Korpijaakko

– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: food

This is madness!

No, Spartans haven’t taken over my life or blog but apples are about to do that. And I’m not talking about i-things here but the fruits.

Like I’ve written earlier, I like the idea of simple living with close connection to the nature. One aspect of this is to get part of your food from the woods (gather, hunt, fish and so on) instead of working to earn money to buy food. It’s more primitive, it’s quite inefficient but also a lot more rewarding. At least for me. And now that I’ve chosen not to work and thus not have any income for a period of time the free food from the forest has been even more interesting. But one can eat only so much at a time and to further develop and learn the way of living that I’m interested in preserving is an important aspect. And it also saves money I’d spend on food in the future.

In between my hiking and packrafting trips this summer and autumn I’ve been foraging berries and mushrooms and also taking advantage of an access to great supply of garden berries and fruits.

I’ve enjoyed the blueberries, strawberries and other little round and colourful things fresh trough the summer probably getting a great overdose of vitamins and other nutrients. But I’ve also preserved berries in the freezer, made jam, juice and even dried them. I was sorry to notice that I missed the top season of lingonberry because of hiking. I would’ve (almost) rather been in the woods foraging than out on the fjells hiking…

Then there are the mushroom: cantharellas, trumpets of the dead (The coolest nickname for any mushroom ever!), penny buns and many more. There was a week or two when I ate mushrooms every day… And there hasn’t been a week when I haven’t eaten mushrooms. This was exceptionally good year for mushrooms and I’ve picked and preserved especially a lot of cantharellas. Cantharellas I’ve mostly fried and then freezed and other mushrooms I’ve dried. The same thing that happened with lingonberries happened with boletus edulis. The first delicious mushrooms were just ripe when it was time for me to go North for some hiking and I missed the best season of this delicacy! Can it be that “living of the land” lifestyle interferes with other outdoor hobbies? And if so, which one to choose?

Now that the mushroom season is closing to end (though there are still plenty of yellowfeet available until the first snow and I’ve also found some late season cantharellas) the apple season is at its best… or worse. There are several very old apple trees at my parent’s place and they provide apples in three-year cycles. On the first year the crop is minuscule, something to eat during the season but not much more. On the second year of the cycle the crop is acceptable and there is enough to make some jam and preserve in other ways. This year is the third year of the current cycle… And there are enough apples to drive you crazy!

I’ve spent hours and hours collecting, sorting and bagging apples and carrying the bad ones on the field. I’ve eaten my fair share of apples (I wouldn’t mind some bananas for variation…), we’ve made apple juice, we’ve made apple jam and now we are drying apples. Despite being on the verge of madness, I’m happy with the situation. Working in the garden is not really being out in a wild place but it’s still fun to enjoy the fresh air, listen to ravens croak and watch flocks of geese fly towards South. At least it’s better than getting bored in an office.

But the season of abundance is closing its the end. There is still some mushrooms to pick and preserve, a lot more apples to preserve and the cranberry season is just about to start, but soon the winter will set in and it’s time to do something completely different. (More information on it coming later, watch this space!)

But winter is also the time to enjoy the hard work done and all the goods in the bags and jars. This is something I’m also learning: to use what I’ve foraged and preserved instead of buying food from the supermarket. With a background in engineering and lightweight hiking I’m thinking about using spread sheets to keep track on what I have and also to make sure I use enough of it. But I’m also going to keep something over the winter and maybe even the next ones to see how long they stay edible. I’m quite sure it will be easy, fun and tasty learning curve. 🙂

PS. Regarding the apples, I’m open for all suggestions about how to use and/or preserve them. Mark from Backpacking North suggested making cider which sounded like a neat idea but I need more ideas! Please, share your favourite recipes and tips with me and the other readers.

– – –

Some time ago my blog was listed by Cision as one of the Top 10 outdoor blogs in Finland. My blog was second on the list after Hendrik’s superior Hiking in Finland! I have to say that I was very surprised by the high-ranking but of course also happy. For me this blog is about sharing my passion for outdoors with other people and hopefully inspiring them and also getting inspired myself. And it seems that it’s working. Thank you, all my dear readers!

