When Harvest Right first contacted me about their freeze dryer I was intrigued but hesitant. After all I do so much canning I was not sure if this would be something that would work for me.
Then I realized... well shoot, I love love love freeze dried fruit in my cereal, freeze dried meals would sure be easy for traveling and... I can create my own food storage, and know what is in the cans! or bags... or jars... whatever the case may be.
Most freeze dried meals are way too salty for my taste. And they usually don't have enough meat. If I could make my own meals. Well that would be pretty darn cool. I could use my own recipes and add in plenty of meat! And I’d know just where that food came from.
So I chose my color, placed my order. and waited anxiously....
Here she is! (cause it just seems like a she)
Most of the food is really good! Fruit is fantastic, Apricots, Peaches. Corn is delicious both rehydrated or even eaten dry as a snack.
The storage time is great.
I know where that food comes from. That is pretty important to me.
I have to say, after using this to dry many foods, we found out we just don't use some of it. I like some things better canned or even dehydrated the "regular" way. That is personal preference.
Maintenance of the dryer/pump.
It is not hard, just kind of a pain. And it might not bother you at all. You have to change the oil after every 5 loads or so. Then do a "power flush" every 10 loads or so. I just did my first power flush yesterday.... messy business. The person in this video did a much neater job than I did.
The good thing about this is that it seems to be easily fixed. There are several homemade filters you can use to clean your oil so you can re-use it. I also found this Harvey Filter to be a good option as well. Harvey Filter
Where to put the pump, noise levels and outside temperatures.
The pump is noisy so I don't want it in the house. Ours is in my husband's shop.
Dry time goes up as the outside temperature goes up. If it is really hot outside,I don't use my freeze dryer. To combat that... I've been prepping things and putting them in the freezer for later. Which works if you have freezer space but.... hunting season is coming so I have to have space then.
It just occured to me how blessed I am.
I have enough food to have issues in deciding just how to preserve it!
How many people are worried about having enough food for the week.
or the day
Stop and think about that one.
All in all I do like having mine. I don't want to sound too negative because the pros just may outweigh the cons. Only you can decide.
Part of what I don't love about most freeze dried food companies is... I don't know where the food came from in the first place or the quality of that food.
I called one food storage supply company to ask where the food is from. They would not tell me. I explained I don't need an exact farm or location but basically I’d like to know what country it is from? Nope... would not even reveal that. They would only tell me how wonderful the food was and how I would be pleased with it. Well that is nice.... but it still doesn't tell me anything.
Making my own freeze dried foods and meals, well that tells me everything!
Edit to add.... I found Thrive! Thrive foods provides freeze dried foods prepared for you. It is a great option if you don't have the cash or desire to do it yourself. AND They tell you where all their products come from right on the product pages. I loved that enough to become a consultant.
So far I’m pretty pleased. When I was setting up the freeze dryer, I placed a call to the customer service number with what I felt like was probably a dorky question. It was a legitimate question that I had. I didn't just make it up... but I felt pretty silly about it.
Perfect! This gives me a chance to see what their service was like. With a big purchase like this… customer service matters. I did not tell the representative who I was. I simply asked my lame question about the door seal and the nice gentleman answered my question with a pleasant attitude, clear english, and what sounded like a smile. So far so good, I love good customer service.
I had my husband set up a spot out in our shop for my freeze drying adventures as I call them. The pump that comes along with the freeze dryer is loud enough I don’t want it in my house. Plus, we had the correct electrical set up out there.
They suggest a dedicated 20AMP circuit.
I then hooked up my pump, adding the oil and setting up the freeze dryer unit.
