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Can You Save Your Holiday Dinner In Your Food Storage?
Definitely. You can freeze dry Thanksgiving leftovers and I’m going to tell you how. And why. Isn’t why the best part?
Rather than start with turkey, I’m starting with my favorites. Yep, I said favorites.
Mashed potatoes and stuffing. The gravy is like… the frosting on top or mixed in. Whatever way you want to look at it.
These freeze dried leftover bites are amazing as they are like a cracker (eaten without any reconstitution) or reconstituted with hot water and mixed to the desired consistency. More about that later!
How Do You Prepare Leftovers To Be Freeze Dried?
I wouldn’t do ALL of my leftover mashed potatoes, gravy, and dressing this way. This is just one terrific way to do it.
I like the jarred gravy for freeze drying because the fat content is MUCH lower than homemade gravy and therefore it freeze dries really nicely. Mixed in with other things and it’s perfect for what I need it to do.
So, the ingredients I have here are leftover mashed potatoes. I always keep boxes of stuffing on hand because they’re cheap as dirt, but prepared stuffing works awesome here, too.
Then a jar of gravy to ramp up that flavor.
Mix In This Order
Mix the jar of gravy with the stuffing first. If you’re using the boxed stuff, the bread will absorb some of that gravy and make it less sloppy to mix and spoon onto the trays.
My 4th child loves stuffing. He was standing beside me and offering to “help” all the while he had a spoon I had no idea about and he was scooping sampler bites every time my back was turned. Kids can be so cute sometimes.
After it’s thoroughly mixed and looking all crazy, you’ll add in the mashed potatoes. I just did these cold. It was really great because after sitting in the fridge overnight, excess water had pooled in the bowl and I was able to drain it from the bowl. That’s water my freeze dryer doesn’t have to remove. So, yay!
Get it all mixed in really well. This is what it looked like in the bowl. I was definitely sampling things at this point as well. Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday – second to Veteran’s Day.
Don’t Get Too Impatient
Remember, I have no patience with anything. If you doubt that, check out my ice cream posts. Since I’d already made these and I really wanted to serve the mixture for dinner, I needed to hurry and get them into the freezer.
This is one of those items I felt needed to be pre-frozen so it didn’t turn out like my first bout of sour cream. Sob. That was a mess, let’s just leave it at that.
So I scooped the potato mixture onto my silicone trays and put them in the freezer overnight.
Once they were frozen, I put them in the freeze dryer.
After a solid 48-hours in Frosty, these suckers came out looking crazy but so fun. They were significantly lighter in both color and weight but not flavor.
If you’re not careful, they’ll be crumbly and turn to powder rather easily. So treat with care.
Look at how easily these went into the mylar bag. You can crush them, if you want or you can leave them whole.
How Do You Reconstitute Freeze Dried Leftovers?
As you know, most of the things I like to store in my food storage are ready-to-eat. I try to think about what I would possibly need to store food for and things like natural disasters, evacuation, power outages, camping, dirt biking, hunting, and more are circumstances where I might not be able to cook things as easily I do now.
This means I need to be able to eat or prepare the food as fast as possible. When you reconstitute freeze dried food, you’re really just adding water back into the item. Sometimes this is easy like soup, pastas, and casseroles and other times you’ll do better to just eat it as is like ice cream treats or candy.
Fortunately, these specific leftovers are great either way.
You can eat them by biting into them and eating them like a cracker. Make sure you have a bottle of water nearby to help you keep your mouth wet. Seriously.
Or you can boil water, put one of these serving size scoops into a bowl and add the water slowly as you reach the desired consistency. My husband likes his almost like a chowder where I like it really thick. Everyone can pick their own style.
You can even add it to a casserole, if you want.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this fun adventure into Thanksgiving leftovers.
HOW DO I FREEZE DRY Thanksgiving Leftovers?
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 is first 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 them in vapor form. The vacuum sucks the moisture to the drum. 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 TO FREEZE DRY Thanksgiving Leftovers?
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 > FROZEN > CONTINUE. After inputting the settings and making sure my drain tube was closed, I walked away.