Harvest Right: How to Freeze-Dry Food, at home!

 

I mentioned on Instagram recently, that of all the amazing, interesting, and innovative appliances I’ve worked with, this was possibly the most amazing, the most interesting, and the most innovative.  It’s the first appliance of its kind for in-home use.  I’m going to try really hard to not sound like an infomercial when I tell you about it, but I’ve found that’s sometimes how it comes out, haha.  I love sharing cool things with you guys, and bringing light to products and companies that you might not know exist.  I’ve been obsessed with this appliance over the past couple of months and I’ve been so anxious to tell you about it!  Even if it’s not in your budget, or you’re not interested in purchasing one, I hope that you’ll enjoy reading this post simply to appreciate the technology and see what I’ve been up to in my kitchen lately!

Freeze Dried Food

My husband and I actually heard ads on our local radio a few months ago for the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer and we were completely intrigued.  I purchase and use freeze-dried foods often for snacking, in recipes, and for my home food storage, and had no idea you could actually purchase an appliance to do it yourself.  I called Harvest Right myself and asked if I could come visit their offices to learn more about it before purchasing, since I would be travelling near them for business anyway.  Not only were the people behind the company gracious, kind, and inviting, but the Freeze Dryer itself was as awesome as I had hoped it would be.  I really loved hearing the story of how this company came to be and about the years of work and engineering that went into making this available for the consumer.

920x260-1

The Freeze Dryer itself carries a substantial price tag, so I realize it’s not an every day appliance like a microwave, or something you buy just “for fun”.  For a little perspective, up until now freeze drying technology was only something that large companies could offer in commercially packaged goods.  A comparable freeze dryer before Harvest Right cost over $30,000 and it processed about the same amount of food in a single batch as this one. The people behind Harvest Right  spent years figuring out a way to make a $30,000 freeze dryer into something that a consumer could purchase for about 1/10 of the price, plug into a regular home electric outlet, and easily use at home.  It was a pretty huge technology undertaking.  Although still expensive at $3-4K, the freeze dryer can dry about $10,000 worth of freeze dried food in a year.  Studies have shown the average American family also throws out about $2,500 – $3000 worth of food each year, so all of that helps put things into perspective a little bit!

Freeze Dried Food

I’ve found with appliances that do unique things, it’s crazy expensive if it’s something you’re not interested in, and a sound investment if it is.  This is about the same price as both the steam oven and the pellet ice maker I’ve shared before on this blog.  So even though this might not be in the budget for some of you, I want to share it, because there area a lot of people, especially those who practice food storing/food storage like myself (where are all of my LDS friends, you guys will get that!), who will be interested in making an investment in something like this. And if that’s not you, then you might just find this post fun to read when you see what happens when you freeze dry stuff!   I know of several church groups, families, and groups of friends, who have purchased freeze dryers to share, and I thought that was a cool idea, too.  I love things like this, and I’ve already seen the rewards from the investment my family made on it so I thought you might enjoy seeing it, too!

UB5A4655

The freeze dryer is about the size of an oven, or mini fridge, but it’s completely movable.  The best place to keep it is in a storage room, laundry room, or garage, but you can move it around if needed.  It is quite heavy and somewhat noisy when running, so it’s not something you would probably keep in a kitchen.  Plus you need some room for the pump and drain.  This video helps you see what’s involved in actually setting it up.

I keep mine on a rolling cart and it works great.  I’ve had it in my garage, but as the weather heats up, I’m going to keep it in our storage room.  It has a heavy-duty vacuum pump that comes with it.  It is fully automated and very simple to use.  As you can see from the photo below, it has a switch and 2 knobs, and a display panel that let’s you know what’s happening.  Although not complicated, there are some very specific instructions for both use and maintenance.  Once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing and I’ve literally had a batch of food going just about every day!  This machine does require some maintenance, most notably, changing the oil on a regular basis and cleaning the pump.

Harvest Right Buttons

So let’s get one thing straight right off the bat.  This is not a dehydrator. I’ve found that a lot of people don’t know there’s a difference.   You can buy dehydrators at Walmart for 30 bucks.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.   A dehydrator uses warm air to slowly heat and dry out food over time.   That’s why things shrink, shrivel, and change texture and flavor in a dehydrator.  Imagine putting scoops of ice cream in a dehydrator.  Can you picture how they would immediately pool into a sticky liquid when exposed to warm circulating air for 24 hours?  Here’s a great visual for you: I put scoops of fresh strawberry ice cream in my freeze dryer and this is what I got:

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

They are completely dry, airy, light as a cloud, and they melt in your mouth.  Almost like a little puff of meringue.  When sealed in a mylar bag or a can they’ll still look just like that and taste delicious in 15-25 years.  So how does it work?  The technology is pretty amazing, and it’s what fascinated me from the get-go about this product.  First, you place food on metal trays.

