I love preserving. My cup is filled with every jar of tomatoes, every canister of fruit leather, and every bag of frozen green beans I put up. As another valuable tool for squirreling away the precious food we grow and harvest, having a freeze dryer has been a dream of mine for years. A bucket list homesteading item for sure!
Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with Harvest Right. If you find this article helpful and want to purchase a freeze dryer for yourself, I make a commission if you use my affiliate link –> click here. I really appreciate your support in this way! While I did purchase my own freeze dryer, I did received a discount on it.
While you don’t need a big budget to freeze, can, or even dehydrate food… a freezer dryer is a different story. It’s a pricey piece of specialized equipment. Figuring out whether this machine would be “worth it” took some thought and calculation. I wanted to make sure that I would actually use it, enjoy using it, and that it wouldn’t just take up space in the corner.
Before I get to the steps I took in determining if I would use and love a freeze-dryer, let me give you a quick overview in case you’re not familiar with that it is.
First, what is freeze drying?
Freeze Drying is similar to dehydrating in that they food is dry, and similar to canning in that it’s shelf stable, but the process and the outcome are extremely different than either of those. First the food is frozen, then the machine creates a vacuum, and the ice inside the food is removed through a process called sublimation– which is the transition from a solid to a gas that bypasses the liquid phase. The ice in the food evaporates without ever turning to liquid! Pretty cool, huh?
When it’s done, the food looks surprisingly similar to how it originally went in, only now it’s dry and crunchy. Freeze dried food can be eaten as-is, which is really fun and handy for things like fruits, ice cream, and crunchy cheese slices. It can also be rehydrated, which is how you would prepare things like freeze dried soups, side dishes like rice or oatmeal, meats, eggs, and whole meals or leftovers. Many foods comes back to life almost exactly as they went in. This unique process creates a very high quality food that doesn’t lose taste or nutrition, and can be stored for up to 25 years. I think its’ mind blowing that you can do this in your own home!
Will I even like freeze dried foods?
This was a big one for me. With the exception of some freeze-dried apple slices, and the astronaut ice cream I had on a field trip in the 3rd grade, my experience was limited. I just hadn’t tried all that many freeze-dried foods before, and I figured it was important to try some and see if I liked them.
The first thing I did was buy a sampler of freeze-dried fruits online. It had apples, cinnamon apples, bananas, pears, melon, strawberry, oranges, and more. And all were delightful, of course. Freeze-dried fruit is crispy, crunchy and lovely. A big ‘ol check mark in the “yes” column for that one!
I also bought some fun freeze dried candies too… but who wouldn’t love those?!
Fruit and candy was an easy sell, but what about meat and vegetables? I happened to be going on a road trip to the middle-no-where Wisconsin, and needed some good food to take with me. I bought some freeze-dried meals from Wild Zora to pack in case there was nothing healthy for me to eat where I was going. This would be a great test! These particular meals are very simple and clean, with only meat, vegetables, and herbs… the kind of thing I might make for myself at home. And to my delight, they were also good. The beef rehydrated nicely, and the vegetables were good too.
It turns out that whether or not I would like freeze dried food was a non-issue… but you don’t know until you know, you know? Freeze dried food is really amazing. I have loved everything I have made– it’s all so fresh, flavorful, and vibrant! I’m glad that I took the time to do some taste-testing, and also glad that I love it.
Do freeze dried foods retain their nutrients?
Having nutrient-rich food is utmost importance to me. I’m putting so much time and effort into growing and sourcing the best food that I can, and I don’t want to lose taste or nutrition!
There’s no one size fits all nutrient-loss when it comes to preserving. Whether or not nutrients are retained or destroyed during canning, freezing, or dehydrating depends on the type of produce, which nutrients, and the details of how it was handled– there’s a lot of nuance here. If it was dehydrated, how long did it take and what temperature was it dried at? If canned, was it raw-packed or hot-packed, water-bath or pressure canned? And for the freezer, were the vegetables blanched– with boiling water or with steam, and how long were they stored in the freezer and at what temperature?
Freeze-drying has some of those considerations too, but is generally regarded as the preserving method that retains the most nutrients for the longest time, including some very delicate ones like vitamin C.
Being able to produce shelf-stable, high-nutrient food in my own home was an important consideration for me. I’ll still freeze fresh foods, but I hope that freeze-drying will take the place of some of the canning and dehydrating I do!
What things will I preserve in the freeze dryer?
The next step for me in figuring out if it was worthwhile for me to get a freeze dryer, was to make a list of all the things I would personally preserve with it.
This looked like taking an inventory of the things I like to preserve in other ways, and determining which of them might be better suited for the freeze-dryer. My main interest is in preserving fruits and vegetables, which is a lot of what we grow and produce on our homestead. Additionally, the low-key prepper in me is also excited to put up some bigger ticket items like meat and cheese for long-term storage as well, and the food-lover in me is looking forward to trying out some fun foods like ice cream and candies!