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Heading North

The Wilderness Guide School I’ve been doing for the last 10 months ended the last Friday. The last week was very hectic with last tests to be passed and farewells to be said to many new friends but it is now over and it’s time to reward myself with a hike and thus I’m sitting in a car and heading to North while writing this! (N is driving so this is completely safe. 😉 )

The plan is to drive to the village of Inari (well North of the Arctic circle), get a ride from a friend to West to the Southern edge of Muotkatunturit wilderness area and start hiking from there on Monday morning. We will be heading North-East walking through the wilderness area to the Inari-Karigasniemi road that we will cross at Sulaoja and walk for a while along the Kevo trail in the Kevo strict nature reserve and from there we will head North to Paistunturit wilderness area and continue West to finish the walk to the Kevo Research Station near Inari-Utsjoki road. All together this makes some 200-250 km of walking (depending a lot on final route choices) and we have about 12 days to spend for it.

A sketch of the planned route (the red line).

It should be a splendid walk as the wilderness area are very wild in sense that there are no roads or marked trails nor too many huts. The terrain will be mostly nice gently rolling hills with valleys growing dwarf birch and occasional pine trees. Rivers are mostly small and easy to fjord but the water level is high as it’s very early summer in the North. Our biggest problem might be swamp areas that will definitely be wet and hard to negotiate but we plan to avoid them and take high routes when ever possible.

We did most of the trip preparations two weeks ago packing food, planning the route and updating old gear lists to fit the trip. We decided not to have a resupply on the Inari-Karigasniemi road so we will be carrying all the food and equipment for the 12 days right from the beginning. This is more in line with the kind of trips I like and I’d prefer spending the whole time in wild, untouched nature but I’ll tolerate one quick road crossing…

12 days food for two people is quite a big pile as the photo above shows. The photo is taken during preparations some things are still unpacked (there is a lot of superfluous packaging material as you can see from the photo below) and for example the bananas are not dried yet. I ended up taking a bit under 900 grams of food per day meaning about 3500 kcal while N is having a lot less, maybe around 700 grams a day. The food is not the lightest possible variety as we wanted to have some treats and didn’t have too much time to dry food but the figure is still acceptable for me. I’ll write more about the food  preparations and planning later.

I have also some new gear with me on this trip. Some of the most interesting ones include the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Expedition backpack (in the photo below), Hilleberg Anjan 3 tent (see the post of my first impression) and Montane Speedlite jacket. (Yeah, I finally bought a windshirt and I’m starting to like it already!) These are new pieces of kit that I haven’t yet tested thoroughly but I trust them already after some initial testing. More about them also coming later when they have seen decent amount of use. The rest of the kit is mostly tried and true stuff like Rab Momentum jacket, La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners, Ortlieb Aquazoom camera bag, Canon EOS 550D with EF 24-105 4 L IS lens and so on.

I haven’t weighted all the gear but the rucksack seems to be weighting about 19 kg in the beginning of the trip. It’s not especially light and far from ultralight but there is about 2 kg of camera gear, heavyish synthetic sleeping bag and I decided to take a little tarp (Tyvek version of the Terra Rose Gear Wandering Tarp) in addition to the tent as there is a possibility to make fires on the wilderness areas and it would be nice to have some shelter from rain while sitting by a fire…

Hopefully this little flu bugging me now will ease by tomorrow, the weather will be favourable and mosquitoes will stay at bay so I’ll have a good trip to report at the end of the Month. Until then the blog will probably be quiet but I might write a tweet or two along the way so if you want to follow the trip, follow @Korpijaakko on Twitter!

Free food for all!

About a year ago I wrote about Spruce tips and my dreams living of the land. During the last year many things have changed and evolved but I’m still dreaming of partially living of the land in the future and because of that I have been doing some experiments with resources freely available from the backyard. Nothing fancy or special here, no “real” primitive living or true self-sufficiency but some simple things that everyone should try. So here’s something that will hopefully inspire you!

Spring is the ultimate time for enjoying the nature greens or wild greens, or what ever you like to call them. There is an abundance of edible plants out there and usually they are at their very best in the early spring. So, depending on the latitude you are living in, it might be already a bit late but many things are also usable through the whole summer. (And in the autumn there are berries and mushrooms to eat and preserve.) And of course there is a lot of local variation: in some places the snow melts slower and later, some places are more shadowed, some warmer and sunnier. For gathering edible wild greens shady spots away from roads, fields and other human impact are usually the best.

