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How to Freeze Dry Dairy: Sour Cream, Evaporated Milk & Kefir
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to rely on your food storage and reserves? I’ve had this happen a few times over the years.
One such occasion was on May 18, 1980. Mount St. Helens in Washington State exploded sideways. There was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that caused the volcano’s summit to collapse in the largest landslide in recorded history. It sent out a blast of ash, rock and hot gas from its north side at what was estimated to be over 300 mph.
It affected more than just those in Washington! The wind blew the volcanic ash easterly into several neighboring states.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I had stopped by a neighbor’s to say hi. I saw the sky turning dark very quickly from the West, and thought I’d better get the kids home fast. It looked to me like a bad storm was brewing. What a puzzling surprise it was to see something white falling from the dark sky after we arrived home.
We hadn’t seen anything like it before –it was like it was night time in the middle of the day! We didn’t know what it was; if it was safe to be in, to touch, to breathe…or? After turning on the radio, we found out what happened, but no one seemed to know much about volcanic ash so we were advised to stay indoors and not drive. It apparently was getting into the air filter of emergency vehicles and freezing up the engines.
How Long Could Our Emergency Go
So, we all ended up staying home for about 6 days straight. Luckily, I had already been baking our own bread, using powdered milk (it is very drinkable when kept COLD and I’m anxious to try freeze drying our own and re-hydrating, to compare), we had lots of home canned items and a freezer full of meat –we were prepared. For us, it was like a vacation, having our husband/dad home for that length of time and having everything we needed.
As I’m freeze drying, I think about the different types of emergencies and things that are not easy to store, especially if the electricity goes out. Sour Cream is one of those items. We use it in a lot of dishes; anything Mexican like tacos, burritos, taco salad, or fajitas, in au gratin potatoes, Eggs Sarah or with omelet’s topped with salsa and sour cream or my husband’s favorite, hamburger stroganoff.
(visit the vault for my comfort food recipe for hamburger stroganoff)
Can I Freeze Dry Sour Cream?
Sour Cream is one of my favorite things to freeze dry. I’ll pick up a 48 oz. tub from Costco or WinCo and take a straight spatula and slice it down the middle. I put half a tub on each tray and spread it out smoothly.
Now, Bonnie once had a disaster with sour cream (and swore she wouldn’t do it again!) just as I had with raw eggs! Neither of these is fun to clean up from inside your freeze drier! Trust me, you’ll only do it once!
But, we found that the secret is to always freeze liquids or creams for a full 24 hours on HarvestRight trays in your freezer (without your Silicone mats for this) before freeze drying. And then, of course hit LIQUID and PRE-FREEZE so you have a cold freeze drier to place your frozen trays into, in order to not thaw the food first.
Four trays of sour cream, with 24 oz on each tray takes 24 hours and 45 minutes. It powders light and fluffy as you remove it from your trays. Even though I used my potato masher here, sour cream (unlike raw eggs, tomato sauce or raspberry puree) can just be stirred around a bit before filling your Mylar bags. Be sure to put in your oxygen absorber first.
I’ve done many batches of sour cream and it turns out beautifully every time.
Can I Freeze Dry Evaporated Milk?
Evaporated Milk is another dairy item that isn’t easy to store. It doesn’t have a very long shelf life before you’ve got gooey lumps or a swollen can and have to throw it out! There are some things that I think are just better made with evaporated milk, like a white cream sauce, gravy or Creamed Peas and Potatoes.
(Visit the vault for a copy of my comfort food recipe for Creamed Peas and Potatoes)
Store brands are just fine for evaporated milk. Sometimes there is a big difference in price, but I never notice any difference in taste or performance.
The Important Numbers
I do 2 – 12 oz cans per tray and they take 24 – 25 hours to freeze dry. And I could get 2 trays or 4 – 12 oz. cans into a quart Mylar bag. I measured it out and about 1 1/4 cup of powder, adding water to the correct consistency = a 12 oz can of evaporated milk.
