Category Archives: Food Preservation

Home freeze dryer

Home freeze dryer

Recently we bought a home freeze dryer from Harvest Right.  We have done several loads and are doing well with it.  There is still a lot to learn and you can expect to see more related blog entries on our home freeze dryer in the future.  Future topics will be filtering and reusing vacuum pump oil, food successes and failures, long and short term food storage.

Home freeze dryer
Home freeze dryer

why buy a home freeze dryer?

The decision to buy a home freeze dryer is one that shouldn’t be made lightly.    These units are expensive and require your time to prepare food for freeze drying and putting it away properly.  After every freeze drying cycle with your home freeze dryer the oil needs to be drained and filtered.  The process isn’t hard but will require your time.

For us being able to store the food from our garden long term with little nutritional value loss was very appealing.  We know what goes into our garden, the seeds that are used.  We control the insects so we know exactly what has been used.  Buying commercially grown food you have no idea what is used or how it was prepared for market.  Putting away our own food that we control during the entire growing process up through harvest gives us a piece of mind.

Extending the amount of food in our pantry is another reason we elected to buy the home freeze dryer.  Sure, we could be a bunch of commercially prepared freeze dried food with what the unit cost.  By doing it our selves we have better control over what food ultimately goes into our pantry.  Plus over the course of a few years we should be able to make this unit more than pay for itself.

Little nutritional value loss with a home freeze dryer

We can and freeze but both of those options are more of a short term option.  Add to the shorter storage duration is the nutritional value loss that comes with heating food.  Whether you blanch before freezing, dehydrate or can you can expect up to around a 30 percent loss of nutritional value in your food.  Harvest Right claims a mere 2 percent loss through freeze drying.

Of course foods that were prepared before freeze drying, or that will be prepared after re-hydration will still experience loss of nutritional value.  But anything that can be eaten as a snack right of the freeze dryer will retain all that nutrition.

Things to consider before buying a home freeze dryer

Before buying a freeze dryer we would recommend you consider several things before buying,  First off, do you have time to prepare the food to go into the freeze dryer and then to store it once it has completed.  peeling, slicing and arranging food in the trays can be time consuming.

Properly storing food for long term storage takes attention to detail.  If you’re rushed for time and hurrying to get the task done and do something improperly you can lose everything in that pouch.  If your schedule is hectic and you’ll have difficulty finding the time to load and unload the freeze dryer it will likely sit unused.  A freeze dryer sitting unused would make it a very expensive paper weight.

The cost of electricity is something else you should consider.  Here in the midwest our electricity costs are lower than can be found on the coasts.  We also don’t have a fluctuating rate depending on peak hours.   A typical load will have this unit running constantly for 24-30 hours.  If you pay peak electrical rates a home freeze dryer will be running at those times and could significantly increase your power bill.  The large unit runs on 220 volts and would be more economical.

The vacuum pump can be loud.  Setting it up in an area close to bedrooms could interrupt with sleep.

The vacuum pump needs to be kept cool and the freeze dryer will be more efficient if kept in a cool room.  A garage or shed that gets hot during the summer months can causes extra wear and tear on your pump and freeze dryer.

Harvest Right recommends your freeze dryer be on its own dedicated circuit.  If you place it on a circuit with other appliances you run the risk if tripping a breaker.

What size freeze dryer do you need?

Currently Harvest Right offers three sizes of home freeze dryers.  Picking the one that is right for you and your family can be difficult task.  The number of people that will be using the food coming out of that freeze dryer needs to be considered.  It might even be good to call Harvest Right and ask them which model they’d suggest you needed.

Based on our experiences I’d say 1-2 people would need the small unit.  For 3-4 the stand model.  But for anyone freeze drying for 4 or more people you should absolutely consider the large model.

We are members of a few different freeze dryer groups on Facebook.  Often times when someone asks for suggestions on which size they need I’ve seen people say they wish they had bought a larger unit.  I’ve yet to see a single person say they wish they had bought the smaller unit.

What else do you need for your home freeze dryer?

Unfortunately there will be more things you’re going to need to go with your home freeze dryer.  Many of those other items you can get from Harvest Right.  They even offer an occasional sale that will include many of them.  The sale, when running will include oxygen absorbers, 7 mil mylar bags, and the impulse sealer you will need to seal them.

