How to Freeze Dry Food at Home for Long Term Storage

how-to-freeze-dry-food-at-home-for-long-term-storage

There are lots of reasons people preserve and store food. Maybe you’re a ‘prepper’, like to be organized and have food ready, want to keep some seasonal foods all year round, like to have meals prepared when camping, want to cut down on waste, the list goes on.

Whatever the reason, you have a few options when it comes to storing food for a long time. The main options are canning, which has been done for many years and is still one of the most popular ways. Dehydrating, which is fine but it doesn’t keep the food in a good condition, and freeze-drying which is the best option as I will be explaining.

In this article, I will cover what freeze drying is. I’ll give you some simple to follow steps to follow so you can freeze dry food at home, and I’ll explain why it’s a better option than canning or dehydrating.

What Is Freeze Drying?

If you’re going to start freeze drying food it’s a good idea to know exactly what is means. To explain this in a sentence, basically, freeze drying is a method of drying out food that removes all the moisture content so you can preserve the food and place it in storage.

By freezing food in a strong vacuum the water sublimates, this allows you to keep the nutrition in the food and as good as freeze time on the food so when you thaw it out it’s pretty close to as good as when you dried it out.

An everyday example of this is freeze dried coffee. It tastes great, lasts for a long time, and retains all the goodness in the process. Freeze dried coffee can sit on a shelf for years without degrading in quality. The process also works great with fruit, vegetables, and a whole host of other foods.

Benefits of Freeze Drying Food

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Freeze drying food is actually easier than canning and storing food, so you really have no excuse not to start using this method. More importantly, your food will last up to 8 times as long when it’s freeze dried.

Another huge benefit is that the food retains its nutritional value. It doesn’t shrink and deform the food like dehydrating can, and you’re not cramming food into cans that will start to perish the moment the can is opened. Wwhen you defrost freeze dried food you’ll still get the original aroma, it’s amazing really.

You can freeze dry meats, meals, fruits, just about anything, and it’s really just like freezing time. With the amount of leftovers and wastage from the average family, learning how to freeze dry food is not only going to save you time and money, it’s the green thing to do.

Shelf Life of Freeze Dried Foods Compared to Other Methods

Freeze dried food doesn’t only last a little longer than canned or frozen foods, it lasts a lot longer. Here is the estimated shelf life of food using different methods:

Frozen Food – up to 2 years

Canned Food – up to 3 years

Dehydrated Food – up to 4 years

Freeze Dried Food up to 25 years

How to Freeze Dry Food at Home

There are a few different methods you can use to freeze dry foods at home. The easiest ways involve using vacuum chambers of course, but if you don’t have a vacuum chamber there are some other methods.

Here are three of the most effective ways to freeze dry food at home:

How to Freeze Dry Food with Dry Ice

  1. Preparing the food in freezer bags – Place all of your foods into freezer bags. Make sure there is no air in the bags and the food isn’t clumped up. Seal them airtight.
  2. Placing your food in a cool box – Place all the food bags into a cool box and cover with dry ice. Try and place dry ice in between the food bags and keep all the bags separate.
  3. Placing the food in the freezer – Next, you need to place the cooler box into the freezer. Give it around 8 hours then place the lip on the box, and after 24 hours take a peek in to see if all the dry ice has gone. If so, your food is freeze dried and ready to be stored.
  4. Moving the food into storage – Now you can store the food in your freezer or pantry.

How to Use Your Freezer to Freeze Dry Food

  1. Preparing the food on a tray – Spread out your food on a tray. Try to separate all the foods so they are not clumped up otherwise it’s going to freeze dry in clumps.
  2. Placing the food in the freezer – Place the tray of food into the freezer in the coldest area – this is usually the bottom compartment, unless you have a quick freeze compartment. Resist temptation to open the freezer, this can cause ice crystals to form on the food and will slow down the process.
  3. Leave the food long enough – Over the next 7-10 days any moisture in the food will be removed as it becomes freeze dried. You can check this by removing a piece of food and letting it thaw out. If the food turns blackish in color the food is not fully freeze dried yet.
  4. Moving the food into storage – When you’re satisfied the food has freeze dried place all the food into freezer bags. Make sure there is no air in the bags and store them in your freeze until required.

How to Freeze Dry Food with a Vacuum Chamber

  1. Preparing the food on a tray – Spread out your food on a tray. Try to separate all the foods so they are not clumped up otherwise it’s going to freeze dry in clumps.
  2. Placing the food in the freezer – Place the tray of food into your freezer and leave it long enough to go solid. The less items in the freezer the quicker it will freeze. Try not to open the freezer before the food is completely solid or it will slow the process down.
  3. Place the food into a vacuum chamber – It takes around 7 days to complete the sublimation process with a vacuum chamber set to 10 C (50 F). Check the food after this time period to see if the process has completed.
  4. Moving the food into storage – When the food has freeze dried move it into air-tight containers and into storage until required.Why Freeze Dry Instead of Canning

If you’re already storing and preserving food you’re probably canning it. Canning food is the most common way to store food, it’s easy, quick, and is the old tried and tested method. There are however some problems with canning, most of which can be avoided by freeze drying instead.

Canning food has the following problems:

  • Risk of food spoiling or perishing
  • Short shelf life
  • Reduced nutritional value of the food
  • Time consuming

canning-food

Just think about fruit as an example. Freeze drying strawberries means you have fresh strawberries available whenever you need them. They will look and taste just as they did when the were put into storage. You can take a couple out as and when you need them, and indeed this is what some restaurants do with their desserts.

While canned strawberries are nowhere near as good as a fresh strawberry. When you open a can that’s been in storage you have to use all the contents within a day or so too. Plus, the longer the  food is canned the more it degrades, so you always have that issue that time is running out.

Why Freeze Dry Instead of Dehydrating

Dehydrated food has a longer shelf life than canned food. It’s pretty easy to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, and although a lot of people do this it’s still nowhere near as good as freeze drying.

The following video shows you some examples of dehydrated food next to freeze dried food, you’ll see there is a huge difference in the quality that’s preserved by each method.

Even if you only want to preserve food for 3 years or so, I’d still pick freeze drying due to the food staying fresher and retaining more of its nutrition.

The main advantage dehydrated food has is that it can be opened from storage and does not spoil as fast if it’s not exposed to moisture.

What Foods Can You Freeze Dry?

You can freeze dry almost anything. If you’re just getting started then test out some fruit or vegetables as they are the easiest. You can freeze dry whole meals though, so if you’ve many too many pizzas, too much stew, etc,

Some people freeze dry meat and add it to soups as and when they make the soup. You can prepare whole meals to eat while camping, or as mentioned in the opening comments, if you’re prepper you can start storing all kinds of foods in case of an emergency.

 

 

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