How to Package Freeze-dried Food So It Keeps For 25 Years

 HarvestRight-sour cream 8Whether you are putting together long-term food storage or simply want to have garden-fresh fruits and vegetables all winter long, the key to successfully preserving food is proper packaging. After all, all the freeze-drying in the world won’t do you much good if your food is improperly stored in containers and packaging that don’t preserve the integrity of the food.

Packaging is so important because it is the only barrier between your food and the elements that can make it spoil. To prevent spoiling you want to eliminate three main things: Light, oxygen, and water. When you freeze dry or dehydrate food, you create a hostile environment for microorganisms. Without sufficient water and oxygen, microorganisms can’t grow. And, by removing light and heat you also slow down the growth of microorganisms that will ruin all the hard work you have put in to long-term food storage.

Location Matters

There’s a reason our forefathers built cold storage in basements—they’re great at keeping out light and the temperature stays naturally cool. You can easily stash your food in the kitchen pantry if you have it packaged it in a jar. But, keep in mind that regular use and exposure to light and heat will significantly shorten the shelf life of your food. So, when possible, outfit a room with shelves and keep your food nestled safely in the type of environment it needs (like a cool basement or a dark closet) and it will last for decades.

Types of PackingHarvestRight-24

Jars – You don’t have to make jam or pickles to take advantage of the art of canning. Traditional canning jars are perfect for storing freeze-dried foods. All you need to do is make sure they are sanitized and add an oxygen absorber to lock your food up nice and tight for the long haul. (Some choose to use a vacuum sealer to seal their jars, but it’s vital that all the oxygen is removed when using this method.)

An advantage of jars is that they can be reused and you can easily see what you preserved. If you plan to use your food in the near future, using a reusable resource like jars is smart and saves money. Keep in mind that jars will allow light in, so it’s crucial that any food stored in jars is kept in a dark place.

20160210-DSC_0009Cans – Cans are a great food storage choice. Not only are they airtight, but they also prevent incidental exposure to light. The methods are very similar to the process used to package food in jars. One downside to cans is that they can’t be reused or resealed. With that in mind, be judicious when deciding which foods to place in cans. A gallon of freeze-dried food is a lot. Once cans are opened, the food needs to be used. So, you may want to portion your food in smaller packages inside the cans to make for manageable meal sizes.

bananas bagMylar Bags – This may be the simplest way to package your preserved foods. All you need to get started are the bags and an impulse sealer. Mylar bags do a good job of blocking out light and air, but you do want to make sure to remove as much as air as possible before sealing the bags. Oxygen absorbers are the best! Depending on the foods you are preserving, bags can take up less space than jars or cans, too. Another plus is that Mylar bags can be resealed once opened and they can be washed out and reused, similar to a canning jar. Mylar bags are also easily portable during and emergency.

Plastic Buckets – Big, plastic buckets are often used to store food. They do a fine job of keeping out most air and light and the plastic is not vulnerable to pests and rodents. Another upside is that they are stackable. You do need to have sufficient room for them, but they can be a great way to keep foods (like grains or several mylar bags) that would take up a large number of smaller containers.

Specialized Food Storage Containers – There are containers designed specifically for long-term food storage. These systems definitely provide the protection needed, but the downside is expense. They are often pricey, and sometimes require purchase of other products or the company’s own food items. Space can be another concern, as these types of containers are usually quite large.

 

Extras That Help

Vacuum Packing Machine – Because oxygen is one of the enemies of food preservation and it’s absolutely everywhere, this can become your secret weapon. The vacuum packing machine helps you remove excess air from cans, jars, bags, or buckets before sealing them. It’s a good way to seal your food. The major downside is that they don’t get out all the oxygen and the packaging typically used is clear plastic. Both water and oxygen can pass through this plastic. So, for medium range storage (two to three years) they are great.

Oxygen Absorbers – These little babies are a must-have. HarvestRight-zucchini 9No matter what your chosen packaging method, adding a couple of these devices to your food will make a huge difference in the longevity of your preserves.