I was planning to do a speed hike on the 133km Karhunpolku trail (mentioned earlier) during last week but as it got cancelled, I spent some of the time gathering and eating some wild greens. The Internet is a great resource for someone interested in the wild greens and I’m no expert on the topic, so instead of thorough advice and a lengthy post, I’ll just share some things I’ve been trying lately. inspired give it a try!

Spruce tips

I wrote about spruce tips already the last year and there’s plenty of good information in my post (updated this spring). The young light green coloured shoots of  spruce can be used as such for making salad or baking. they make great tea or you can make delicious syrup of them. Remember that gathering spruce tips is not every man’s right in Finland and you need the land owners permission!

Stinging nettle

This green plant can be a real pain but also a real delicacy. Gather young plants (around 10cm long) and top parts and leaves of older plants. I recommend using gloves while gathering. 😉 Again shady spots away from human impact are the best. You can either irrigate them in cold water changing the water several times or quickly boil them in slightly salted water. I did the latter. After this you can chop them up and dry (easier to do before chopping them up) or freeze them for future use. Or use immediately just like spinach. The nice thing about stinging nettle is that it’s easy to gather and the nutritional value is actually quite good so it can provide a real addition to the diet.

I used the boiled and chopped stinging nettle for soup,crepes and a pie with feta. Basically it’s just like using spinach. I made the soup with the following recipe:

– 50 g of butter (melt in a pot)
– 4 tbs of flour (add to the butter and stir for a while)
– 8 dl of milk (add, stir well and let it boil for few minutes until the flour is cooked and it’s nice and thick)
– 2 dl of cream (optional but makes it a lot better)
– 2+ dl of boiled and chopped stinging nettle (simmer for few more minutes)
– season with salt, black pepper and nutmeg
– serve with eggs or cheese and good bread

It’s easy to make a sauce with the same recipe: just use less milk (or more flour and butter) and you have a nice thick sauce to go with local fish and potatoes for example.

Common wood sorrel

The common wood sorrel is very common in the area where I live and it’s easy to gather, especially in shady spruce forests where there is not much undergrowth. I’ve been snacking it since I was a little kid. There’s a nice salty taste in it and it makes great salad. For example chop up some cherry tomatoes, couple of handfuls of wood sorrel, mix them and season with good olive oil, salt and black pepper. Cheese is a nice addition to this salad (I used parmesan flakes). Serve with good bread and wine.

Bilberry

Everyone is probably familiar with the bilberry (also know as European blueberry) berries but also the young leaves and flowers can be used as food. The flowers have subtle sweet taste and are actually really good but really troublesome to pick. I gathered some to make tea wich was really good (subtle sweet taste as I just said) but I don’t think it worth the trouble unless you are just trying out things. Young light green coloured leaves can be fermented to make tea or used as salad but I prefer the taste of the common wood sorrel. And of course the berries are the best but it will still take few months to get fresh bilberries.

Fireweed

Blossoming fireweed (aka Rosebay Willowherb) is beautiful sight but before it reaches that state it can be used as a food. The young leaves can be used as salad or fermented to make tea but the whole young sooth can be used just like asparagus: gather about 10-15 cm long young plants (easiest and best to collect from area with sandy soil), peel the outer layer off and use as asparagus: fry with some butter, cook in salted water or cook with steam. I cooked some in water and served them seasoned with molten butter, salt and black pepper. Makes a great side dish for a nice steak!

Sorry, no picture of the fireweed side dish but here is a picture of stinging nettle pie with feta cheese to inspire you! And there are many, many more wild greens to use than the few I mentioned here!

Have you been using wild greens? Please, share your experiences, tips and favourite recipes and leave a comment!

Spruce tip syrup – and dreams on living of the land

I spent most of the last Sunday wandering in the woods gathering the new soft annual shoots of spruce. These can be eaten as such, used to make tea or to make syrup. In this post I’ll explain my motives for making syrup instead of buying it and also share the recipe with you. If you live in Finland or on the same latitude you still got at least a week or so to enjoy the fresh spruce tips. Give them a try!

Spruce tip tea with honey.

