When I’m preserving food, 99.9% of the time, freeze drying is my choice. There is nothing wrong with dehydrating foods to preserve them. I did it for many years but now that I have a freeze dryer, that’s my preferred method.
Most foods . . and I’m trying to think of exceptions but can’t though I know some of you will . . but most foods will (1) rehydrate from having been freeze dried and taste really close to how they tasted fresh or (2) taste better in their crunchy, freeze dried state than they did in their natural state.
When I was making the trip from Texas to Missouri and back, I’d always put in several half pint or pint jars of apples, peaches, figs, etc. That made such nice snacks for the road. One thing to always remember when eating freeze dried foods that have not been rehydrated – drink lots of water. It’s amazing how much water is pulled out of foods during the freeze drying process so eating those foods in their dried state . . your body needs extra water!
Most any food I’ve freeze dried, the test to make sure it’s done is to crunch it between my index finger and thumb and if it crumbles and is not cold in the middle, it’s done. It will crumble into a powder. When you think of dehydrated food, think of beef jerky texture. A dehydrated apple slice is going to be good but chewy. A freeze dried apple slice is going to be crunchy and somewhat like one of those big, fluffy cheeto puff.
Everyone’s tastes are different. Let’s take green beans for example. If you’ve ever had fresh from the vine green beans, you know how tender and soft and yummy they are. Then if you’ve had home canned green beans, they’re good but not quite as good as fresh picked. Freeze dried green beans that have been rehydrated and cooked will taste very similar to home canned green beans. Raw, freeze dried green beans are going to be crunchy and again – the cheeto puff texture. Dehydrated green beans will never fully rehydrate and look like fresh but they’re good in a different way.
Bananas are another good example. From the dehydrator, they’re going to be more brown and dried looking and very chewy. From the freeze dryer, they’re going to look just like a fresh banana and be super crunchy. Both ways, they’re good and they’re healthy but they are different.
There are very few things I choose to dehydrate. Here are a few and my reasons:
Beef Jerky – I start with raw, marinated meat. The freeze dryer does not cook food. It freezes it, then pulls all the liquid out. The dehydrator will cook food. So, beef jerky needs to reach a temp of 155 so I dehydrate it at 160 and check it after about 4 hours. It will be done and appear to be cooked. In the freeze dryer, raw meat is still raw meat when it’s done. I could put pork chops in and freeze dry them, taken them out, soak them and they’re as raw and fresh looking as they were before I put them in so for jerky – it’s always dehydrating.
Any Chewy Snack – Fruit leather, fruit pieces you want to be chewy, sun dried tomatoes.
Here’s where I want to experiment. With the corn that I’m turning into hominy (or nixtamal), I want to be able to grind that corn into a cornmeal for cornbread, tortillas, etc. I think if I freeze dry it, then try to grind it, I’m going to get a powder, more like flour. If I dehydrate it, I think I’ll get more like cornmeal.
I have two more trays of okra and two more trays of squash ready to go into the freeze dryer. I want to fix another batch of nixtamal and try freeze drying a bit of it. I know dehydrating will do what I want it to do but I want to test it in the freeze dryer. I think it’s going to be way too crumbly and not grainy enough to work but . . there’s one way to find out.