If you’re taking the time and care to preserve food, you want to make sure it lasts. Use these helpful tips to get the most out of your long-term food storage efforts.

By | 2017-10-19T02:59:12+00:00 March 8th, 2016|28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Judy Heer March 11, 2016 at 10:36 am - Reply

    How many oxygen packs do you put in the large Mylar bags?
    Thanks

    • Stephanie Barlow March 11, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

      One 300cc oxygen absorber works for one gallon container.

  2. Bonnie Willey March 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    When freeze drying in a freezer’, and you have waited the required time, and they are light weight, and airy, but covered in frost from being in the freezer, what next? You can’t wrap them as is, they will reconstitute from the coldness/moisture in the ice. Do I room/air dry, or put in a warm oven, … or what? Thanks!

    • Stephanie Barlow March 14, 2016 at 5:41 pm - Reply

      We aren’t sure we understand the question. Feel free to clarify if we didn’t understand.
      When we freeze dry, we use an actual freeze dryer. We don’t do it in a freezer. That method doesn’t really work.

  3. Barbara March 16, 2016 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Can I remove air from the Mylar bags and seal the mylar bags by using my vacuum sealer?

    • Stephanie Barlow March 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      Yes. But, we still recommend an oxygen absorber, especially for long-term food storage.

    • Kris March 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      How do you remove air from the mylar bag? I tried on my food saver and it didn’t work

      • Stephanie Barlow March 23, 2016 at 6:20 pm - Reply

        You can add an oxygen absorber. It will activate and take the air out of the package. Some people do try to “push” a bit of the air out before they seal the bag, but the oxygen absorber will do the work!

  4. sally March 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    How long does the food last in the mylar bag without the oxygen absorber? Some of my oxygen absorbers were exposed to air and I did not know it when they were placed in the mylar bags. I love my Harvest right and will continue to use it!

    • Stephanie Barlow March 18, 2016 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comment. The oxygen absorber is very important. We suggest re-packaging your food, especially if contains fat. Oxygen reacting with fat is what causes food to go rancid.

    • Davis Yaun March 28, 2016 at 10:01 am - Reply

      Since the oxygen absorbers quickly react and become ineffective when left exposed a sealed bag, I suggest placing uhe unused oxygen absorbers in another milar bag, seal it and each time opening it, cut last tab and reseal. Also include the “pink” tablet. It turns “blue” when packages are becoming ineffective. Don’t know any way to tell if oxygen absorbers no longer effective. I would “think” if the were in the original bag or jar, konce the bag or jar is “opened” you should use a NEW oxygen absorber to insure protection.

      • Pat Hogan March 30, 2016 at 10:57 am - Reply

        The oxygen absorbers get hard over time as they are used up. If the package still feels like it is very sandy inside then it should be okay but if it has become hard then it is no good.

  5. Ladd Christensen March 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Hi! Thanks for all the good information. We just bought a Harvest Right Dryer and I am mostly concerned about storing things like Dairy, eggs, and other items that don’t store well. Do you have any tips on drying more liquid things like sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, etc.?
    Thanks!

    • Stephanie Barlow March 21, 2016 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Ladd, we recommend watching some of the videos on the video page of our website. It will give some tips for freeze drying dairy, eggs, cheese, etc. We recommend for long-term storage putting these in a mylar bag with a good oxygen absorber. The shelf life should be 10 to 15 years for things like this.

  6. Pat Hogan March 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    LONG Term Storage comes in many fashions but for real LONG term storage, I mean the 15 to 20 year kind you need to step up the quality of Mylar bag you use. You really need to get at least the 5 mil bag, much heaver, but you will also need a better vacuum machine. I know it can cost a lot upfront but in the very long run it can pay off. I have the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer and a SAMMIC vacuum sealer. I have approximately 5,000 dollars into the setup but I know that what I seal will last well probably longer than I will need the food.

