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Freeze drying for beginners is exactly what it says it is. Print this information off and put it into your freeze drying binder!
What is freeze drying?
Freeze drying is the layman’s term for lyophilization, a process that is often used to extend the life of perishable materials. This can include food, herbs, medicines, pet foods, and more. Essentially, you’re taking the liquid out of the item with a process that first freezes, then creates a vacuum around it, and then vaporizes the liquid using heat. The vacuum pressure pulls the vapor to the edges of the drums, thus “drying” the product.
It does take a little bit of time and by a little bit, I do mean hours to days. But let’s be honest, you’re sleeping for a solid 8 of those, and then working, or watching YouTube videos or whatever it is that you do. So essentially, it’s a set it up and leave it until it’s done process. Then package it and start again.
It’s an easy process to get amazing, home-made freeze-dried foods (or whatever else you’re doing).
Check out this video I made where I talk about what lyophilization is all about!
Why would you freeze dry food?
So many people in this day and age work on storing food for a reason only known to them. Some do it for potential disasters, for potential slim economic times, to help others, to take camping/hunting/bug out. Some do it because they don’t know why, but they feel like they should.
We have a lot of people in our home – 8 so far – and our church leaders counsel that we strive to have a sizable amount of food in our food storage. This food storage could be used for us or for other church members or even for other members of the community. Wherever there is need, it is easier for us to store Mylar bags of virtually weightless food that can last up to 25 years versus 4 to 5 years of canned goods in glass containers.
If there’s an earthquake, the bags will be fine. Glass… it breaks rather easily and it can freeze, and so many other arguments.
Does freeze dried food lose its nutritional value?
Not as much as you would think. According to multiple stats I’ve found around the internet, freeze dried foods retain 98.9% of their original nutritional value. I think that’s pretty good since similar stats reveal that canned food, frozen food, and dehydrated foods can lose up to 50% of their nutritional values after just the initial process of preparing the foods.
Here are some reports to check out the more specific stats, if you’re so inclined.
Can I freeze dry herbs?
Absolutely! In fact, some of my favorite herbs to dry include basil, oregano, parsley, and cilantro. Freeze drying herbs maintains the beautiful colors, shape, and flavors along with their organic medicinal values that we want with herbs. Of course, none of that matters when you’re just going to crush them into flakes like I love cooking so much with.
Another option, if you’re interested, is freeze drying cannabis. Not many people think of freeze drying this herb for medicinal purposes, but it preserves the precious cannabinoids that many need for aches, pains, and migraines (I get these a LOT!). CBD is a great option to help me snap out of one of my migraine episodes.
How do I freeze dry food myself?
There are some ways to do things on your own without having to buy a freeze dryer, but I’m not sure how reliable they are.
I bought a medium sized freeze dryer from Harvest Right. So far? I love it. I had a couple issues with it three months ago and I called their customer service and over about a week (they had to ship me some things) of trial and error, we got it figured out and I was back on my way.
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 them 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.
What are the possibilities with owning my own freeze dryer?
Well, let me just say… I don’t eat out a lot. Not just because I like saving money, but because I prefer my own cooking. I prefer knowing what is in the food I’m eating and I prefer not to get charged when my kids want seconds, thirds, and even fourths of the foods they like.
When I was buying food storage items, I wasn’t sure what was in them. I was just going with what they had listed on the ingredients list. Well, just like with anything, how did I know if they had fillers in them or not? I didn’t.
But now, freeze drying my own foods, I can control what I’m putting in my food storage and that’s a big deal to me. Plus, let’s be honest. There are some great options for food that is available out there for freeze dried options, but I can’t get MY chili, Costco pizza, Spaghetti O’s, or ground venison burger the way I like it unless I do it myself. That’s just a fact.
The list of things we can do now that we’re saving money and packaging up our own food is limitless.
Freeze dried food from a survival standpoint
Yeah, everyone and their brothers are into survival prep these days. Sinking money into their preparations and not necessarily on the best things.
What if you could make your money stretch further? With the cost of the machines making themselves back in the first six months of freeze drying, it’s a no-brainer when you can also add other options to what you do with the food. We supplement our costs by selling items that we freeze dry, doing the service for others and they pay us with extra food, storage supplies, etc. and more.
From a survival standpoint, I’m all for having 40 years’ worth of wheat in my food storage. People hear me tease about this all the time, but I do mean it when I say “wheat I have, but it’s not as logical for me to store” as say chicken noodle soup is, or raw egg powder, or ground venison, or even rotisserie chicken. I want to eat all of those things. I’m not sure I want to survive if all I have to eat is a handful of raw wheat and a packet of dried milk powder (yep, I have that, too).
Why survive when you can thrive? I’m sure that’s someone’s tagline out there and I just stole it for myself lol.
Can freeze drying help me in my travels?
You bet it can!
Here’s the thing. Food costs are higher in some places. For instance, Hawaii is isolated from the rest of the world and to get things in or out, someone has to transport it. This gets written into the cost of the item.
Guess what? Flying with freeze dried foods is easy because there’s no liquid. It doesn’t go bad fast. And it’s virtually light weight which won’t cost you an arm and a leg to take with you. Yay! TSA compliance is much easier to hit with freeze dried food than canned or packaged goods.
How can I use freeze dried food?
There are so many ways to use freeze dried food. Rather than go into recipes right now, I’m just going to bring up examples of when freeze dried food would be beneficial to have.
We already covered when you’re traveling by plane.
