Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts

May 22, 2019

9 Ways to Preserve Eggs

How to Preserve Eggs
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.


It's the time of year when every chicken keeper begins wondering "What am I going to do with all these eggs?" If you've had your fill of scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, quiches, meringues, custards, and other egg-laden dishes, here are nine ways to preserve those eggs for later use. After all, just as spring is the season of egg glut, winter is the season of egg famine. Wouldn't it be great to have preserved eggs for those times when your hens aren't laying well?

First, a Note about Egg Condition

Before we delve into how to preserve eggs, it's important to understand that only eggs with intact shells should be stored long term. Any cracks, chips, or holes in the eggs allow bacteria to get inside, compromising the safety of the food. In other words: Such eggs could make you very, very sick.

If I find damaged eggs in our hens' nesting boxes, I typically feed them immediately to our dog. Cooked right away, and cooked thoroughly, they are probably safe for human consumption, but I cannot recommend that practice.

In addition, when preserving eggs, it's always best to keep each egg's "bloom" - that is, the natural protective coating on the outside of the egg shell. This is removed if you wash the eggs. Therefore, really dirty eggs are best consumed right away, or preserved only by freezing. Lightly dirty eggs may be preserved by first gently scraping them with a fingernail or brush to remove light soiling.


Unwashed eggs last a long time in the fridge.
Preserving Eggs in the Refrigerator (6 months - 1 year)

While it's true that unwashed eggs store safely on the counter, they last considerably longer - at least 6 months - if you refrigerate them. (Store bought eggs, which are washed with a chlorine solution, don't last as long. Read more about why I don't wash our homestead eggs, here.)

Personally, I like to store our hens' eggs in 18-count cardboard egg cartons. Mine are saved from back in the days before we had a homestead flock and I was still buying eggs at the grocery store; sometimes family members gift me their cardboard egg cartons, too. You can also buy unused cartons at feed stores or online. These containers last a long time - and when they finally do start falling apart, they compost well. Other options include plastic containers designed for storing eggs in the fridge.

To extend storage length, be sure to store eggs pointy end down. The reason for this is that there is an air pocket at the fat end of every egg. This pocket helps protect the yolk (which is more susceptible than the white of the egg) from bacteria. When eggs sit pointy end up, the air - and any bacteria in the egg - will rise, making the egg go bad more quickly. Also remember that washing eggs before refrigerating them may make them go bad more quickly; I only store unwashed eggs in our fridge.

I stack my cartons, oldest eggs on top, so I know which to use first. You may also wish to date each carton. When I'm ready to use eggs, if I have any question at all about their age, I do a simple water test to make sure they are perfectly safe to eat. (Click here to see how.)

Pros: Quick and easy; eggs can be used fresh; eggs last at least 6 months.

Cons: Takes up space in the refrigerator; requires electricity.

First, whip egg yolks and whites together.
Preserving Eggs in the Freezer (1 - 2 years)

Freezing extra eggs is another easy preservation method. Once thawed, frozen eggs can be used exactly like fresh eggs. To properly freeze eggs:

1. Break open one egg at a time and pour the contents into a bowl. Whip to mix, using an immersion blender (I use this one), a whisk, or a fork.

2. Frozen eggs can feel gritty once thawed. To help prevent that, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every egg. (You may also use 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for every egg, but really, the last thing our society needs is more sugar, right?)

3. Pour the whipped eggs into the cups of an ice cube tray or silicone mold. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container, like a Ziplock or vacuum sealer bag. If you put the frozen eggs in a single layer and vacuum seal them, the eggs will take up very little space and will stay good for a year or two. Or you can just pop them in a freezer bag without vacuum sealing and use them within a year.
In most cases, a frozen cube equals about 1 egg.
Ice cube trays vary, so if you think you'll need to know exactly how much frozen egg equals a fresh egg (say, if you plan to bake with them), test your trays: Whip up a single egg and pour it into one hole in your ice cube tray. If the egg fills the one hole, one cube equals one egg.

Before using the eggs, be sure to thaw them completely in the refrigerator.

Pros: Quick and easy method; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs store up to a year (without vacuum sealing) or two (with vacuum sealing).

Cons: Salt or sugar should be added for best quality; must wait for eggs to thaw before using; takes up freezer space; requires electricity; loss of electricity will make eggs go bad.

