Besides a basic tenet of survival training that says if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it, is an equally important one to realize: Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good! It’s for that very reason that many survivalists add a small bottle of Tabasco sauce to their survival kits to help enhance – or mask – the taste of most “edible” foods they might encounter.
In a much tamer backcountry kitchen simply having a variety of seasonings at your disposal can kick a meal up a notch or three – even the ubiquitous and uncreative can of beans and hotdogs.
Mixed seasonings are perhaps the most common and offer a wide variety of tastes that one would otherwise have to buy separately, process individually and then mix collectively for application to the components of the day’s meal.
Salt is the universal, ubiquitous seasoning. No kitchen, no matter how crude, should be without it. A step up from pure, basic table salt are the myriad “seasonings” that use salt as the base for a variety of spice and herb enhancers. Some seasonings call it as it is: “seasoned salt” while others keep salt off the label, instead using a catchy and ambiguous moniker like “North Woods Savory Sprinkle”. Most ingredients are listed in order of quantity, highest first, followed in succession by smaller and smaller portions of natural and synthetic additives in the recipe.
Salt is typically the leading ingredient in many combo’ mixes and it’s also the cheapest. Whenever you are paying $2-$5 or more for a bottle or pouch of designer seasonings you are paying many, many, many times over the actual value of that salt.
Another factor is in the portions and strengths of all the spices and other ingredients. Sure it may have garlic and onion in it, or paprika, cayenne pepper, but how much do you have to add to the dish to actually taste that particular spice when you are also heaping on salt as you sprinkle on the seasoning?
Many seasonings are used as rubs or marinades or simply as flavor bases to a stew or other campfire cooking. Those who don’t care much for a particular food can often be coaxed into taking a bite and enjoying the dish if it is tempered with a well-balanced array of seasonings – especially when cooked properly.
Some popular camp seasonings and uses are:
- Pepper– pepper mills offer the freshest flavors, uesed for a variety of rubs;
- Garlic– granulated stores easily/enhances most everything ( ‘cept desserts);
- Onion Powder– fresh onion flavor;
- Family of spices: Thyme (soups, potatoes); Oregano(pasta, pizza, rice),
- Margoram, Fennel(rubs); Paprika (rubs).
While salt, pepper and garlic/onion powders can be carried afield in their own containers, mixing the spices together makes it easier to stow in your kitchen kit. The advantage of buying these pre-mixes is that you don’t spend as much on each individual packet of spice (but do spend a lot based on the price and portion of salt in each).
Storing them in your food pack is simply a matter of finding a small tightly-sealable bottle or container. I use old prescription bottles with canning labels on each – works fine!
Bottom line: commercial seasonings offer a wide variety of taste enhancing options for the self-reliant camp cook.
Be Smart; Be Safe; Have Fun!