Now if you know me,you’d know that I am not real mechanical. My husband offered to set it up for me but I said I’d like to do it myself so I can report how it goes. So after lifting of the freeze dryer onto the cart (I really did need help with that part), off he went and left me alone with my instructions in hand. I am pleased to report that I just started with step one and followed the set up instructions all by my lonesome. No problems. :)
This is one area that I was a bit bummed out with. Harvest Right states that most cycles will take 24-27 hours on average. I found that most things I’m drying are on the upper end of that or even longer. Now in their defense I’ve mostly done fruit and liquid items like raw eggs and stew. High sugar items apparently take longer and it would make sense that items with lots of liquid are going to take longer. I’ll report back what happens when my veggies come on in the garden during the harvest season.
This is going to be a sticky point for many. After all, who wants to run a machine for that long. It seems like the electricity costs would be an issue. But if you think about how much commercially prepared freeze dried foods cost, the amount of electricity used is not going to cost nearly as much. Here is a quick FAQ from the Harvest Right Website.
One thing I'm noticing is that the dryer runs longer when the temperature gets higher. I live where it is very dry so humidity is not an issue for us but Harvest right does note that high humidity will cause longer time as well.
What I've done to deal with this is.... when the temperature was up in the 90's, I just prepped my food for the dryer and put them in my regular freezer. When the outdoor temperatures go down I can pull out that food and get the dryer going again.
My first few loads I chose to take some things out of my freezer to freeze dry. It was early spring and I had nothing to harvest. When I learned you can pre freeze your food to make your freeze dry time shorter that solved my issue of what to freeze dry first. I had several bags of cantaloupe from last years overabundant harvest. You can’t can cantaloupe and my family doesn’t care for it dehydrated so I tossed it in the freezer.
Freeze dried cantaloup turned out super yummy!
By the way, dehydrating is a completely different process than freeze drying. More on this to come.
The freeze dryer has sensors that automatically stop the dry time when the food is done, you then have the option to check your food and either take it out, or add some dry time.
The first batch I should have left in the dryer longer. They were a bit undone… no problem they were so good we ate them that very day. The next batches I just added a bit more time and they were fine. After a few batches under my belt I think I’ve got the hang of things.
Harvest Right has an entire video gallery with tips and instructions on how to freeze dry foods with thier freeze dryer.
So far I have successfully freeze dried:
I'm going to experiment and see what works best for us. It will be interesting to see what foods I find I like freeze dried better than canned!
(Note since this page was written I've added quite a few more foods to my list!)
Editing this to add after a year of owning the Harvest Right Freeze dryer.
The foods we like so far are mostly the fruit. Although some fruit I still like canned or dehydrated the "regular" way better. For example, bananas are good freeze dried... but I like the chewy texture. Same with Apricots, I like them better dehydrated.
Corn was a good vegetable, but I've found that most other veggies I'm just so used to canning that I end up not using the freeze dried. I probably won't do more canning is much easier for me.
If you want to build a home food storage and you are a do it yourself type.... try the Harvest Right freeze dryer.
Now I fully realize that this is not for everyone. It is not cheap. It is an investment and it does have some maintenance tasks that must be taken care of. There are also costs involved in running the machine.
If you are happy with canning and/or dehydrating. That is a good plan too.
But, if you know you want freeze dried foods as a part of your pantry you have two options.
Don’t forget that added benefit of knowing where the food came from. Even if you don’t grow it yourself you will know the quality of the food. Remember just like canning what comes out of the freeze dryer is no better than what goes in.
So my final thoughts on this machine are rather mixed. I like it... yet I'm not a raving fan. It is very possible that is because I'm just so hooked on canning that it is difficult to change.
I CAN highly suggest that you go to facebook and join one of the several freeze drying groups. There are people on there who are much more experienced. You can see the questions folks ask, see what people are freeze drying and get LOTS of information.
FAQ, I've been asked to clarify my relationship with Harvest Right.
Harvest Right provided this unit with the understanding that:
Currently, I am an affiliate of Harvest Right. If you make a purchase after clicking through one of my links I do get a small financial benefit at no cost to you.
So please do go check out those facebook groups but it would be super cool if you'd come back and purchase through my link in appreciation for what I do here at SimplyCanning.