Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Backcountry Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Salad

My Harvest Monday post included a shot of some shredded brussels sprouts that were ready to go into the dehydrator. That experiment is one of quite a few that I've been conducting with various vegetables and other ingredients to come up with tasty, healthy, and satisfying meals that Dave and I can take on our backpacking trips.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Ready to Dehydrate
I had experimented with drying the sprouts a few ways. One way was to simply shred them and dry them. First lesson learned from that attempt is that the dried bits will fall through the mesh screen of the dehydrator tray so it's best to dry them on some parchment paper or a silicone mat. The second lesson is that they came out a bit bitter, but that might have been because I was using sprouts that had been in the fridge a few days. My next experiment was to dry whole leaves that had been tossed with salt and balsamic vinegar. Those were really tasty and not bitter, but peeling off individual leaves is a PITA and they took a long time to dry and they aren't practical for packing because they are so fluffy and delicate.

Dried Shredded Brussels Sprouts
What I settled on was a hybrid of the two methods, shredded and tossed with balsamic and salt. And I used fresh picked sprouts too.

Dried Shredded Brussels Sprouts

That method produces really good dried sprouts, good enough to snack on just straight. But I wanted to turn them into some sort of veggie side dish to take on the trail so I am experimenting with turning them into a salad.

Mixed Shredded Dried Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, and Red Onion
So I used the same method to dehydrate shredded carrots and thinly slice red onion - tossing them with some balsamic and salt. It's best to dry each veggie separately because they dry at different rates. I dried all the veggies at 125ºF as recommended in the book that came with my Excalibur dehydrator. It only took a few hours, I don't remember exactly how long, to get them to a fairly crisp dry stage.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Salad In A Bag
I used part of the results to make an experimental batch of salad, combining the veggies in a heavy duty zip-loc bag as I would do on the trail, adding hot water a bit at a time until the veggies stopped readily soaking up the water and then let them sit and cool. It didn't take long for them to revive to a surprisingly crunchy state, not like freshly shredded veggies, but pretty close, more like a shredded salad left to sit to soften up.

I finished the salad with some chopped dried cherries, a dash of red wine vinegar, olive oil, ground black pepper and some roasted salted sunflower seeds.

Detailed Method:

To slice the vegetables use a mandoline to get consistently thick slices so that they dehydrate at the same rate. I have a very easy to use and inexpensive Benriner mandoline (from Japan) that can slice up to 1/8-inch thick slices. For thicker slices I use a big stainless steel mandoline made by Bron in France - it can slice up to 1/4-inch thick.

I used cherry flavored balsamic vinegar because I like the flavor of cherries with brussels sprouts, but regular balsamic is fine also.

Note also that I did not blanch the sprouts first, they are shredded and dehydrated raw.

For the Brussels Sprouts
12 ounces washed and trimmed brussels sprouts, leave a bit of stem to hold when shredding
1 tablespoon cherry balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

I used my Benriner mandolin to shred the sprouts 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Toss the shredded sprouts with the balsamic and arrange them in a thin layer on parchment paper or a silicone mat on the dehydrator tray. Sprinkle the shredded sprouts with the salt and dry at 125ºF (52ºC) until nearly crisp.I use a few paper clips to attach the paper to the mesh mat that sits on the tray to keep the paper from flopping around as the fan blows over the trays. My old circular dehydrator had fruit leather trays which might work, but I found that food tends to stick to them.

For the Carrots
6 ounces fresh carrots, scrubbed, peeling is not necessary
1 teaspoon cherry balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Shred the carrots on the coarse holes of a box grater. Then use the same method as for the brussels sprouts.

For the Onions
3.5 oz. sweet red onions
1 teaspoon cherry balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Use a mandoline to slice the onions 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Then use the same method as for the brussels sprouts.

Store the dried vegetables in airtight bags or jars.

To make the salad. Combine the dried vegetables in a heavy duty resealable bag, add hot water a bit at a time until the vegetables stop readily absorbing the water. Seal the bag and let the vegetables sit until they have cooled. Shake the bag every once in a while to distribute any remaining water over the vegetables. When it's time to serve the veggies add some chopped dried tart cherries, a splash of red wine vinegar and drizzle with olive oil. I didn't measure those ingredients, I just seasoned the salad to my taste. Serve with some toasted salted sunflower seeds.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

I did weigh the vegetables after they were dry and here's the results:

12 ounces* fresh sprouts = 1.8 ounces dried
6 ounces fresh carrots = .8 ounces dried
3.5 ounces fresh onions - .7 ounces dried

*The fresh shredded sprouts were a bit less that 12 ounces because the stems from the whole sprouts got discarded.

Yes! 3.3 ounces of veggies are so much easier to carry in my backpack than 1.3 pounds! (94 grams dried vs. 610 grams fresh)

I definitely like the way the brussels sprouts rehydrated and I'm going to experiment a but further with the salad, using apple cider vinegar and dried apples for another version, perhaps a bit of cinnamon too. I also like dried currants with brussels sprouts so I will try another version with those and some regular balsamic and some toasted almonds or pine nuts. I think the dried shredded sprouts would also be great used in a warm rice or couscous pilaf.

So I plan to write up a few more posts in the future about other dehydrating experiments and back country recipes as I develop them.

Happy and delicious trails to you!


  1. I can imagine the salad you made from the dried sprouts was quite tasty! And your experience with the bitter ones mirrors some of mine with summer squash and eggplant that turned bitter when dried, no doubt because they were a tad old to start with. I will look forward to hearing about more of your experiments. I dried a few pole snap beans this year, but I haven't used them yet. And I have dried eggplant in the past, though I didn't come up with a good use for it other than tossing in soups.

    1. I think that with the summer squash and zucchini that different varieties are better than others when dehydrated. Some don't taste good no matter how fresh they are to begin with. And I never came up with a good use for dried eggplant either!

  2. That sounds amazing! Even for those of us that don't backpack, this salad sounds like just the thing to have on hand when the fridge is lacking in salad ingredients - dehydrated salad...who would have thought?

    I can also see how dehydrating "unusual" vegetables in this way would come in handy for use in soups and stews - a la "soup mix" but without all the added preservatives. This would be especially useful for those veg, such as Brussels sprouts, that don't store for very long. Can't wait to see what else you come up with!

    1. Who would have thought indeed! I was so surprised at how well that salad came out and I know that it will taste even better on the trail. I don't know why, the fresh air and/or the exercise, but things always taste better on hiking trips. And I'm hoping that the dried Brussels sprouts keep well, it would be a great way to preserve the harvest. I'll be drying more as the harvests continue so I'll get to see how well they keep over time, but I'll be keeping the dried ones in the fridge just to be sure.

  3. I'm picturing you with a backpack full of bottles of olive oil, red wine vinegar, pepper-grinder, etc! :) Your shredded BPs remind me too much of the dehydrated mixed veg we used to get in Army rations! They always remained chewy, not matter what you did to them.

    1. Well, I do have very small containers of olive oil and vinegar to put in my pack! The pepper grinder I'll leave at home. :)

  4. We don't dry anything but your combination sounds really interesting


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.