Taste test: Marine Cuisine
BY FRANK KEHR
Marine Cuisine by Mountain House offers an extensive menu of freeze-dried foods, packaged in foil pouches that are easy to store. The parent company, Oregon Freeze Dry, began drying fruit for General Mills in 1963, and by the early 1970s was marketing its own Mountain House line of freeze-dried foods for outdoor recreational use.
I was provided with three different food packages to sample: breakfast of scrambled eggs with diced ham, dinner of chicken breast and mashed potatoes, and desert of blueberry cheesecake. I was on my own for lunch. All products come in newly redesigned, resealable freestanding foil pouches that are used to prepare the freeze-dried dishes. Mountain House also provided its Marine Oven Flameless Heating Kit, which consists of a larger version of the food storage pouch, five heat activation pads, five salt tablets, and a clear plastic bottle.
The food can be prepared either by adding boiling water directly to the pouch, or by immersing the sealed pouch into the activated “Marine Oven.” Packages are clearly labeled, with each product having its own cooking sequence and duration. My chicken dinner, for example, gets boiling water added directly to the food pouch containing the freeze-dried meat, and stands for two to three minutes. The meat then is removed, and the potatoes are added to the pouch, stirring for two minutes. Dinner is ready.
To prepare the Marine Oven, place one heat activation pad in the bottom of the oven pouch, fill the plastic bottle with water, and dissolve a salt tablet in the bottle. Empty the salted water into the oven pouch, insert the food pouch, and zip the oven shut. When preparing food in the Marine Oven, ambient temperature potable water is added to the food pouch instead of boiling water. Instructions suggest heating the food for 15 to 20 minutes. The oven pouch is reusable with the remaining included heat activation pads and salt tablets.
Heating my scrambled eggs in the Marine Oven generated a temperature of 166 degrees F on the outside surface of the oven in three minutes and 177 degrees F after 15 minutes. The food temperature was 140 degrees when completed.
I prepared all three products as per directions (the cheesecake required no heating) with surprisingly good results. Portions were realistic in size, and had the appearance and flavor of typical home-cooked meals. Marine Cuisine products will be aboard my trawler this season, and with the wide variety available, there likely will be a stash of them with my other home emergency supplies. Oregon Freeze Dried has a preplanned and packaged seven-day emergency kit for less than $100, providing an individual with three balanced, easy-to-prepare meals a day for seven days.
It would be helpful if the food pouches were marked inside, indicating the correct level of water to be added, eliminating the need for a measuring cup. Disposable stirring sticks also would be helpful.
Marine Cuisine freeze-dried foods are easy to store, have a minimum five-year shelf life from date of manufacture when stored below 75 degrees F, are easy to prepare, and taste good. Retail prices vary, but all seem reasonable. The chicken entrée retails for $7.99, scrambled eggs $4.49, and the blueberry cheese cake $5.99 (four 1/2-cup servings).