Preserving Eggs by Dehydrating (up to 1 year)
Dehydrating eggs at home.

Back in 2012, I learned many people were dehydrating eggs in electric food dehydrators. Not knowing this was a safety concern, I tried it. It was a complete flop. Not only were my dehydrated eggs terrible for baking (never giving the rise fresh eggs do), but they tasted awful when I rehydrated and scrambled them.

But the biggest reason to not dehydrate eggs at home is that the process may not kill salmonella or other, similar bacterias. In other words, it's not a perfectly safe preservation method. (Some people argue that as long as you cook the raw, re-hydrated eggs to 160 degrees F., they are safe to consume. But there are risks in handling and cross-contamination to consider, too.)
Dehydrated eggs aren't safe - or tasty.

In order to circumvent the bacteria issue, I also tried thoroughly cooking the eggs before dehydrating them. Because fat goes rancid in dehydrated products, it was necessary to cook them without any fat in a Teflon pan. (Click here to learn why Teflon is a bad idea.) I found the resulting dehydrated eggs had little flavor. In fact, they were just gross.

If you want to know the process, see The Prairie Homestead's post on the topic. In my experience, there are better - and safer - ways to preserve eggs.

Pros: None.

Cons: Not a safe preservation method; poor quality; requires electricity.

Preserving Eggs by Freeze Drying (20 - 25 years)

Freeze-dried eggs are the longest-lasting.

When you purchase dried eggs at the store, they are actually freeze dried, not dehydrated. (Click here to learn what the difference between the two is.) Freeze dryings is the only way to safely dry eggs at home.

For the cost of a refrigerator, we now have a home freeze dryer on our homestead - and I find I'm constantly using it to preserve eggs. (Please note: Harvest Right is currently the only manufacturer of consumer grade freeze dryers.) Here's how I do it:

1. Each of Harvest Right's medium freeze dryer trays easily holds about 12 eggs. Begin by whipping up one tray's worth of eggs. It's best to use an immersion blender for this job; if you don't get the whites and yolks blended well, the eggs may "burst" in the freeze dryer, causing a big mess.

2. Pour the blended eggs into one freezer dryer tray. To do this without spilling, I recommend putting the tray on a shelf in your regular freezer (like the one attatched to your fridge - not the freeze dryer itself), then pouring the prepared eggs into it. Slowly and carefully slide the tray back in your freezer. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the remaining trays.

3. Allow the eggs to harden in the freezer; in the meantime, turn on the freeze dryer for about a half hour. (This allows the chamber to get good and cold so that when you insert trays of frozen food, they won't thaw.)

4. Transfer the trays of eggs to the freeze dryer. (You can just pop the trays immediately into the freeze dryer, without pre-freezing in your freezer, but you'll likely spill eggs in the Harvest Right, since it is designed to not sit level.)
Raw eggs going into the freeze dryer.
4. Run the eggs through the freeze dryer until completely dry and warm to the touch. Transfer to mylar bags, add an oxygen absorber, and seal the bags.
Eggs come out foam-like. Before cooking, powder and rehydrate with water.

Stored this way in a cool, dry location, the eggs should last 20 - 25 years. After rehydrating, use these eggs just like you would fresh. To rehydrate: Mix 2 tablespoons freeze dried egg (crumbled into a powder before measuring) with 2 tablespoons of water. If you'll be scrambling the eggs, add a little extra water (or milk or cream) to allow for evaporation.

It's also fine to cook the eggs (for example, scramble them) and then freeze dry them. Because they will contain some cooking fat, they probably won't last as long on the shelf. Most people agree they don't taste quite as good when they are cooked first, but they do make for a super-easy meal.

Pros: Easy method with little hands-on time; can use the eggs like fresh; can make a quick dish by just adding water; lasts up to 25 years.

Cons: Requires mylar bags and oxygen absorbers; requires electricity.

Preserving Eggs in Mineral Oil (6 months - 1 year)

Coating eggs in mineral oil.


This is a traditional method, but one that's been studied scientifically, and is still used on about 10% of store bought eggs (after the eggs have been washed - often in chlorine). To preserve eggs in this way, you will need food grade mineral oil (found online or in pharmacies).

