There’s probably a term or a condition (probably crazy!) for this but when we take something apart and have to put it back together again, I keep putting it off and putting it off because I’m so afraid it won’t work or it will be missing a part or something. The first load from the movers arrived almost nine months ago. The freeze dryer and longarm were on that load. We still haven’t put the longarm together and just this past week Vince put the freeze dryer together. Putting the freeze dryer together mainly consisted of plugging it into the wall, plugging the pump into the freeze dryer and attaching the vacuum hose. Really – that’s it.
I’m so glad it’s done. Now I’ll use it non-stop but had we not had all those strawberries to put up, it would probably sit there for no telling how long waiting to be assembled.
In Texas, as you probably remember, the freeze dryer was in an 8 x 16 closet in the sewing room. I had plenty of room for the freeze dryer but no room to package the freeze dried foods because that closet was my main sewing room closet. Also, there was no water in the sewing room. I would do all the prep work in the kitchen, then carry them one by one across the driveway to the sewing room and into the closet. Once the freeze dryer was finished, I would take the food trays, one at a time, to the fabric cutting table, put the food in jars or bags, constantly trying to keep Boots away. Then I’d take the jars outside where I had the vacuum chamber (old pressure cooker) and pump hooked up under the carport. I’d vacuum seal the jars, then carry them all back into the sewing room for storage. Sometimes I’d be doing this at 1 or 2 a.m. which meant walking across the driveway, going into the shop, into the sewing room and doing all this in the middle of the night. It usually took at least two runs in the vacuum chamber since the pressure cooker only holds 7 jars.
Here in MO, I have a rather large pantry (maybe 12 x 12) with heavy duty shelf/racks so the freeze dryer sits on one of those but there’s other stuff stored in there so for now, I don’t have room to package the food in there. The downstairs garage is very close to the room where the freezer dryer is located (same floor). Both those rooms air conditioned (by the house central a/c) and there’s a built in desk in the corner of the garage so it’s the perfect place for getting the food in jars or bags.
There’s also a full bath right across from the food pantry so I have water, soap, towels, etc. handy. So nice!
With the first load of strawberries, I got 13 pints, one quart and one 1-1/2 pint jar full.
The freeze dryer is running again with two trays of strawberries and two trays of rhubarb. I have the medium size and it holds four trays. I can set the freeze dryer’s freezing time and final drying time but there’s a “drying” time that it sets and I never know how long that will be or how it calculates that time. Say I put something in at 8 a.m. and give it 10 hours freezing time and 7 hours final drying time. That’s 17 hours and if that was all the time, it would be finished at 1 a.m. I could calculate in my head and say “No, I don’t want to be up processing this at 1 a.m. so I could wait and put everything in at noon and then it would be ready at about 5 a.m. BUT, I never know about that “drying” time so it’s impossible to plan when it will be done. What I can do is look at it before I go to bed. Say at midnight it has 3 hours of the final dry time left, I can add 3 more hours so it will run til 6 a.m. Now that I’ve gotten to know the freeze dryer better, I usually set the final dry time for 12 hours. I never want more than 7 hours but that gives me some wiggle room. If I look at it at midnight and it hasn’t even started the final dry time, I know I have at least 12 hours before it will need my attention. If I look at it at 9 p.m. and it has 5 hours left, I know there’s already been 7 hours of final dry time and I can stop it and vacuum seal the food.
If the time all runs out, everything will stay under vacuum but will be frozen when I do get to it so I try to never let that happen. I said all this because I know someone would say “Why don’t you set it so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night?”
It really is a guessing game. The strawberries I just took out, from start to finish, the total run time was about 51 hours. With a 10 hour freeze time and a 7 hour final dry, that means there was a 34 hour “dry” time. My planning and calculating sometimes work and sometimes not.