HarvestRight-32
The trays sit on shelves inside of the freeze dryer.  Once the door is shut and the fully automated machine is turned on, the food is frozen down to between -30° and -50° degrees (that’s cold!)  You can process about 6-10 pounds of food at a time, an amount that generally fills 1-2 #10 cans, or about 2 gallons if that’s easier to visualize.

HarvestRight-37

After it’s frozen sufficiently, a vacuum pump automatically turns on.  The interesting scientific fact about water, is that it can’t exist in a liquid state inside of a vacuum.  So as the machine very gently warms the frozen food, the water is instantly turned to vapor, leaving your food basically in its original state in form, color, taste, everything.  It’s simply missing all liquid.  While canning and dehydrating deplete food of  up to half of it’s nutritional value, freeze-drying retains almost 100% of the food’s nutritional value.  These raspberries below are completely dry.  They will melt in your mouth, can be ground into a fine powder, be used in baking and recipes, or can be re-hydrated again with water.  See how beautiful they still are?

Freeze Dried Raspberries

Speaking of beautiful, I noticed a HUGE difference in the food I freeze-dried myself, and the food that I buy from the store already freeze-dried.  Here’s a quick side-by-side of a popular brand of strawberry and banana mix you can find in grocery stores (left) and my own batch on the right.

HarvestRight-12

So, why freeze dry??  
There are so many uses for an appliance like this, here’s a few that I personally am enjoying and applying.  I’ve seen how through all of these ways, this freeze dryer definitely pays for itself over time:

Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness: Freeze-dried foods can be sealed in cans, or mylar bags and last up to 25 years or more (remember, retaining almost all of it’s nutritional value).  In today’s crazy world of natural disaster, or in times of budgetary challenges, having a good food store is never a bad idea.  In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, you can also freeze complete meals like casseroles, or meats, cheeses, dairy, etc.  Even eggs!  It’s a great way to add more protein to your food storage, locking in good prices if you find them.

Cuts down on at-home food waste:  I am notorious for freezing leftovers only to then throw them away months later.  You can freeze-dry entire meals and then re-hydrate, and food actually returns to its original state in color, appearance, and flavor.  I made waaaay too many mashed potatoes the other day, so I simply freeze-dried the leftovers!  They are loaded with all of the good stuff, and now they have become instant-potato packs in my pantry.

Preserving Garden Bounty:  This is one I’m excited to use as summer is approaching.  I can never eat my garden goodies as fast as they grow and so much quality food from my garden goes to waste, which is sad.  There are some things I love to can or freeze, but I can’t wait to preserve my fresh produce in the freeze dryer because it plumps back to life so beautifully.  It’s the absolute BEST way to preserve herbs, especially, as they retain 100% of their flavor.  I freeze dried tons of Zoodles this week and popped them in bags.  They’re so easy to drop in a pot of soup and ready in literally seconds.

Culinary Creativity:  At the most basic level, freeze-dried foods simply taste great and are really fun to snack on!  This is bonus feature to me, since my main motivation in getting a freeze dryer were the reasons mentioned above.  Have you ever bought the little packs of freeze-dried fruits commonly available at grocery stores these days?  Since all of the water is removed, the flavor is concentrated and foods take on a whole new level of deliciousness.  I’ve found that the uses in the kitchen are endless.  Often, the biggest challenge in introducing fresh fruits into recipes, for example, is that the water adds too much moisture, and interferes with the fat.  Removing all of the water allows you to add concentrated flavor.  For example, I took those raspberries you saw above and gave them a quick pulse in my food processor, creating a beautiful red berry powder.  100% fruit and nothing else:

Berry PowderThen I added the raspberry powder to a fluffy buttercream frosting, something that’s usually hard to do since the high water content in fruit often separates frosting and waters it down.  The result?  Gorgeous, fluffy pink frosting with perfect fresh raspberry flavor.

Raspberry Frosting

What Can be Freeze-Dried?

