*Advanced Freeze Drying Notes*
By: Stats
30 May 2022

A Rubie asked Stats some detailed questions about his experience with production freeze drying using 3 Harvest Right units. Here is his response.

1. Do you still use it often, both for building preps, and for making daily snack foods?

I have not used my machines in quite a while. I "turned and burned" HARD for about 4-5 months of almost back to back processing. I did a lot of experimenting and not all proved out to be viable to process.

Pepperoni, String or any other shredded cheese for that matter. Cheese is pretty hard to reconstitute w/o getting limp and squishy. If you were going to put it into a soup or something "liquidy", it would be fine.

2. You can freeze dry meat either cooked or uncooked. You can eat the cooked meat after it's dried, like a jerky, correct? Do they taste okay, or is it best to rehydrate meat as part of a meal and use it that way? (understood this probably depends on the cut and preparation--just wondering if you do one more than another)

Yes you can on both, but I prefer to have it already cooked and have a lot of the moisture already out of the meat. It makes the drying time significantly less.

3. Are meats tough after rehydrating, even after cooking enough to make them a bit "dry" as you mentioned in one article?

Total re-hydration is the key. If you take a slab of meat and don't rehydrate it totally. It will be dryer in the middle.

4. Any major problems or headaches with long term use of this? ie mylar bags difficult to source, getting tired of freeze dried foods, etc.

No issues when I was doing it. I bought everything in quantities -like 500 each for the bags - two sizes. O2, moisture absorbers etc. Have to have a place to store those items as well.

Just need to "mouse proof" your storage container.. ie metal containers if storing anywhere. I had a mouse rip thru MANY bags of dehydrated and bulk dry food in a closet inside the house. Man I was pissed. I posted the power of ONE mouse. Traps and the cat took care of that problem.

I would break a 50 count of O2/moisture absorbers down to bags of 5 as that was what I was using when I was batch drying. 2 units/ big bag and 1 unit for small bags.

5. Any problems with overeating the snacks (after the first burst of "this is so good I want it all"--LOL)? It's hard to sit and eat a whole carton of strawberries without starting to feel full or a little queasy towards the end, but it seems eating freeze dried strawberries would "feel" lighter and be apt to eat more. Granted, they're probably better than overeating a bag of potato chips, but still have a high sugar content, so worth knowing about ahead of time.

Some sweet foods.. ie ice creme, marshmallows etc.. are a little "chalky" in texture when you first break into it. Then the "saliva flood" comes in.

Marshmallows are KILLER good. The toasted coconut, pink lemonade and margarita were out of this world. I sent "trial taste packs" to a Rubie and his wife plus other Rubies for "field testing" ... Her office peeps were raving about them and they had NO problem paying proposed 2.00 A PIECE for them. Per her, her peeps didn't care how much it cost... they just wanted them.

I contacted three different marshmallow companies about buying direct. I had to buy an ungodly amount of PALLETS to get any break.. then loading dock high warehouse, cooled. MM's don't do well in heat.

I realized that making a business out of that would take away from my preps and intended use. I didn't pursue anything for the FD biz. Commercial operation, rent, inspections, fridges, freezers.. more FD units. That would be another 50-100K just to do it right. This was taking away MY plan for my preps.

I also had contacted three of the major bunker manufacturers in the US to propose a "Gourmet Line" of FD products to their high end customers. The owners had no interest in that idea.. they were ..and still are just trying to meet the demand for orders.

6. Any problems with dehydration after eating the vegetables/fruits without re-hydrating them?

Drinking water while eating snacks is needed as I found that eating the products does take bit of water to slug it down. No real issues from my experience.

7. Are most foods good to eat just freeze dried (like if you freeze dry a roast chicken, does that make a good snack without rehydrating?), or is there a clear divide between foods that can be eaten as is, and foods that should be reconstituted? (I'd have thought eggs would be best reconstituted and scrambled, but you mentioned your wife liked eating the omelettes "as is".)