    The perfect recipe is stronger bags and a stronger vacuum sealer plus an oxygen absorber and you will be successful for VERY long term storage.

    • Stephanie Barlow March 24, 2016 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks! That’s why we also started to offer the 7 mil mylar bags now on our website.

  7. Cris April 14, 2016 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    So freeze dried raw meat that is properly sealed does not have to be refrigerated? This seems to crazy! Please advise! And eggs! Crazy!!

    • Stephanie Barlow April 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Yes. You do not need to refrigerate anything. It is shelf stable as long as it is packaged properly.

  8. Julie April 27, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    We’ve had our FD for a year now, keeping it in almost constant use. SInce we also have a big garden every year, we bought another freezer to keep the produce in until we can get it freeze dried. One stroke of luck for us–an acquaintance has chickens and more eggs than they can use. They give us all the eggs we want, we then freeze dry them, and then we give them half back. We just “scramble” them in our VitaMix. 3 dozen works nicely in the 4 trays. More than that and it takes longer than the 24 hours we like to keep it at. Also, my husband replaced the baffle in the pump with a piece of roofing tin he had. The baffle had gone rusty, and with his diy replacement and keeping the amount of food on the trays on the lower side so that it FDs in 24 hours, we have been able to go 5-10 batches before changing the oil in the pump. It’s a real learning curve, so don’t be afraid to ask those questions!

    • Jill Rice May 9, 2016 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      Hello! I was just wondering at what ratio do you reconstitute your FD scrambled eggs?

      • Stephanie Barlow May 16, 2016 at 10:02 pm - Reply

        We just use a little bit of water and throw them in a skillet. Or, just about 1/8th to 1/4th water to the amount of eggs you are rehydrating and put them in the microwave. We cover and let the steam also do some of the work once they are heated in the microwave. Doesn’t take much.

  9. Alan Farwell February 27, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    So anything including ice cream can be stored on the shelf? Is there a certain temperature it should be stored at? Alan

    • Rita July 24, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Heat is one of the enemies of food, so keeping it in an air-conditioned pantry, properly packaged, should be fine. It doesn’t need to be frozen.

  10. Renee July 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Once the final dry cycle has completed and the beep has sounded indicating completion, how long can the food remain in the HR unit before we have to break the vacuum and begin packaging? Our first batch has run longer than anticipated and is now scheduled to be ready at 3am.
    Any reason why we can’t wait until after breakfast to open it and get started packaging?

    • Matt Neville July 28, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      You can allow it to finish and package the food when you can get to it. The freeze dryer puts the food in a holding state. Some choose to add dry time so that it will finish when they are available to package the food. There is no harm in adding more time.

  11. Jennifer July 31, 2017 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Is there a chart available that provides details on the length of time freeze dried food can be stored? For instance, jars with oxygen absorbers vs. mylar bags with oxygen absorbers? If I don’t have a vacuum sealer, will the food not last? Would the shelf life vary depending on what food you’re storing? Sorry, new to the freeze drying process and need a little help..

  12. Liz Patton August 13, 2017 at 7:14 am - Reply

    I am having a hard time with sliced tomatoes …. (I am new to this also) we have run 2 loads of sliced one peeled and one not… the machine said they were ready and we packaged them in large ball jars. They shrank!! over a few days… also were sticky when they went in the jars… should we toss them? Re-freeze them? I am thinking that they are NOT totally done since they shrank…

    • Stephanie Barlow August 17, 2017 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Sounds like there was moisture maybe still in the tomatoes. You could open the jar and see if they smell okay. If so, run them through a batch of them just being dried to make sure they are dry all the way through. Or, run them through a second whole batch to remove all the water (there won’t be as much water this time) and then it can dry and make sure they are good to go. In the future, break the tomato slice in half on the larges slice and make sure it’s dry in the center of the slice. If you’re ever worried, just add more dry time at the end of a cycle.

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