Dreams on living of the land

I haven’t written much about my background or motives in my blog but in addition to recreational outdoor sports I’m also interested in bushcrafty things and the basic skills of living of the land. I don’t see this as a hobby and I don’t feel like it needs a special name like “bushcraft” or similar. For me it’s about the skills and ways of living that our ancestors have utilized not-so-long-ago here in the forests of the North. Ways, that from my perspective seem quite sustainable, simple and satisfying. And for me it’s also about combining them to the best parts of modern way of life to seek out something satisfying.

As a kid I spent quite a lot of time with my grandmother gathering berries and mushrooms and at least equal amount of time fishing and hunting with my father. I think that the foundations of my close relationship with nature come all the way from my childhood experiences. There was a period in my life when I wasn’t too interested in these things (even though I still enjoyed outdoors in other ways). But for a some time now my interest in these lifestyle things has been growing again.

Even though living of the land in the Christopher McCandless style would be cool, I don’t think it would make a sustained way of living – at least not for me. Instead, I dream about changing part of the modern “work to earn money to buy food” cycle in the more traditional “work to get your own food” way of living. I believe that in this way I could keep up a decent standard of living with less work in the office and being able to spent more time in the nature. And the process of living of the land is also very satisfying: it’s a “hands on work” closely related to nature and also directly connected to your own well-being. And I happen to like it!

As I said, I spent Sunday mostly in the forest gathering spruce tips. The weather was great and even a typical forest of Southern Finland can be interesting if you slow down your pace and stop to wonder the little things along the way. For example while I was gathering the tips from one small spruce it sounded like it was raining. But clearly it wasn’t raining as the sun was shining, the skies were bright blue and I didn’t feel any drops hitting me. After some time I noticed huge amounts of ants skittering on the ground on top of dead dry leafs. The tiny ants made a sound similar to rain drops hitting leafs around you! And there I stood listening the little creatures making a sound reaching my ears a few meter away. If that isn’t wonderful then what is?

Maybe some day I can spend most of my days in the nature and wonder all the things little and small – and still make an even more satisfying living.

About spruce tips

The good stuff!

Spruce tips are the soft new annual shoots of spruce trees. Compared to the tips of the older branches they are lighter in color, softer and usually more dense. The spruce tips can be eaten as such, boiled, used to make syrup or tea. Apparently there is quite lot of vitamin C in them but I guess that the extended boiling of the syrup making process will destroy most or all of that. Apparently spruce tips are not good for people with kidney problems, so enjoy them at your own risk. The syrup is very good with ice cream or pancakes or similar, it can be used to season tea or sauces for game meat and with some good balsamic vinegar it would probably make a great salad dressing. Next spring I might try making syrup from birch sap and spruce tips so I wouldn’t need to add any (commercially produced and bought) sugar. That would be cool…

Spruce tip syrup recipe

For spruce tip syrup you will need:

– fresh spruce tips
– water
– sugar
– and if you want, lemon or vanilla to spice it up

1) Start by gathering new soft spruce tips, preferably one to seven centimeters long.  You need about three times as much spruce tips in volume as you want to have syrup (so three liters of spruce tips makes about one liter of syrup). I gathered about six liters of tips and got a bit under two liters of syrup.

2) Rinse the spruce tips with cold water.

3) Place the spruce tips into a big cooking pot, add enough cold water to barely cover the tips (notice that they float, so don’t add too much water) and let them soak overnight.

Spruce tips after soaking.

4) After soaking the tips, put the pot on a stove (or on cooking fire) and let it boil gently for about two hours. It’s good to use slightly over sized steel pot with thick bottom.

Spruce tips after about two hours cooking.

5) Filter the tips away and spare the liquid. I used a colander for first round of filtering and then removed the last small particles with colander lined with cotton veil. (Ultra light life style tip: the same veil makes also a good towel. Way better and cheaper than the microfiber ones sold in sports stores.) I guess you could eat the left-over spruce tip mush but I threw it away.

5) Add sugar to the filtered liquid. The right amount is about 0,5kg per one liter of liquid. If you would use less sugar and boiled it down for longer time, you could probably make smaller amount of syrup but with more intense taste.

