People who understand long-term food storage or even disaster preparedness often refer to “freeze dried” foods as somewhat of a holy grail. It’s possible to buy several freeze dried foods in stores - but investing in a freeze dryer means you can also freeze dry food at home to save money, increase your variety, and ultimately feel more prepared.
In the first month after our unit arrived, we tested out several methods and tools for freeze drying. The Harvest Right freeze dryer has a great reputation and is easy to use. We highly recommend it, though is essentially the only option for home freeze drying. To help beginners, we’re sharing a few of the unexpected key takeaways that we learned in the first month of using our Harvest Right freeze dryer.
- You need to know what you’re getting into with set up. To begin with, the equipment is not small. It’s a substantial machine built with high-quality materials and it’s heavy. Expect to enlist help from 1 or even 2 people just to get it into your home. You also need a special electrical outlet with higher voltage - something you should plan for and install prior to the unit arrival. This way you don't sit around wanting to use it without being able to!
- Some foods dry WAY better than others. Foods with a higher moisture content take a lot longer and you may not get the best results. The freeze dryer is best for foods like cooked or raw vegetables and fruit, low fat meats (not sausage links, etc), ice cream, and some candies. We suggest starting simple. Try herbs or leafy vegetables that don’t take a lot of time and work your way up. Your end-goal should be to create a stock of foods that you want or feel you need to have on hand.
- Freeze drying may take longer than you anticipate. The process is unpredictable so it can be difficult to know how long to expect freeze drying to take. As you get started, you may want to keep a journal listing foods, drying times, and other notes that can help as you move forward with your freeze drying journey.
- Correct food storage will improve your results. We suggest having a stash of high quality mylar bags in which to store the food you prepare. Have a variety of bag sizes on hand, along with the materials to label them (tip: Wallaby offers bundles that have everything you need to properly package and label freeze dried foods). We suggest drying similar foods together and then placing a mix in mylar bags, so you have a variety when eating. For example, pack one bag with mixed fruits rather than a single type of fruit.
- Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be so glad you started! Overall, we found the Harvest Right freeze dryer was easy and even fun to use. The machine works very well and the results are delicious!
Freeze drying takes some time and there's definitely a learning curve, but it’s an effective way to preserve and later (or immediately!) enjoy some of your favorite foods in a new way. Whether you want to freeze dry as part of an overall food storage plan, save money at the store, or just make the most of your own gardening efforts, freeze drying is a wonderful strategy. For more ideas on preparing food for long-term storage, make sure to check out our past blog posts including this post about which foods are best for long term food storage.