Everyone is different and some people are "Texture" eaters as in we all have our texture preferences. Some people don't like pudding- creamy textures. Me.. I can't stand eating breads with hard crusts. I peel it away before eating.

FD foods are no different, Some items are absolutely hard a rock. Like the string cheese. It's sewww dang hard FD'd.. I tried reconstituting it sitting in water for a coupla days. It was a total flop in my book.

Some foods NEED to be small to be eaten. You can't eat a whole dried breast. 1/4-3/8 sliced or-diced breast.. different story. I made a FD meat "Chew" like a tobacco dip. Tasted GREAT, but the hard texture of FD just chews up the mouth in the lip-cheek area from being so hard.

I was making my own snacks.. taking corn, green beans, mushrooms and okra FD are KILLER good as is right out of the bag.

I was making "Ranch Flavored" snacks by lightly spritzing the product with canola oil then shaking powdered Ranch dressing mix over it then sealing in smaller bags with moisture absorbers. Once I cracked the FD'r door open, it is a full blown race to get it put into bags asap. I had everything prepped, placed and ready to process.

As that product is sitting there on that tray inside your house, it's taking in moisture. It does not bode well to pack product in unconditioned environment. High humidity days plays hail on what you are doing.. removing moisture.

8. Anything else you've noticed after this amount of time that might be worth knowing?

There are a ton of tips and tricks for machine selection, food types and processing optimization.

This is not a total set it and forget it operation. I was always buying, prepping food. ie. chopping, grilling, making marinades, getting food ready to dry then bagging, it, cleaning trays, knocking ice off the sidewalls to shorten the cycle time etc..

Harvest Right owners couldn't believe I had a cycle time of about 25 min from pulling product out to having the machine free of ice for the next cycle. Till I told them my secrets.

It reallllly helps to have another fridge just for cueing up the next items to process. For instance, I processed a 40 lb case of jalapenos. I gave myself blisters on my hand from the knife-even wearing surgical gloves, seeds were EVERYWHERE. But they were DANM.. good. Same for Hatch chili peppers. Flavors concentrate.- Corn, Mushrooms, ice cream is heavenly IMHO.

Point being, you have to have place to store product before processing. Most family fridges are full with "family food" and there isn't a lot of room for "prepped prep" food.

Food handling and equipment cleanliness is paramount for safe processing. Because of that, I never wanted to have FD raw meat.

For the veggies; I was looking at a commercial motorized, slicer, dicer machine that I could literally just shove product thru as fast as I can to have it cut to a 1/4 -3/8" dice, shredded or sliced thin to make the cycle time of prep faster. But 2K for the machine and attachments was a little out of my budget after buying these machines, double sets of trays for each mach, bags, absorbers etc.. I also bought another VAC pump.. That pump alone then was 800.00. Sewwww $2K of food goes a long way for preps vs a processing machine.

Remember, I had 3 machines going. That is a LOT of cleaning of trays, 12 each cycle to clean and another 12 to load about 20-24 lbs of dices, cut product to freeze. I did this all by myself.

Then if you're doing meat. Prepping meat, grilling, baking etc. Then cool, store and get it ready to put on the trays. Then clean up the trays, tongs that had touched the raw meat, then the cooked meat after I grilled it.

There is a LOT of prepping, processing pre- and post FD cycle time and allll the constant cleaning of everything.

Not to mention cleaning and servicing the pump oil, FD interior, interior tray stands, etc..

Doing that for about every 24-36 hr cycle time for 4-5 months straight ..gets old pretty fast. I burned myself out just prepping for "me" not as a business.

Every cycle shifts the next cycle back due to the "new product" set up to dry. It got to were I would have to let the unit run an extra 6-8 hrs because I couldn't get to it time wise.

Having commercial S. Steel pans, lids, Food grade plastic tubs for the processed product, scrap stuff.. leaves, items seeds, plastic bags, cardboard boxes everything bulk came it. etc... there is a LOT of that to deal with too!

Now, that being said, having ONE machine vs THREE, the logistic and related dynamics are greatly reduced.


All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2022 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.