6) Put the sugared liquid back on the stove (or fire) and let it boil down so it turns into thick syrup. Don’t use a lid as you are supposed to get rid of some of the water. There will probably be some greenish froth on top while cooking. Peel it away. The original recipe recommended cooking the syrup for two hours and that’s what I did. It seems to about as thick as maple syrup and I can still get the stuff out of bottle. More cooking will result to thicker syrup but if you boil it too much you will have later problems to get it out of the jars…

The syrup after about two hours of cooking.

7) Pour the hot syrup into clean and treated glass bottles (for thinner stuff) or glass jars (for thicker stuff). It is good idea to place the bottles and jars into hot oven to kill all the germs before pouring the syrup in them. I put my bottles in an oven with 150 Celsius for 30 minutes. Fill the vessels to the brim with hot syrup and close immediately. I kept the syrup on simmer while doing this: pouring boiling syrup into 150 Celsius glass bottles and sealing them immediately when the boiling stopped. This way there should be no change for bacteria to get into the bottles. A pair of leather gloves comes handy at this stage.

Heat treating the bottles in 150 Celsius oven before bottling the syrup.

Hot syrup still boiling in the heat-treated jar. I waited for the boiling to stop, filled the vessels to the brim and sealed immediately.

8 ) Preserve the bottles in cold place protected from sunlight. Because of high sugar content of the syrup and heat treating the syrup should last long – if you can resist consuming it immediately. Enjoy during the long and dark winter months!

My little treasure for the winter to come… Notice that the hot syrup has shrinked in volume while cooling creating a vacuum inside the vessels first filled to the brim.

Remember that gathering spruce tips is NOT EVERY MAN’S RIGHT in Finland and you need to have the land owners permission to gather them!

– – –

Small update on 28.5.2012:

The spruce tips are out again! And it’s time to make some more of the good stuff for the next winter…

I thought it would be nice to share some info about the syrup I made a year ago: I didn’t use much of it as I spent a lot of time away from home (at the Wilderness Guide School, on trips and on the practical working period in the North) so most of the syrup spent the winter in a cellar. Unfortunately the bottles didn’t seal as well as I wished and even though the caps were air tight (still vacuum inside the bottles while opening) there was some mould growing inside and I ditched the contents. The little jars worked as assumed and the syrup was still fresh and usable. So, jars is what I recommend.

As I mentioned in the original post the syrup is great with iceream of pancakes. I also tried it with vinegar and it makes great salad dressing. And great martinis with gin and topped with some soda, it turn into a cooling long drink. 😉

Ultima Thule 2011 aftermath: Expedition food

I promised a series of posts about the aftermath of the Ultima Thule 2011 expedition. The series will start with a longish post about expedition food. See my original post about expedition food for some background information. First part of the post has some numbers and stuff that might be helpful for others planning a diet for expeditions lasting several weeks. If you are not interested in the numbers, skip to the end where you can read how I felt about the food and how they tasted!

On paper…

I spent quite some time planning my diet for the expedition. I had never before done a three-week trip and I wanted to ensure that I’ll have good time instead of starving so I did some detailed planning based on my previous experience (on 6-8 days summer and winter trips), literature about previous Finnish (ant)arctic expeditions, experiences and calculations of “ulta-hikers” like Andrew Skurka, Roman Dial, Ryan Jordan et al. and as a good lightweight backpacker and soon-to-be-civil-engineer I also did my share of spreadsheet calculations.

After some estimations and spreadsheet work (more about this in a post of its own) I decided that my aim for average calorific intake would be 4800kcal. Soon after we started planning the menu with me tent mate Matias (we had a shared breakfast and dinner and some other stuff) I soon ended up to a higher number: 5071kcal per day. This was fine as I didn’t want to remove anything from the initial menu (the menu can be found from my first post on expedition food). And as my estimated energy consumption for an average skiing day was 6250kcal I decided to take some extra food for the second and third week in case I’d be hungry and miserable. If you think that the numbers are big,, well, they are. But it is good to keep in mind that I am 25-year-old male and weighting 103 kilo so my metabolism is quite high. In addition I was going to haul a sled weighting over 80 kilo in the beginning and I was going to haul it in a cold environment with a decent amount of ascents. All that requires quite a lot of energy.

So the plan was to take 5071kcal and 1202g of food per day totalling 106504kcal and whopping 25,252kilo! In addition I took 7556kcal worth of extra chocolate and biscuits weighting 1470g.