Almost anything.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most basic, but you can also freeze dry full meals, like a plate of lasagna or your favorite soups or stews.  Even meat!  I freeze dried a bunch of rotisserie chicken and then added it to soups during the week.  You can freeze-dry cheeses, and dairy as well. I found my favorite coconut Greek yogurt on sale so I freeze-dried it and then pulsed it in my blender into a powder.  I’ve been adding it to smoothies, pancake mix, and baked goods.   I keep it in a jar next to powdered sour cream and powdered cream cheese.  All of them work so beautifully in recipes.

Powdered Greek Yogurt

I have always purchased freeze-dried foods for my babies as their first solids because they just melt in their mouth and make it so easy to eat.  Our very favorite are yogurt drops!  Simply drop yogurt in little drops onto the trays and you have these crunchy, delicate little drops of fruity deliciousness.

Freeze Dried Yogurt Drops

I cannot make these fast enough to keep up with demand at our house!  They make the best snack to keep in my purse or take in the car.  And it’s simply 100% yogurt.   We found sugar free instant pudding was also a hit.  Such a fun sweet treat, that my kids love to munch on.

Freeze Dried Chocolate Pudding

When we visited Harvest Right, my kids got to sample a freeze-dried gummy bear and it’s all they could talk about!  So of course we had to give those a go.  These started as itty-bitty bears.  They puffed up and turned into giant, airy, sweet, crunchy little snacks.  Almost the texture of Pirate’s Booty!

Freeze Dried Gummy Bears

All of the items in these glass jars are freeze dried.  Don’t they look fresh?  They taste just as fresh as they look. Check out that bright green asparagus and those ruby red berries.

HarvestRight-24

Did you spy the avocados?  You can freeze dry avocados!  They’re just as colorful and flavorful as when they were fresh.  I re-hydrated them and made guacamole and it tasted fantastic.  This is a game changer, considering the very short window you have after purchasing an avocado!  As an example of just how gentle this process is on your food, take a look at this kale:

Freeze Dried Kale

That is AFTER freeze-drying.  It’s completely dry.  If I were to crush it in my palm it would turn to dust, but if you spritz it with water is pops right back to life and it isn’t wilted and gross, it’s green and beautiful.  Isn’t that amazing??  This is another good one for keeping in powder form  if you’re into green smoothies.

Don’t even get me started on freeze-dried pineapple.  It is literally like candy.

Freeze Dried Pineapple

I can’t even describe how yummy it is.  All of that sweetness and flavor is concentrated in these melt-in-your-mouth drops of crunchy deliciousness.  My kids reach for these jars more than the boxes of store-bought snacks in our pantry.  Last night when we watched a movie, they wanted to snack on the jar of grapes instead of skittles.  They’re that good!

Freeze Dried Grapes

Besides all of the useful reasons of freeze-drying, it’s also just plain fun.  I have been having such a great time experimenting in the kitchen with the different foods. Once of our favorites was taking those freeze-dried strawberry ice cream scoops from the start of this post and dunking them in chocolate.  The outside is creamy and decadent,

HarvestRight-60

and then you get the light airy crunch of the center with rich strawberry-cream flavor.  Pretty killer!

HarvestRight-62If you want to keep up with Harvest Right, make sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  And their You Tube Channel has tons of great info as well.  I totally loved this segment of Glenn Beck talking about his freeze dried ice cream!  They just barely joined the Instagram party as well, so go show them some love and follow them there as well!

Let me know if you guys have any questions, and especially let me know if you get one!  I’d love to swap recipe ideas and come up with cool stuff to make with the freeze dried food, or share tips on building your family food storage if you do that.

920x260-1

 

This post contains affiliate links, read more about them, here.

 

234 comments

  1. This is very fascinating. My husband is allergic to some of the preservatives used in dried & freeze dried food so we have to be careful about what we buy. Such a bummer it’s so expensive!

    1. Stephanie,
      I have a Harvest Right Freeze-Dryer and you use NO Preservatives while drying the food! I freeze-dry food all the time! I have had mine almost 1 year! The thing that I do is to make sure all the meat is cooked (but the book tells me I don’t need to but it won’t last as long)…..so I freeze-dry either cooked or raw fruits and vegetables! This past winter I made soups and served them to the family and freeze dried the rest! My family says it tastes just like I made it homemade! Order one and don’t be afraid of preservatives! We don’t eat them…. ever! I’m getting ready to freeze-dry asparagus, as I type this!

