Wednesday, September 7, 2022
HomeOutdoorI Bought a Freeze Dryer

I Bought a Freeze Dryer

The Path Less Traveled #062: I Bought a Freeze Dryer

Pro Tip: Don’t get buzzed off Ranch Water and start shopping on the internet. Why you may ask? I was tired of looking at $10 – $15 USD dehydrated camping meals and decided I was going to make my own. Having prior experience canning foods and dehydrating things, I considered this to be a walk in the park. Well, $3000 USD later, I’ve purchased a medium sized Harvest Right freeze dryer and surprisingly not regretting my  hard seltzer fueled decisions decisions.

harvest right freeze dryer setup table counter stand station
Harvest Right freeze dryer shipped to my house.

Welcome to our recurring series of “The Path Less Traveled.” In this series, we want to take you along for our exploits in the wilderness while hiking, camping, exploring, and general adventuring. This will include our small daily victories, foibles, tips, tricks, and reviews of gear we authentically appreciate and frequently utilize. While a well-worn trail can often be the pathway to a leisurely day, the paths less traveled can often spur on some of the greatest memories, misadventures, and fun we could imagine. Join us in the Comments as we share our travels and hopefully, we can all come together for a greater appreciation of the outdoors.

Freeze Drying is an up and coming trend for camping and prepping. Dig in:

What is Freeze Drying About?

Freeze drying, also known by the scientific terms lyophilization. I’m sure you guys are smart enough to learn about things on your own if you’re not familiar with freeze drying.

freeze dried ice cream sandwiches harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking food meals

Here are a few links explaining what freeze drying is and how the process works:

Some debate between the first commercial use of freeze drying. Some believe it was Flosdorf and Greaves, attempting to ship shelf stable blood to troops in WW2, others believe it was Nestle and their process to make instant coffee. Either way, the process helped increase the portability and longevity of the products processed with freeze drying techniques.

NASA spent tons of American tax dollars to get people to the moon. Part of this was sustaining humans in space, including nutrition. Was Spaceman Ice-Cream really something NASA Astronauts ate? Nope. Too crumbly and flaky, resulting in crumbs that could ruin control switches in the cockpit.

freeze dried ice cream sandwiches harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking food hiking meals
I ran a batch of 24 ice cream bars and brought them to friends and family. They lasted seconds!

Difference Between Freeze Drying and Dehydrating

Being on this site, I know you’ve landed yourself a deer, or other lean animal and have considered dehydrating the meat to make some scrumptious jerky. Don’t get me wrong, Beef jerky is a gift from God himself, but freeze dried food just slaps different due to it’s ability to be easily rehydrated.

The foods typically do not lose nutrients, color or edibility characteristics due to the sublimation preventing degradation of the food during the preservation process.

Dehydrating using a traditional home freeze dryer uses air and mild heat to help evaporate moisture, and the machines are typically much smaller than any freeze dryer. Prices for the machine and the electricity used to process foods are typically a lot less too.

There are a lot of benefits to both, but the ability to rehydrate foods ekes out a win for freeze drying, without a doubt.

harvest right freeze dryer setup table counter stand station 2
Here is my little freeze drying work station. The machine is quite large and heavier than a mini-fridge, so getting a table or stand for it to sit on was necessary.

Benefits of Freeze Drying

So you’re interested in freeze drying and are interested in why you should buy one? Honestly, I cannot recommend everyone getting a freeze dryer unless you’re looking for the following characteristics.

Shelf stable food longevity: As we all know, #10 cans of Mountain House meals or freeze dried bananas last over a decade, up to 25 years of preservation before potential degradation. If you have a lot of meat and produce you’d want to be able to process and save back for needier or tougher times, I would highly recommend getting a freeze dryer.

Customization: If you’re not satisfied with the quality of camping meals, or the ingredients used to make them, I would have you consider getting a freeze dryer. This is especially true if you are sensitive to high sodium levels, have gluten intolerances, or are diabetic like me. One of the things I am most excited about is being able to make meals that will be 500-700 calories, somewhat low in carbs and sodium, where I don’t feel like I’m going to want to crash and take a nap after pounding down 70 carbohydrates of rice or pasta.

harvest right freeze dryer setup table counter stand station
First item I ran was bread slightly sprayed with vinegar, as many other users state it is necessary to do a “burn-in” run of disposable food to absorb the adhesive, chemical, and other “new car smells” or the freeze dryer before moving on to more serious trials.

Profit: There are a lot of markets for freeze dried foods today. If you are not processing your own game or garden yield, you could be selling freeze dried candies on Facebook or offering your freeze dryer’s service to others, at a cost. It is costing me about $0.10/hour to run my freeze dryer. When being able to process vegetables or some fruits in under 24 hours, there is profit to be had.

For example, one of my neighbors is offering me 50% of the freeze dryer’s yield after processing her jalapeno peppers. If I can fit 7 – 8 lbs of peppers in the freeze dryer at once, that means I can have around twelve ounces of freeze dried jalapenos at zero-cost to myself.

If you wanted to charge someone for the time and effort, not taking food as payment, once could charge $40+ to process the foods, as one run of a freeze dryer will roughly make two #10 cans of foods.

Actions, So Far…

All of the food I have freeze dried so far have been to learn characteristics of the machine and what works best with the least amount of drying time. Cutting things smaller definitely helps cut down drying time, which reduces how long it takes a batch to run.

freeze dried zucchini harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking hiking meals
Four trays, five large zucchini.
freeze dried zucchini harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking food hiking
What the zucchini looked like after coming out of the machine.
freeze dried zucchini harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking food hiking meals
Vacuum sealed into fair-sized portions. I hope to use them in stews.

I have run a batch of cubed zucchini cut to julienne thickness and Strawberries to see how commercially frozen foods do being stuck straight into the freezer. Both batches were a success!

freeze dried strawberries harvest right freeze dryer camping food backpacking food hiking meals
$8 worth of frozen strawberries ran in the freeze dryer in 21 hours. SO TASTY!

Future Plans

What are my plans for the future? First off, I want to try some meals. I’m thinking about a meatloaf, green beans and mashed potatoes meal as my first dehydrated meal, and maybe a lower sodium meat and pasta meal. We all saw our MRE friend make an entire Thanksgiving meal a few years back. I think this would be cool to do, too!

Tell me what you think! Do you have a freeze dryer? What successful things have you processed? What would you recommend me trying first?

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Want to mail me something? PO Box 2285 – Buckhannon, WV 26201

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