…and in real life

The planned menu went through some last-minute changes in the local grocery the Svalbardbutiken but nothing major. The biggest difference was probably in the addition of some last-minute extras: a 300g package of cheese, strawberry jam for pancakes, pepper steaks for some nice day and a cake ingredients for my birthday (which isn’t included in the final list as I have no clue about the weights and nutritional values). Other than that, we sticked to the plan.

The harsh reality of expedition food... 😉

But on the ice I found that I didn’t need as much as I had anticipated. And as I was also prepared to lose some weight on the way, I decided not to eat everything planned to be eaten but after few days of cramming in all the daily food I started to eat only the amount that I wanted and in the end I intentionally kept myself a bit hungry occasionally to find out how it affects me. In addition we had some mistakes in our calculations. For example 0,5kg of sugar per person per week was way too much, we ended consuming about half of it. And we decided not to eat as much butter as planned. This was because of our stomachs protesting the large quantities of fat. We didn’t have any serious issues with the fat but we both felt that we were walking on a razor edge and  didn’t want to get fat caused diarrhoea. So we burned one 0,5kg package along with carbages after the first week. The relative amount of fat (18% of the food weight and 40% of total energy) wasn’t too much in my opinion but apparently the planned absolute amount (226g per day) would have apparently required some training in advance…

This lead an average calorific intake of 4638kcal per day (433kcal less than planned and quite close to my original estimate of 4800kcal) weighting 1117 grams per day (but I carried a lot more food as originally planned).

Here you can find a detailed pdf list of  the foods that I ate during the expedition:

UltimaThule2011_food_aftermath

You can compare it to the original plan as I didn’t make a separate comparison table:

UltimaThule2011_food

To our great surpsire we found an open bar in the abandoned city of Pyramiden, but the beer is not included in the spreadseeht calculations.

The interesting stuff – how did it work…

One reason why I decided not to eat all the planned food was that until the end of second week I almost never felt hungry. I first tought that I’d be at least occasionally hungry. Of course in the beginning my body’s energy storages where full but after consuming over 6000 or 7000kcal during some days ans eating only around 5000kcal the quick energy storages should have depleted quite quickly and the energy deficit was balanced with lost body mass. Yeah, I lost two or three kilo of bodyweight, but more about it on another post. On the heavier days in the end of second week and in the beginning of the third with 500 meters of daily ascent I was occasionally quite hungry. And I think it was actually quite healthy and normal. I wasn’t miserably hungry or starving at any point and the food kept me going so in that sense my diet worked very well.

I could have also eaten all the food that I planned to eat so in that sense the diet was also succesful. The breakfast required occasionally some cramming and we skipped the oat meal on two mornings but nothing serious. But I think that the correct way to judge an expedition diet would be to have a minimal amount of food needed to keep you going and happy. In this sense, I had too much food. Also I didn’t have any serious food cravings  which often occur on longer polar expeditions. At one point I spent quite some think thinking about summer, sauna and a grilled sausage but that was more like a nice tought than a real craving for sausage. And of course an ice cream or some cold carbonated drink would have been nice on those sweaty days under the arctic sun. And to my surprise I would have chosen soft drink over a beer… But most of the time if I was thinking about food, it was something that I had in the sled and could eat at the same day. And I didn’t get tired on any of the meals or snacks we had. So in this sense, the diet was a success.

The only slight problems were the miss-estimation with sugar and a bit optimistic idea of the amount of fat we could consume. For some reason we though we would consume 500 grams of sugar each per week totaling  1,5kg of sugar per person. We ended up using about half of that. Part of this was a pure miss calculation, part was because of last-minute extra 300 grams of jam for pancakes and partially because we consumed only about half of the tea had planned to drink. The problem with fat was that we planned to eat 120 grams of butter in addition to some other sources of fat. That, with all the other planned food, would have led to a total of 226 grams of fats per day. By the end of the first week we were eating about 205 grams per day and feeling that more could have been challenging for our digestion so we literally ended up burning part of the fat instead of eating it.

A fat burning exercise. That's 0,5kg of butter burning with some carbage.

But: the food was good, I enjoyed it and it kept me going. So, it worked.

