By Lisa Barker
As I had gotten to know my freeze dryer and the processes for how to best go about freeze-dring different foods, here are a few suggestions to help you ensure success with the different foods you can freeze dry.
First, always make sure you have a clean dryer and trays. If you freeze something that has a distinct odor to it, be sure to wash the trays and dryer well and allow to air dry for some time before starting your next batch.
I like to use parchment paper when freeze-drying foods. In fact, it is my favorite assistant in the kitchen when freeze drying. I buy the large size paper rolls and cut them in half lengthwise for each tray. (see photos) Not only do they keep foods from sticking to the trays, they seem to keep flavors from being absorbed into the trays.
Always keep your food pieces uniform in size. This definitely helps when you have trays with different items in the freeze dryer at one time. In one batch I had one tray of mango, one of pineapple and two trays of peaches. I tried to make sure all of these foods were cut to basically the same size so that the processing would be more likely to complete in a single cycle of the machine.
Where possible, freeze-dry foods that have already been frozen in your freezer. This has been my new favorite discovery. Sometimes I don’t have enough of something to fill all four trays at one time and have found that if I just cut them to the size I’m planning on freeze drying, then put them in a bag or container in the freezer, I can accumulate what I need to do a full batch all at once. As mentioned above, I had a pineapple that I wanted to try, so I cut up the chunks and put them in the freezer. I also had a bag of frozen mango chunks, but not enough to fill the dryer. My sister was fantastic indriving some of my favorite Utah peaches to me in the Midwest, so I cut up a bunch the night before and just put them in the freezer overnight and then put the different varieties on each tray (always using the parchment paper) and let the HarvestRight machine go to work! Everything came out great! Pre-freezing is particularly great for when you’re working with eggs, milk, yogurt, juices and such.
The next post will address different options for storing your freeze-dried foods, so stay tuned!