How about when you’re traveling by boat or by dog sled? Not common, but saving weight is a big deal. Not to mention, when you’re trying to go somewhere that might be off the grid or hard to get to, you won’t have to work extra hard to get this there. Yes, we watch Building Alaska and I’m constantly saying, they need freeze dried food up there.
We like to take our freeze dried meals camping, hunting, hiking, dirt biking, and on long road trips.
But food storage is important to have in case you lose a job and have no money to purchase food because you’re trying to pay other bills like electricity. Then you have food there you don’t have to spend money on.
Another important factor is when there’s an emergency.
Where we live, we have power outages because of snow storms or summer thunderstorms. When you have that happen, you have to worry about the items in your freezers, your fridge, and how you’re going to cook them.
What if you already had bags of ravioli and all you had to do was hand them out to your kids? These go like cookies in our house! I had the kids asking for a power outage just so they could eat some Costco pizza “crackers” and Spaghetti O’s crackers. You don’t necessarily HAVE to reconstitute the foods before you eat them. It just makes it more palatable in some instances.
Here’s a list of how we use our freeze-dried goods (list is not exclusive)
- Dirt biking
- At home during emergencies
- In food storage
- Sharing with neighbors and friends in need
- Handing out to the homeless
- In gifts
- 72-hour-kit/bug out bags
- Sell freeze dried goods
How do I get access to freeze dried foods or other items?
That is such a great question! I’m glad you asked it 😉.
There are two ways you can get freeze dried foods.
- You can buy them from other people or companies.
- You can do your own!
- Of course, I recommend this option for everyone who can swing it. You could even go in with a group of people to split the cost. There are a lot of ways to make this happen, but I highly recommend considering this option. It will save you money in the long run.
- This option is particularly useful for those people with food allergies, intolerances, medical conditions, and other medical indelicacies.
How is freeze dried food stored?
There are multiple ways you can store your freeze-dried food whether you do it yourself or buy it from the store. All options will have an investment on your part.
- #10 cans
- Mylar bags
- Mason jars
When you do store your freeze-dried foods that you make yourself, you’ll always want to include an oxygen absorber with them and make sure they’re sealed well. Oxygen deteriorates food along with sunlight, heat, and other gases.
What can I freeze dry?
Oh, honey, the question below this one is easier to answer. The list is endless of what you can freeze dry. I’ll see if I can do a sufficient job answering it, if nothing else at least I can get your mind going on the possibilities.
- Ice creams and treats
- So much more
What can’t I freeze?
Honestly, I wish the answer was you can freeze dry everything under the sun, but that’s just not logical. There are some hard and fast NO’s in this list.
The fat or sugar content will limit you first and foremost.
- Chocolate by itself
- Peanut butter by itself
- High fat content (not recommended)
- High sugar content (not recommended)
You can cook these things into dishes and they’ll freeze dry just fine. We do an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bar that freeze dries amazing! Pork chops do awesome, too.
It’s not that it can’t be done in some instances, either, like bacon. It’s just the length of the life of the item is shortened because the fat can still go rancid if it’s not completely dried. Or the sugar isn’t completely dried.
These are the general things to steer clear of. If you figure out a way to freeze dry butter, let me know! That’s one I wish I could do. I’ll be canning that stuff until I figure out a way to defy freeze drying limitations.
How do I reconstitute food?
So, the first thing you need to be aware of is that freeze drying removes the water. To reconstitute the food, you would add water back in or increase the moisture. That’s essentially it.
Whether you soak the food in boiling water like ground meat, or you eat the food like a snack and it reconstitutes in your mouth, or even you add it into a casserole dish or a pan and cook it in with the other juices of other things, all you need to add is water.
Each item has its own ways to reconstitute them, but the overall gist is add water. Do that, and you’ll reverse the freeze-drying effects.
How long does freeze dried food stay good?
The standard answer is 25 years if sealed well and stored properly in a dark, dry, cool place. I’m comfortable saying 10 years and then pushing it out from there depending on the density of the item, the accuracy of the freeze drying process, the way it’s stored and sealed. But just think… that’s significantly longer than canned foods or frozen foods. There’s no chance you’ll have to deal with freezer burn when you’re pulling the bag of food from a bin in your crawl space in five years.
Is freeze drying for me?
I can’t answer that for you. But I can tell you that freeze drying is definitely for me.
The things I researched before I started freeze drying fit under these four categories.
- It’s not cheap to buy a machine, but like I said, it pays for itself after six months. The cost of commercially powdered eggs is about 10 times more than what I pay to do them. If you’d like to see some scientific data based around the average cost to run a machine on the food you’d like to do, check out this site. It’s pretty amazing.
- Room needed
- Do you have space to store this sucker? It’s not much bigger than a small apartment sized fridge. You need to elevate it though (not much) and then you need room for the vacuum pump and space to change the oil and have a drain bucket.
- Ours is stored in our office.
- You’ll want to clean the machine
- You’ll want to change the oil in an oil pump to remove the water and keep clean oil in the pump
- Drain the bucket of defrost waste – the ice has to melt and go somewhere
- Set up
- The machine isn’t light. You’ll want to make sure you have help to set it up and get it in your house, etc. This is not a portable machine, but once you get it in where you want it, you shouldn’t need to worry about moving it again.
I highly recommend freeze drying for anyone serious about building up their food storage. With the constantly rising costs of food, this is a good idea for most people to have access to stock up on cost effective food.
If you have a garden, this is a good idea for you as well.
But maybe I’m biased. I’m into do-it-yourself and this is definitely do-it-yourself.