 … and how did it taste a.k.a hits and misses?

As aforementioned I really enjoyed all the food. Almost all of the meals were tested in advance so I knew it would be good. The only real surprise were some of the freeze dried lunches. The breakfast and dinner portion were huge. We had 2,1 liter pot for food so we each ate a liter of oatmeal (or rice porridge) in the morning and a liter of stew style dinner in the evening. And both these portions were topped up with about 50 grams of butter. And we could easily eat them! Well, except the oat meal on some mornings…

My breakfast consisted of the aforementioned liter of oatmeal plus some blueberry soup, a liter rice porridge or a big bowl of muesli, rolled oats, dried berries and whole milk powder with a big cup of tea, some hard dry bread with butter and salami and occasional cookie. Next time I wont mixed rolled oats to my muesli and I might make a little smaller portions of oat meal. Or I might even swap the oatmeal to extra bread as that was what we did on two mornings. The bread takes up more space but is really tasty. The rice porridge (made of rice flakes, whole milk powder and seasoned with raisins, sugar, cinnamon and butter) was once again a great hit for me. I know that many expedition people eat the same breakfast every morning and that it usually resembles a mixture of the three different options that I had. But I feel that I need some variety to the breakfast, at least on an expedition that is relatively easy and doesn’t cause chronic feeling of hunger so for trips over three weeks, I think I’ll stick to three different breakfast options.

The snacks worked well and were adequate. Each day I had:
– 100 grams of chocolate. I had a variety of Fazer chocolates that come in 200 gram bars, so each evening I took a bar from our week sack, split it in half, broke the other half in pieces and put it in my day sack with other snacks of the next day. The chocolate was most enjoyable in big quantities with gulps of hot chocolate on breaks when feeling hungry or as a dessert after lunch.
– About 30 grams of beef jerky, meaning two 100g packs in each week sack. Jerky was best eaten in the end of a ten minute break. After some chocolate and a hot drink I would cram a handful of jerky in my mouth and I could enjoy them even after the break had ended and when already skiing.
– About 40 grams of Pringles, meaning two tubes in each week sack. Though I shared one tube with others while enjoying sun shine in a camp after a nice day. I have to say that in the end I regretted the decision a bit… Pringles was best on hot days with steep ascent savoured with gulps of sports drink topped with snow slush. Occasionally it was close to perfection. 🙂
-1,5 liters of bland sports drink for each day because water melted from snow doesn’t contain any minerals, well expect the occasional coal dust, so it’s good to add something to it. I gave a way some extra sports drink powders after the first week and regret t it a bit as they would have been nice during the hot days in the end.
– A liter of hot chocolate drink meaning 84 grams of drink powder a day. I swapped my usual Van Houten hot chocolate to O’boy as it was available in big packages from local wholesale store but this turned out to be a mistake. Van Houten can be mixed up in a Thermos bottle in the morning and sipped from there during the day but during the day O’boy turned into a something that resembled chocolate porridge. It didn’t cause any digestive problems but it didn’t taste good so I started to mix the drink into a big cup during the breaks. This was a bit inconvenient but not too bad. And as said, hot chocolate was best enjoyed with a handful of Fazer chocolate. And it was best on cold and hard days.

The lunches were commercial freeze-dried lunches as they are easy to prepare: just pour some hot water from the thermos in the bag, stir well, wait for a while and enjoy. I had a variety of foods from Blå Band, MX3 and Fuizion. The Fuizion foods were a big hit for me, especially Chicken Tikka Masala, Kung Po Noodles with Chicken and Chicken Bacon Pasta were superb! The Blå Band were good and the MX3 Vegetarian Pasta was very tasty but the MX3 Chicken Paella didn’t work in the cold. The rice stayed crunchy and there was not much chicken… One think that is good to take into consideration is that the declared nutritional values of some Fuizion’s foods seem to be incorrect. For example the amount of nutrients in 100 grams of the great Chicken Tikka Masala seems to be over 100grams which should be impossible. I don’t think that the error is too bad and the food is still hell of an tasty but it’s a bit weird mistake. I calculated the Fuizions to have 90& of the declared nutrients and energy.

Instant smashed potatoes with 100 grams of butter and bacon fried in butter. Good.

