Most of the time, the lunch you have in the Boundary Waters will be eaten on the go and should not require any cooking. Before you leave camp, make sure the day’s lunch is in an easy-to reach spot in your pack or carried in the thwart bag. This will make your lunch stop much easier and give you more time for that afternoon nap!
That being said, it’s a wise idea to pack a few packets of instant chicken noodle soup with you. Even in July, there can be cold rainy afternoons where you want nothing more than a hot cup of soup and maybe some fresh coffee on your lunch break.
1. The No-Fuss No-Frills Trail Lunch
Here it is folks, a tasty, though perhaps unimaginative lunch that will give you the fuel and sustenance to get through the last half of the day:
- Two bars — Your choice. They can be Snickersme, Cliff Bars, any variety of protein or health bars you like.
- One cup of trail mix — A fun, though risky venture, is to have everyone pick out an ingredient (nuts/ seeds/ dried fruit/ candy) then mix it all together for a mystery trail mix. Or just go with GORP — “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.”
- A handful of dried fruit — Available in packages or in bulk
- Beef jerky — Or turkey or fish jerky
2. Northwoods Charcuterie Board
Okay, okay … this is essentially crackers and cheese, but there’s a reason this simple combo is a favorite lunch on trail.
- Some hearty variety of cracker, such as Triscuits
- Summer sausage
- Cheese — A vacuum sealed block of cheese will last for a few days after its opened
- Olive packets
3. Pita sandwich
Few things say lunch like a sandwich. And while you are more than welcome to bring a loaf of bread with you to the Boundary Waters, we recommend taking a pack of pitas instead. They are more compact and more resilient inside the rough and tough world of a pack. Like two slices of bread, there is an infinite variety of combinations for a pita sandwich. Here are a few ideas:
- Dehydrated hummus (reconstitute it with water, tastes as good as the real thing!)
- Sundried tomatoes
- Olive packet
- Condiment packets: such as mayo, hot sauce, olive oil, mustard, etc.
Protein Pita — Sliced cheese, summer sausage and your choice of condiment package
Peanut Butter and Jelly Pita
Pemmican is a traditional Native American food that was used to preserve meat and provide a huge hit of calories and energy, especially during the winter. Essentially, pemmican is red meat (beef, bison, venison) that has been dried then pulverized to a fine powder and is held together with lard. For added flavor, people add finely chopped dried fruit as well.
Pemmican is incredibly rich. To say it’s “calorically dense” is an understatement. The taste takes some getting used to but the effects are immediate. Few things can restore and energize you like a piece of pemmican. So if you have a hard trip ahead of you, headed out for an excursion in -20 temperatures, or are going out with a pack of teenage boys, try making some pemmican.
- 1 jar of tallow or home-rendered tallow
- Beef Jerky or dried beef (you’ll need approximately 6:1 ratio for beef to tallow)
- Finely cut dried fruit (optional)
- Dry the meat
To make the dried beef either purchase a 3 to 5-pound cut of beef (top round or bottom is your best bet). Cut off the excess fat and then cut it into thin strips. Next, you need to dry the meat.
For this, a food dehydrator is infinitely preferred to an oven (follow the manufacturer’s instructions for beef jerky) If you don’t have a food dehydrator, turn your oven to 170 degrees, place the cut strips on a baking sheet and let them “cook” for about 15 hours.
Of course, you can skip all this and just buy a packet of beef jerky. Which works, however, you want it extra dry, so you need to put it in the oven at 170 for about 2 hours.
- Pulverize the meat
Using a blender, food processor or coffee grinder, pulverize the meat until it’s a powder.
- Prepare the tallow
You can very render your own tallow, which involves picking up some suet from your local butcher (if they don’t have it readily available, ask them to save you some) and slowly cooking the suet down in a cast iron pan or slow cooker. This will leave a strong odor in your home! And it’s messy.
It’s easier, and far less messy, to purchase a jar of rendered beef tallow.
In this case you simply scoop out the desired amount of tallow and heat it until it liquifies.
- Mix and mold
Add the pulverized beef jerky and finely cut dried fruit to a mixing bowl and, while mixing, slowly add the liquified tallow.
Remember, you want a 6:1 ratio of dried meat to tallow. So if you have three cups of dried, pulverized beef, add half-a-cup of liquified tallow.
Once all the tallow is absorbed either press it into a pan or lay it out on a sheet of parchment paper and roll it into a tube.
- Chill and cut
Place the mold of pemmican in your refrigerator and let it chill until it is solid. Then cut into small squares and store in a container until you’re ready to hit the trail.
Surprisingly, pemmican will last. Rendered fat is a natural preservative, and with the dried beef it can last up to a year in storage. Maybe longer, but to be on the safe side, eat it within a year of making it.
5. Hudson Bay Bread
Another high calorie lunch option is the legendary Hudson Bay Bread. Essentially a turbo-charged homemade granola bar, this is a staple of numerous camps and canoe programs through the Boundary Waters and canoe country. Because it’s sweet and loaded with sugary energy, it’s a particularly good option for teenagers, or really anyone with a bottomless pit of a stomach.
- 6 sticks of butter
- 4 cups granulated white sugar
- 1/3 cup light Karo corn syrup
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 tsp maple flavoring
- 19 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup (or more!) your choice of chocolaty candy — M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, Kit-Kat or Snickers bar — get creative!
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dried ingredients: rolled oats, chocolate and sugar.
- Melt the butter and in a separate bowl, combine the butter, corn syrup, honey and maple flavoring.
- While vigorously stirring, slowly pour the liquid contents into the oats. A wooden spoon won’t do! You need to get in there and mix with your hands!
- Once ingredients are properly mixed, press into a greased pan so the mixture is about ¼ to a ½-inch thick.
- Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Cut the bars into 3-inch squares — or however you large or small you want — and separately wrap each in a piece of wax paper.