So what is the big deal about freeze dried food for long term storage? I have been skirting around the edge of this issue since early summer, when I had my first taste of some prepackaged, freeze dried food from a #10 tin. Oh sure – it all sounded good. After all, it was roast beef and for a meatasaurus like me, how bad could it be?
While not to disparage one brand over another, the roast beef from Thrive was, well, the word that comes to mind is vile. I tried it plain and I tried it hidden in the rich broth of homemade soup. Your mileage may vary but it was bad. Really bad.
So back I went to the drawing board. I thought if I could learn about the science behind freeze dried food, I might be able to make better choices going forward.
How does freeze drying work?
Freeze-drying works by putting food into a state of “suspended animation”. Provided the food is of good quality to begin with, it gets freeze dried where it can stay, under proper storage conditions, for 20, 30 or even 40 years. When you get around to eating it, you add some warm to hot water and the food comes back to life, supposedly ready to eat with the same taste and texture it had to begin with. That is the theory, anyway.
In the most simplistic of terms, freeze drying removes all water from food. This performs three important functions:
- Removing water eliminates the spoilage that can occur when microorganisms (such as bacteria) feed on the food causing decomposition, disease, or a completely benign but utterly disgusting bad taste.
- Removing water also puts a stop to naturally occurring enzymes in food that react with oxygen to cause spoiling and ripening.
- Freeze-drying significantly reduces the total weight of the food, making it lighter and easier to carry and to package.
But what about dehydrating food?
Dehydrating or drying food is not all that difficult. All you need to do is set the food out in a hot, arid area, and, given enough time, the liquid water inside will evaporate. If you do the job right, this will eliminate about 90 to 95% of the water. Not bad.
But the problem with this method is the heat. Heat will change the shape, texture, taste, small and appearance of food. Now when you are cooking something for dinner tonight, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But to eat 10 or 20 years from now? Probably not.
How is freeze drying different?
Freeze drying, on the other hand, locks in the original composition and structure of the food by drying it without heat. Instead of using heat, the water is converted to ice and then to a vapor or gas using a special machine. This vapor is allowed to evaporate out and when the food has dried completely, the process is done and you have a perfect freeze-dried food.
It is then sealed in a moisture-fee package, typically a Mylar pouch. a bucket or a tin, along with an oxygen absorbing material., Then, as long as the package is airtight and secure, the food can sit on a shelf or in a pantry for years and years without degrading. Ultimately, it is re-hydrated to its original form with warm water and you are good to go.
But How Does it Taste?
Okay, so I already told you that the roast beef was terrible. If all this freeze drying science is true, how could that be? Honestly? I don’t know. What I do know is that since that day in July, I have tried some other freeze dried products and they are darn good. Better than good as a matter of fact.
For example, a few days ago we flipped open the top of another Thrive product, the Ground Beef. After hearing about my complaints about the Roast Beef, Misty Marsh at Your Own Home Store offered to send me some samples, convinced that I should give freeze dried meats another try.
In the picture below you will see the ground beef from can to pan and ultimately in my bowl of homemade chili. Now doesn’t that look good? And the taste? As good or better than the real thing. Wait! I checked the can. This is the real thing! So a big thumbs up to Misty, her sample, and the Thrive roast beef.
A couple of things: Misty kindly sent the samples to me but she did not ask for a single thing in return. But let me tell you a little bit about her. She is an authorized independent Shelf Reliance consultant who became interested in Thrive food a bit over a year ago when she lost hundreds of dollars of food from her freezer when her family had to move due to a job loss. Real meat, cheese, and produce with a 25 year shelf life – she became hooked as did her family.
The other thing I want to mention is that Misty does provide a limited number of samples each month. Check her site at www.yourownhomestore.com for more details.
So now I was 1 for 2. Time to try something else.
My next venture into the world of freeze dried foods was some good old fashioned scrambled eggs with sausage. This time I chose a Saratoga Farms product from The Ready Store. Now I must tell you that I am not much of a breakfast eater – a double grandee latte about does it for me – but I do enjoy making breakfast for Survival Husband.
The first thing I noticed was that there were no foul orders when I opened the can. I also noticed how real those little nuggets of eggs looked. (Hey, they were real – just freeze dried). The only thing that I questioned was the size of a serving at 1/2 cup. So, just to be safe, I doubled the quantity and got started by pouring some warm water over the dried egg and sausage mixture. At the end of 7 minutes, we did a taste test and decided that warmish eggs were not too appetizing so we threw the mix in a small skillet and heated them up for about 5 minutes.
The result? Well, after the first few bites S.H. gave them a 6 on a one to ten scale, ten highest. But he kept eating . . . and eating . . . and before he was done he proclaimed that this was and 8 or 9. The exact words were “addictive”.
Here are some pictures:
The Final Word
Way back when I wrote about common food storage mistakes. One of those common goofs is to purchase products you either don’t enjoy or don’t know how to cook. The rule to buy what you like most certainly applies to freeze-dried foods. Many companies offer single or double meal pouches or a sampler sized tin that you can use to try a product before buying in huge quantity. I recommend that you take advantage of these convenient, pantry sized products before committing to the larger sizes that you will store for the long term.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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