Silicone tray liners make cleanup and removing freeze dried food from the trays so much easier.  Harvest Right offers them to correctly fit their trays.  They have three different sizes to fit the trays for the freeze dryer you buy.

Consider an extra set of trays.  An extra set allows you to prepare the next batch of food and have it ready to go into the freeze dryer.  A second set of the liners would be wonderful.

The vacuum pump comes with one quart of the correct oil.  The oil needs to be filtered after each use.  The filtering process will not return all the oil as some stays in the filter.  To remove the water and properly filter the oil can take several hours.  Having extra oil on hand allows you to quickly get the freeze dryer back in operation.  Having at least an extra gallon of the correct Black Gold vacuum pump oil is suggested.  Some retailers will ship for free if you have Amazon Prime.

Our favorite freeze dried food

So far Gala apples and bananas are among our favorite foods to eat directly out of the freeze dryer.  Bananas are possibly our favorite because they’re relatively inexpensive as compared to other fruits and berries.  Blackberries and strawberries are my own personal favorite.  The kids enjoy ice cream, yogurt and water melon.

Canning great northern beans

Canning great northern beans

Canning great northern beans is something new we have been doing.  Allow me to explain why  Dry beans are always a great item to have in your pantry.  They have lots of protein, are inexpensive and have a great shelf life if stored properly.  The problem with dry beans is they amount of time it requires to get them from dry bean to ready to eat.  By canning them we are able to have them on the table in a pinch.

Canning great northern beans

How we canned our beans

We followed a no soak method that  we found in a YouTube video made by a woman named Starry Hilder.  (I will include the video below.). In pint jars we added a heaping half cup of beans and added hot water.  After sealing up the jars they went into our canner.   As you can see in the picture they expanded quite a bit once the process is complete.  We will make up labels and get them into the pantry.

Canning great northern beans for our pantry

Great Northern Beans before and after canning
Great Northern Beans before and after canning

 

Starry’s no soak method was super simple and we will do more beans of a different variety soon.

What will you need to do this yourself?

For starters, you will need a pressure cooker.  Walmart carries an inexpensive model that will work.  We started with one and used it for years.  It is a small unit and can only do small batches.

When we decided we wanted to larger batches during our canning sessions we retired the Presto and bought an All American canner.  You will need a stove, or camp stove to can outdoors,  and a basic pressure canning tools kit.  Of utmost omportance, it is vital that you have a good canning book from a reputable company.  We like the Ball Canning Book

Here is Starry’s video on canning beans with a no soak method

Canning butter for storage in our pantry

Canning butter for storage in our pantry

Today we decided to put up some butter in pint sized jars.  During our last trip to Costco we picked up 8 pounds of unsalted butter to add to our pantry.  There are lots and lots of opinions on canning butter, so please look into it extensively and form your own opinion before you do it.  We sterilized all our jars and lids and re-pasteurized our already previously pasteurized butter during this process.

melting 8 pounds of butter for canning
melting 8 pounds of butter for canning

After the butter is melted and re-pasteurized

Once the butter was re-pasteurized it was ladled into sterilized jars and the lids and rings added.  Finger tight on those lids.After the butter is in jars with the lids secured you will need to frequently shake the jars as the contents will separate.

You can see the separation in the second picture below. We were shaking to combine the contents every 10-15 minutes for several hours.  We continued to shake until the color was returning to normal.  This morning, as seen in the last picture, the butter has solidified and has its usual appearance.

canning butter for storage in our pantry
canning butter for storage in our pantry
Canning butter - canned butter ready to go into our food storage pantry
Canning butter -canned butter ready to go into our food storage pantry

 

The 8 pounds of butter yielded 10 full pints. In the future I hope to work out how much butter is required to fill an even 12 pints.  We like having a full flat of the same item in our pantry.

Watch Starry Hilder can butter

As a visual learner myself, I thought I’d add the video we watched and used as a guide.  Again, there is risk in doing this, don’t make the decision to try it lightly.  Doing this incorrectly can make someone very ill, or even worse.  Do this at your own risk.  Below is Starry’s video.