The main meals of each day, the dinner, was home-made from dried ingredients. We had five different meals and each of them was great, tasty and the portions were big enough. Instant smashed potatoes with self-dried moose fry was one of our favourites. The classic macaroni with self-dried minced meat was also good as was the homemade and dried pea soup (or more like a pea stew), especially because it was followed with pancakes as the Finnish tradition requires. All the foods were easy and quite quick to cook. I don’t see myself changing completely to commercial freeze-dried food as home-made food is always home-made, even if eaten in a tent and dried in between.

In addition to the food mentioned above I had a dessert for every other day. We had pancakes with the pea soup and in addition I had some Fuizion rice puddings and Blå Band chocolate pudding (mixed with whole milk powder). The pancakes were an unquestionable hit and the Blå Band pudding was also really good. I didn’t quite like the Fuizion rice pudding with fruits but the chocolate & orange version was good. I found that desserts are easy way to add calories to the diet and naturally, they are quite tasty. It was also nice to have something extra to eat after an especially hard day. And we also had a bunch of things as “accessories”: instant coffee, sugar, some candies, cookies, bread, salami, etc. These worked all well and after every dinner I enjoyed a cup of instant Coffee with some cookies. Bread was eaten during the breakfast and before or during the dinner. 200 grams of salami per person per week was enough though I could have eaten more. We had only small package of cheese for the beginning and it was quickly eaten. Next time I’ll take more cheese, even though it’s expensive in the Svalbard. And I will change the Nescafe stuff to instant Africafe. That is by far the best instant coffee that I have tasted, and I’ve also tried the much praised Starbucks Via.

A birthday special: Peppered steak with smashed potatoes!

And we had special treats for special days. For easter we had finnish easter delicacy called mämmi, for my birthday we had pepper steaks as dinner and a cake that to be shared with the whole expedition. We bought a cake and a bag of meringue form Longyearbyen and packed them into a plastic box with miscellaneous small stuff and electronic gadgets to keep them in one piece. And on the ice we moistened the cake with some rum, filled it with chocolate and vanilla pudding and topped with vanilla pudding and meringues. It was quite good, I’ll have to say. Also the steaks were good as was the occasional popcorn but I didn’t feel any special urge or need for them. Next time I might simplify this part of the menu. We had also 1,5 liter of quality spirits for the two of us but part was shared with other expedition members and we felt that less would have been sufficient.

The birthday cake. Again a harsh reality on expedition food.

So, all together most of the food worked and tasted great and there were only few misses.

Lessons learned?

Less food would have been enough. For the next expedition of this magnitude I’ll take less food. Some 4500kcal per day would be enough for three weeks and for a longer expedition I think that would be sufficient for the first two weeks and then I would increase the daily intake with 500kcal per week up to 6000 or 6500kcal.

The big amount of fats requires some accustoming in beforehand. The guys skiing unsupported to the Poles can have up to 60% of their total energy from fats so I think that the relative amount of 40% of the total energy from fats is totally doable but the largish absolute amount may require some stomach conditioning in advance.

Variation is a good thing but maybe a bit simpler menu would be as good. I might decrease the amount of dinners from five to four but wouldn’t like to give up the three breakfast options, though I will likely change them a little. And I wouldn’t give up home-made dinners but I think I could simplify them a bit. Desserts were a great idea and I’ll take them along also in the future but less variation would be enough. I think that on even longer trips I could add some variations to the snacks, maybe with some peanuts and seeds. Next time I’ll take more cheese and maybe also more hard candies to enjoy in the evening in the cozy depths of the sleeping bag with headphones in your ears playing your favorite music… Which is, by the way, quite close to a heaven, I think. 😉

But as a disclosure I’ll have to say that I could quite likely make an expedition like this with a much, much simpler diet and still enjoy it just as much.

This is something we didn't have with us on the ice but it tasted great when back in Longyearbyen. Don't lynch me but it's smoked minke whale. Had to give it a try.

The next post will be about the energy equation of the expedition meaning that I do some elementary school math with the measured energy consumption, do some questimates of total consumption and find out the calorific deficit and ponder whether it is in line with my weight loss. But if you have any questions or thoughts about my expedition diet and the foods, feel free to leave a comment!

Oh, and now that I have calibrated my monitor, I might get some pictures online during the weekend!