tray or sheet over it. Turn it all over so that the bottom side of the pumpkin is now facing up on the new sheet and continue drying. (This should yield 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin “bark.”) Let cool and break into pieces.

In camp

Divide the pumpkin bark pieces evenly into three bowls. Heat 1 1/2 cups water, then slowly stir 1/2 cup hot water into each bowl. Mix until creamy. Enjoy.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving to you all from the Trail Chef!

*Trail Chef cannot guarantee that you won’t miss Mom’s turkey.

—Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Image credits: tuchodi (turkey); russelljsmith (campfire); (pumpkin)

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