Letter Re: Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

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Hugh,

Great Harvest Right review! It’s incredibly informative and well written. Thank you. I’m currently about to pull the trigger on purchasing one of their machines. I was hoping you might be able to share some wisdom on your experience with ice cream. You mention cream content below 1/3 worked well. Did you try various brands and something “light” like this worked best? What was the drying time? Was this one of the high liquid foods that required you to defrost in the middle of the process? Any insight is incredibly appreciated.

Hugh Replies: That ice cream will work just fine, as will others with high fat content. The trick with those is to make sure it is hard frozen, then peel the cardboard off and slice it into slabs 1/2” thick. Ice cream usually does not need a defrost cycle in the middle, though it will take nearly 48 hours, on average, just because of the thickness. It is really difficult to slice frozen ice cream. Most people freeze dry ice cream sandwiches because they are just the right serving size. However, you will still have a long freeze dry cycle, because of the thickness of the ice cream and the fact that most commercial ice cream has significant amounts of air mixed in it. This creates an effective insulator as it dries, making for a long cycle. You may also occasionally have what I term “blowouts”. This is where the product thaws faster than the vacuum pump can remove the water. The product will bubble out the side, sometimes significantly. While this makes the product look bad, it has no effect on the storage or taste.

Let me offer you an alternative, though. It’s fairly easy to quantify what makes ice cream a wonderful treat.

  1. It is cold and refreshing, especially on a hot day.
  2. It is loaded with sugar, or a similar sweetener, which makes it taste great.
  3. It coats your mouth with cream, which is a very pleasant feeling.

When you freeze dry it, it becomes hard and crispy because of the air entrapped in it, and it is no longer cold. That leaves the sweetness and creaminess as the “pleasurable” factors. You can put a bit in your mouth and let it rehydrate and still experience a wonderful product. However, you can also freeze dry yogurt and get a similar sweet and creamy feeling, and it is easier to freeze dry. You just dump a quart of yogurt in the tray and spread it around until it is only 1/2” thick or less. In addition, if you reconstitute ice cream, you get a milkshake, but if you reconstitute yogurt, you get… yogurt!

With yogurt, you can enjoy it in its freeze dried state, or you can reconstitute in in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy it in the morning just like it was fresh. Our family has decided that we will enjoy ice cream fresh and prefer freeze-dried yogurt for storage (and for treats now, too).

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