Can I Freeze Dry Kefir Yogurt?
Kefir yogurt can sit on your counter as it cultures, but has to be fed every 24 hours –or the kefir grains need to be covered with milk and frozen, or it will die. It is a living organism; a natural probiotic that contains 7 to 10 billion colony forming units of good bacteria; more potent than yogurt or supplements. We’ve found that by drinking about 8 oz of Kefir a day, we see many health benefits, so I want to make sure I can store it.
Ready to Freeze
When it’s already cultured, it’s great freeze dried and makes a beautiful flaky powder. Kefir gives a wonderful unique taste to fruit smoothies, so I would just add the powder to something like that. I experimented freeze drying Kefir grains. They seemed to do fine, but as I tried to reconstitute them in milk and allow them to culture, it didn’t work –they died. I think the powder is the best way to go.
We learned a lot from that experience with Mt. St. Helens:
- Ash actually is a great fertilizer
- It’s heavy, so it doesn’t go away for years
- it does get into air filters of cars and ruins them, but you can put 4 layers of panty hose over it and drive just fine.
- It’s good to have dust masks on hand (volcanic ash can be irritating to lungs)
- It’s great to be prepared for anything, thus eliminating unnecessary anxiety and stress!
- Boil about 4 – 5 C. wide egg noodles in 2 qts. water
- with 1 tsp. Salt (or rice is nice also)
- Fry 1 lb. Hamburger with 1/2 C. (or so) chopped Onion.
- Add 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup.
- 1/2 C. water 1 tsp. Garlic salt
- 2 Tbls. Minced parsley 1 can Mushrooms, drained
- 2 Tbls. Margarine 1 C. Sour cream
- 1/8 tsp. Pepper 1/2 tsp. Paprika
- Cook all ingredients except sour cream for 5 – 7 min.
- Add sour cream last & stir & heat –serve.
- Use Freeze dried Hamburger with onion, mushrooms, parsley, sour cream
- and mushroom soup! I also stored egg noodles in gal. Mylar bags.
Creamed Peas & Potatoes
- Melt 1 cube of butter in 3 qt. saucepan
- Stir in ½ C flour until smooth
- Then add 1 Can Evaporated Milk, while stirring and 2 cans sliced baby potatoes (or 2 cups freeze dried diced potatoes, rehydrated, with liquid)
- Add ½ Tsp. salt & pepper to taste
- Then add in about ½ C – ¾ C. frozen or freeze dried, rehydrated peas
- Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
- Remove from heat before it boils & serve.
- Great served with a spicy meat like Cajun chicken or BBQ Chicken (freeze dried rotisserie)
What exactly is Freeze Drying?
Many people think it’s next to impossible to do the freeze drying for themselves. This is far from factual. Freeze drying at home is made easy by Harvest Right. They sell three different sizes of freeze-drying machines that do everything in the machine – except prep and package.
That’s up to you.
For all intents and purposes, here at Freeze Drying Mama we use the medium sized freeze dryer. You can check out the sizes offered at Harvest Right here.
What this machine does first is freeze the items on stainless steel trays to -41 degrees or lower. This takes about 10 hours or so.
Then a vacuum pump turns on and creates a vacuum inside the drum. This is the drying stage and will vacillate the heat of the tray up and down to a pretty warm temperature. This makes the frozen items release any water in vapor form. The vacuum sucks the moisture to the drum and this collects in ice form on the inner circle of the drum.
Then there’s the final dry which is essentially the same thing, but with a time associated with it and an end in sight!
What settings do I use for freeze drying dairy?
On the Harvest Right freeze drier – this works on all sizes – after putting the trays inside the drum on the shelves, I put in the drum cover and then tighten the handle as I lock it shut. On the computer touch screen, I selected START > LIQUID > NOT FROZEN > CONTINUE. After inputting the settings and making sure my drain tube was closed, I walked away.
What is your favorite dairy item to freeze dry?