As for what my list looks like, I’ll be trying out a lot of new things this year, and sharing them all on social media. Follow my tag, #wholefedhomesteadfreezedrying to see all the things I will be preserving.
I’m really excited to try some things like seasoned freeze-dried crispy broccoli bites, seasoned zucchini chips, and herbs. Tomatoes are a big one for me, and I’ll be trying them every which way in the freeze-dryer, from plain diced, to salsas, sauces, and bruschetta.
Here is a list of foods I plan to freeze dry:
Asparagus: prepared asparagus soup; seasoned crispy asparagus for snacking
Avocado: prepared guacamole
Beans: plain green beans for soup; seasoned crispy green bean chips for snacking
Beets: plain beets ground into powder for adding to smoothies, breads, crackers, and other baked goods; seasoned golden beet chips for snacking
Broccoli: prepared broccoli cheese soup; seasoned crispy broccoli bites for snacking
Cabbage: prepared sauerkraut; plain cabbage for adding to soups and sautéing
Carrots: plain carrots for soups, cooking and dog treats; seasoned crunchy carrot chips for snacking
Celery: plain celery pieces for adding to soups and cooking
Corn: plain sweet corn for adding to soups, cooking, cornbread, and eating as a side dish
Eggplant: grilled eggplant slices for eating a side dish or adding to meals; eggplant puree for dips
Herbs: plain herbs and herb blends
Kale: plain kale for soups and cooking with; ground into powder for adding to smoothies or sprinkling on meals
Mushrooms: plain mushrooms for rehydrating and sautéing
Onions: plain onions for soups and cooking with; caramelized onions for making soup or topping burgers
Peas: plain peas for a side dish, or adding to soups, noodle dishes, casseroles, and cooking with
Peppers: plain and fire-roasted diced peppers for cooking with and adding to soups and chili; pickled jalapeños for topping tacos and nachos; cheesy jalapeño powder for seasoning popcorn
Potatoes: shredded potatoes for hash browns; mashed potatoes
Pumpkin: pureed pumpkin for baked goods and cooking with, and also grinding into pumpkin flour for baking; prepared butternut squash soup
Spinach: plain spinach for cooking with and adding to soups; ground into powder for adding to smoothies or sprinkling on meals
Tomatillo: prepared tomatillo salsa and enchilada sauce
Tomato: plain diced tomatoes for cooking with; prepared sauces and salsas like marinara sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, and bruschetta; tomato paste for thickening soups; pesto-seasoned cherry tomatoes for snacking
Zucchini: seasoned crispy zucchini chips for snacking; shredded for adding to meals and baked goods like zucchini bread; cheesy zucchini bites for snacking
Apples: caramel apple slices and plain apple slices for snacking; prepared applesauce
Bananas: plain and cinnamon-dusted slices for snacking; banana and yogurt bark with walnuts and coconut for snacking
Raspberries: plain for snacking and adding to yogurt bowls and granola; raspberry smoothie bites
Rhubarb: prepared rhubarb sauce
Strawberries: plain for snacking and adding to yogurt bowls and granola; strawberry smoothie bites
MEAT, DAIRY, AND OTHER PROTEIN
Cheese: cheese slices and cheese “crackers” for snacking; shredded cheese for long term emergency storage
Sour Cream: to have on hand in case I were to run out– heaven forbid!!
Broth: homemade chicken, beef, pork, and lamb bone broth for sipping and making soup
Organ Meats: powdered and sprinkled on meals for extra nutrition, or put into capsules for swallowing
Dried Beans: prepared refried beans quick dinner side dishes
Eggs: raw eggs for baking or using to make scrambled eggs, frittata, and quiche
Let me know if I can help you!
Buying a freeze dryer is a big decision. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me– I’m happy to help you navigate the world of freeze drying or help you decide which freezer dryer setup is best for your needs. The best way to reach me is through direct message on my Instagram page.
How do I like my freeze dryer?
So far I absolutely love it! Once you pass the learning curve of setting it up and understanding how it works, it’s so incredibly easy to use and FUN! Every time I take a new batch of something out and package it up, I’m just so tickled and delighted. I am regretting that I didn’t get one years ago… this is really going to change my preserving game!
If you do buy one for yourself, I really appreciate you using my affiliate link –> here. I make a small commission, which helps support the things I share here on my website and social media. Thanks!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through them and end up purchasing an item, I may receive monetary or other compensation. The price you pay is unaffected by using this link, and buying stuff you were going to get anyways through an affiliate link is a great way to support your favorite blogger and fellow homesteader! Thanks!
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