    2. Harvest Right has an interest-free layaway option so that you can pay for your machine over time. It’s how I finally purchased mine. (Which is on its way to me, even as we speak! Can you tell I’m excited?)

  2. Way cool. We just got a dehydrator and I love it. I wish I had room for this freeze dryer. It sounds even better. It’s fun that technology has advanced enough to provide these opportunities to a home cook.

  3. This is seriously the most fascinating kitchen appliance I have ever seen. If I lived near my two sisters and Mom I would totally invest in this. Maybe I can talk them into a out of state custody agreement 🙂 It is definitely an asset to a family’s health. I don’t know about anyone else, but my family is worth it.

  4. Wow. I so wish I could afford this! We went strawberry picking on Sat and ended up with 60 pounds of berries. After 40 jars of jam, 3 gallons frozen, and two trays dehydrated, I was exhausted and wishing freeze drying was an option. I would so use this!!!

  5. Always love hearing about new tools and gadgets available out there, thanks for sharing your experience and your pictures … seriously, your pictures!! The harvest people should be using them in their advertising, beautiful!! My favorite is your stack of mason jars, it should be hanging on a wall somewhere in your kitchen, or office, or maybe your storage room with your freeze dryer 🙂 Fun!!

  6. This is pretty cool, if I had the money I would totally get one! But since that probably won’t happen, I would love to try the freeze-dried ice cream! (Did anybody else used to beg their parents to buy them astronaut ice cream when visiting museum souvenir shops? Sadly I never got any.

    1. You can buy it in stores in the camping section. I think Walmart even has it. Go get your inner kid some astronaut ice cream! You deserve it!

    2. They have been having sales on the dryers recently and have a mini freeze dryer (3 trays instead of 4) that is quite a bit less in coat now than when I bought mine in Jan, 2017.

    3. Harvest right has a really great type of “layaway” plan. I think. Check it out in their financing. They hold it until you hit a certain dollar amount, then ship to you . then you pay the remainder. I believe this is still true.
      I love mine. I had to figure a few things out, but once I learned to make sure the oil in the vacuum pump is very clean, it has been a wonderful thing!!

  7. How do you rehydrate a meal? Like a casserole–do you add water when you put it the oven? I’m just trying to wrap my brain around it 🙂

        1. Make sure to drink plenty of water when snaking on freeze dried food. Especially kids!
          As far as texture, my family can’t tell the difference. It does take a little time getting used to cooking and rehydrating.

        2. My husband and I are freeze drying meat. We rehydrated a piece of ham and a piece of turkey and were amazed at the texture and taste. We sat them in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes and they tasted just like when I was cuting them .tafter cooking.

  8. Yes, I want to sample all the things!! That pineapple looked so good and my baby would love the yogurt drops!

  9. Just out of curiosity, how are this satiation wise? It would seem to me that you’d feel hungrier after eating freezer dried foods than you would after eating their fresh equivalents? Since they retain all the calories, I assume?

    1. Interesting thought, Emma. I haven’t eaten an entire freeze dried meal, but I imagine things that are re-hydrated would provide similar results as normal food. Eating the dried stuff though, you can definitely eat more of it because the water is all missing. I found I could pound down that ice cream, haha. And I ate TONS of fruit without feeling super full.

  10. So interesting! Thank you for sharing these ideas. It would be a fun thing to purchase together with several neighbors/girlfriends and then take turns using.

    1. How do you set the pre freeze cycle so that the ice cream and/or other frozen foods don’t unfreeze when you put them in the freeze dryer? I see it referred to in a lot of places – but how does it work? Thank you! MW

      1. When the first screen comes up, it has an option for customize. Press that and you can change the amount of times for any of the cycles (freezing, drying, final drying). What If I am doing anything that is frozen, I set the freezing for about an hour less than normal, allow the cycle to start and run for about an hour or so, so that the freeze dryer is below 32 degrees. Than you open the valve and let the air in so you can open the F,D. Put the trays of frozen food in, close the valve and allow the cycle to continue. I purchase large amounts of meat or bananas on sale, freeze them until I have time to freeze dry them.

        1. How can I know how much time is needed to Freeze dry frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts? They are whole breasts, not cut into pieces. I figured since they are already frozen, I reduced the freeze time to 5 hours. and I increased the drying time to 9 hours. Is this okay?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.