I'm a burger and fries kind of girl. I crave healthy fats and bad fats but after hiking for long periods of time or in particular backpacking trips, I want meats and cheese at the end of the day. I've managed to address my meat craving with Trader Joe's Chianti Red Wine Artisan Salami, which is absolutely delicious alone or in a dish.
On our last backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park we took two different hard cheeses:
- Gruyère cheese - a cheese from Switzerland, normally used in baking.
- Asiago cheese - a cheese from Italy, normally grated on salads, soups, pastas, etc.
We first tested Gruyère out on our first family backpacking trip in Point Reyes National Seashore in May. As many coastal locations, the weather was mostly cool so the temperatures never got above 70 degrees. I was very comfortable with eating non-refrigerated Gruyère during our Point Reyes trip.
We used it in a Backpacker Magazine recipe for Cheesy Sausage Pasta dish, which was a fatty filling dish that I loved. We decided this would be a meal we would replicate on our Senior Graduating Yosemite Backpacking Trip as well as another Backpacker Magazine recipe, Quick Pepperoni Pizza, that used Asiago cheese.
Our backpacking trip happened to be during California's most recent state-wide heat wave that hit a few weeks ago, long story short we were hiking in 105 degree weather with hardly any relief at night. All of our food were in bear canisters from the previous night of camping at Hetch Hetchy backpackers camp. After hiking all day in scorching heat and finally making it to our first site, I started getting our food ready for dinner and when I opened the bear canisters I wanted to cry. The Zip-Lock bags that contained the cheeses had almost disintegrated from the heat and the oil that leaked from the cheeses.
I'm not going to lie, I was so distraught because it was two meals worth of food that I thought had gone to spoil and there was a possibility of our trip being cut short due to the lack of food. Either way I kept the cheeses because even though the chunks of cheese were HOT they maintained their structure when I pulled them out of the canisters. In my mind, the cheeses were no good.
It was dinnertime and Nate, one of our gracious leaders volunteered as a "cheese tester" and took the plunge and tasted the Asiago cheese that had been in extreme heat baking in a bear canister all day. My sadness turned to joy when I heard Nate say, "The cheese is good!" as well as the pepperoni that we had brought, so we enjoyed pepperoni pizzas that night. That's why Asiago cheese gets my "Tough Backpacking Cheese" seal of approval.
Dinner for the second night was the Cheesy Sausage Pasta dish and we were so hungry that we almost didn't care if the Gruyère cheese had gone bad, I really wanted cheese! Nate our cheese tester, tasted a piece of Gruyère cheese that had gone through TWO days of scorching heat, and our beautiful, delicious Gruyère cheese was still good. I dove right in and had a piece of Gruyère even before our meal was done. That's why in my experience Gruyère gets my "Toughest Backpacking Cheese" seal of approval.
I recently read Trail-Dad.com post, "Cheese" and I learned that we should have packaged our cheese differently rather than keeping them in tightly wrapped packaging. Cheese paper, parchment paper, foil wrapped chunks or unsealed plastic baggies are cheese wrapping options and probably would have helped the cheese oils not to explode all inside the bear canister as it did on our Yosemite trip.
Trail-Dad.com also lists other "backpacking" cheeses and Backpacker Magazine also list 20 types of "Trail Worthy Cheeses" that I will definitely try out on our future trail adventures but I can personally testify to the toughness Gruyère and Asiago cheese in extreme temperatures.
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