Mother Earth Monday – Beef Gravel

This is one for all the campers out there, but it applies to those seeking unusual items for long term storage of otherwise perishable foods. The term Beef Gravel isn’t exactly an appetizing sounding one, but it is a pretty accurate description of the finished product. Making it is very simple. First, find the leanest beef you can get your hands on. This is important because you will be removing all of the fat you can manage to prevent spoilage. Beef gravel itself lasts a long while, but excess oil can go rancid very rapidly.

Breaking the beef up, cook it as you would for any meal, but go just a little longer. You don’t want to burn it, but the browner you can manage, the less oil will remain and the more likely it is to have favor when used in the field. I suggest salting it at this stage and peppering to taste. They will add flavor and the salt will help to draw out moisture and preserve the meat. Also try breaking it up into the smallest possible bits you can. Large chunks will not dry well and will tend to go bad more quickly.

Once it is thoroughly cooked, drain off as much grease as humanly possible and then towel off yet more oil from the beef. Use as many paper towels as needed to do this for the reason noted above. Once oil-free (or as close as one can ever get), put it in a food dehydrator or barely warm oven with the door open. Stir every hour or so until all sides are dried and the beef has taken on a texture as gravel (surprise right?).

This should be stored in an air-tight location such as a jar or vacuum package until it is needed. To take it on a hike, simply portion out as much as needed into a plastic zip-lock and add to your food supplies. While basically inedible in the dry form, adding a little water will bring it back to life. Hot water works quicker, but luke-warm or cold water can work also if given more time. This is amazingly good for making real-meat tacos while on a long hike or adding a bit of substance to otherwise starch-heavy meals common to camping.

This isn’t something new, but it is something many people have not encountered. It is a base component for a number of great camping meals and a good way to store beef long term as something other than jerky. I hope you find good use for this.

What are your thoughts?