Backcountry Charcuterie

Who doesn’t love a little splurge in the backcountry? Often is the case that eating in the backcountry means rather listless meals. Focused on packability and durability, freeze dried meals a great for the long haul. But they are rarely so good that you’d eat them at home. A short, shoulder-season hike though creates opportunities for some truly backcountry epicurean delights.

With temperatures still in the 40’s (f) you  can carry some foods you might otherwise not want to carry due to refrigeration concerns. And with shorter miles you may even be willing to carry some heavier items. Such was the case on a recent trip where I decided to create a nice backcountry charcuterie* board.

Backcountry Charcuterie 10

Backcountry Charcuterie 10

The Cheeses

There are a couple of ways to go with cheese selection, depending upon the weather. In colder temps, when you are essentially hiking in a refrigerator, why not just bring the cheeses you enjoy? If the day-time temps are a concern, then you can focus entirely on harder cheeses, like aged cheddars, parmesans, and goudas. Many people will pack these cheeses for days in the warmest of temperatures. However, they can spoil and if that is a real concern then you may consider some of the various shelf-stable options available. These are typically not pure cheeses, but rather one of the various forms of “cheese food products”.

Shelf Stable Cheeses

  • Cheese Spreads – minimus.biz carries a selection of “Cheese Spread with Wine” products, including a White Zinfandel, Merlot Cheddar, and Cabernet Cheddar. 2 oz. serving sizes.
  • Cheese Triangles – also available from minimus.biz are Northwoods Cheese Triangles. In flavors such as Cheddar, Swiss, and Jack and also in 2oz serving sizes.
  • Some Bries – It is not uncommon to see “brie” unrefrigerated in some groceries. Look closely and these are also usually some manner of “Brie Flavored Cheese Food”.

The Real Stuff

The processed cheeses really just don’t compare to the real thing. So, whenever possible I like to take an assortment of hard cheeses, like these:

20210331 134540

20210331 134540

Preparing Your Cheese

The aged cheeses will tend to be harder, drier, and so more tolerant of warmer temperatures.  As mentioned, I like to take an assortment, perhaps .5oz of four to six different cheeses. I individually wrap each piece of cheese in a piece of parchment or cheese paper. This allows the cheese to breathe while also absorbing the oils that will sometimes appear as the cheese warms. The cheeses are then placed in a cheese bag, again to maintain moisture levels and reduce the amount of sweating that will occur in a sealed plastic bag.

The Meats

As a vegetarian, the real star of these spreads will always be the cheese. But I do enjoy some vegetarian meats as well and often include them in my charcuterie* spreads.  A few of the options I find particularly good include:

  • Viana Picnickers Snacks – Individually wrapped sausage, stable at room temperature.  There is a mild and a hot flavor as well, though I find the Picnicker to have the best overall flavor.
  • Louisville Vegan Jerky – Multiple flavors, all very good. Good texture.
  • Gardein Plant-Based Jerky – Multiple flavors, all very good.
  • Primal Vegan Jerky – Multiple flavors, good flavor, tend to be a bit more moist. Individually wrapped.
  • Field Roast Smoked Tomato Deli Slices – There are many flavors of Field Roast Deli Slices but the Smoked Tomato has a flavor reminiscent of pepperoni; it works really well on a charcuterie board with cheese.  These do require refrigeration so I typically only include them on cold weather hikes.

Have you come across other really good meat-alternative charcuterie that you enjoy? If so, let me know in the comments!

Breads

For breads, I look for sturdy bread that will keep and travel well. Often, the day before a trip I will make home made bagels. You can create any manner of bread styles, from sourdough to pumpernickle, and cook them in the style of a bagle (boiled and then baked). This creates a denser are more durable bread than a simple sliced bread.

Small, individual Ciabatta is similar in that it is denser, chewier, and so more durable than most breads.

Harder, crustier breads, like a good French baguette can also work well. They tend to create a lot of crumbs, so use care when eating so as not to attract late not visitors to your camp. More often than not, I am eating this for lunch during a trail break, so it isn’t a concern. Otherwise, follow the good practice of preparing and enjoying your meal outside of your camp.

Other good options include flatter breads like Naan. Naan is particularly nice as it is soft and pliable and holds up well in the pack.

And of course if you are using a bear canister and have room, you have few limits on what you can bring in terms of bread. Crackers, which don’t hold up well in the pack, can be packed and carried safely in a bear canister.

Accoutrements

To round everything out, I like to include a few additional items in my backcountry charcuterie packs. You can use your imagination, but I look for items to complement the cheeses, like nuts and dried fruit, or spreads for the breads and meats. A few ideas that I enjoy:

  • Bonne Maman Preserves. Available in various flavors in nice single-serve packets. Packit Gourmet carries Raspberry and Red Currant  and Minimus.biz carries several varieties.
  • Pearls Olives. Single serve, does not require refrigeration.
  • Marcona Almonds, Walnuts, and other tree nuts.
  • Raisins, dried figs, or other dried fruits.

What are some of your favorite additions to a nice cheese board? Let me know in the comments.

Presentation

Often, I enjoy my charcuterie right out of the bag. This though forces you to eat a bit more serially (finish off one cheese before moving to the next). Eating a nice meal though should be multi-sensory experience, including not just the scents and the tastes, but the sights as well. When possible, I like to create a full “spread”, laying everything out for a nice presentation.

For just that extra bit of refinement, I like to use a paper cheese board. Laid out on a log or atop your bear canister, it not only has a nice visual appeal, it is also a clean and very lightweight surface to arrange your food on. Easily wiped off, I fold it in half and keep using it throughout my trip.

Backcountrycharcuterie01

Backcountrycharcuterie01

With the cheeses, meats, and accoutrements added, you have a very nice spread indeed!

Backcountrycharcuterie02

Backcountrycharcuterie02

Backcountrycharcuterie03

Backcountrycharcuterie03


* Yes, I am aware the charcuterie is really a meat board that often includes cheeses. It has become common for places to serve primarily cheese and sometimes no meat at all and still call it charcuterie. That’s wrong of course, but I’m continuing to propagate the error because charcuterie is just so damn fun to say.

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