I also recommend using gloves during this procedure because mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct and a known endocrine disruptor that raises estrogen levels in our bodies. This, in turn, is linked to cancer and many other health problems. Does the mineral oil seep into the egg itself? I've been unable to find an answer to that question. However, literature widely says chicken eggs are semipermeable, meaning moisture can pass through the shell. Will the oil pass through each egg's membrane? I honestly don't know. You'll have to decide.

In addition, it's important to note that this method of preservation works best on freshly laid eggs - ideally, eggs no more than 24 hours old.

1. Warm 1/4 cup of food grade mineral oil in a nonreactive pan and don some gloves.

2. Dab warmed mineral oil on your hands and pick up an egg. Cover the entire surface of the egg with mineral oil; it doesn't matter if the coating is thick or thin.

3. Place the egg in an egg carton, pointed end down.

4. Repeat until you've covered all the eggs (1/4 cup of mineral oil will cover 4 - 6 dozen eggs), then store the egg carton in a cool, dry location (like a cold cellar or garage) where the temperature stays 68 degrees F. or less (but is always above freezing). If the temperature gets warmer than that, the eggs won't last but a few weeks. You may also store the cartons in the refrigerator, the mineral oil extending the life of the eggs even longer than if stored without a mineral coating.

5. Flip the eggs over once a month. You cannot skip this step! However, to make it easier, you may simply (and carefully) turn over each egg carton.

Before using mineral coated eggs, be sure to conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.

By the way, a common question about this method is whether or not a different type of oil may be used. The answer is no. Other food safe oils will go rancid.

Pros: No electricity needed; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs last up to a year.

Cons: Mineral oil should be used with caution; may be unhealthy (although the FDA allows it on commercially sold eggs); requires rotating the eggs once a month.



Preserving Eggs in Water Glass (up to 5 months)

This was a common preservation method in the 19th century, said to keep eggs good for up to five months. Most people today have never heard of water glass, or its scientific name, sodium silicate (a naturally occurring mineral). Unfortunately, this chemical can cause serious breathing and lung issues if inhaled, can burn the digestive tract if consumed, and can burn the skin and eyes upon contact.

Again, I question whether sodium silicate seeps into eggs during storage; I feel there are better ways to preserve eggs. For instructions on how to water glass eggs, see this article.

Before using water glass eggs, conduct a water test to make sure the eggs aren't bad.

Pros: No electricity required; can use eggs like fresh.

Cons: Must be handled carefully; may be toxic.





Preserving Eggs in Slaked Lime (6 months - 1 year)
This is another old method, using calcium hydroxide (which is created when calcium oxide - a.k.a. lime) is mixed (i.e. "slaked") with water. For directions, click here.

Do note that food grade lime is potentially dangerous stuff. It's toxic when consumed in quantity, may cause skin and eye burns, and leads to life-threatening conditions if inhaled. Personally, I'm not comfortable with that in or around my food, even knowing that for decades, calcium hydroxide was used to crisp pickles.

Before using eggs in unslacked lime, conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.

Pros: No electricity needed; can use eggs like fresh.

Cons: Must be handled carefully; can be toxic.

Preserving Eggs by Pickling (4 months)
Pickled eggs, courtesy Green Mountain Girls Farm.
It's a myth that it's safe to can eggs - even pickled and canned eggs - at home. The truth is, canning eggs opens people up to botulism. (To learn more, see this CDC report.) So why can you buy canned pickled eggs at the grocery store? Because commercial canneries have different equipment and therefore different abilities than home canners.

That said, making pickled eggs to store in the fridge may extend the eggs' life a wee bit.

1. Hardboil the eggs using your favorite method. (What I do: Using a pin or sewing needle, poke one hole in the fat end of each egg; this makes fresh eggs easy to peel. Pour 1 cup of water in the bottom of a 6 qt. Instant Pot. Place a steamer basket inside the Pot, and stack eggs atop it. Steam for 5 minutes. Let the IP reduce pressure naturally for 4 minutes, then quick release and plunge eggs into cold water. Cool completely in the fridge before peeling.)

2. Peel each egg and place it in a freshly washed canning jar.

3. Choose a brine from The National Center for Home Food Preservation's website. Heat the brine to boiling, then simmer 5 minutes.

4. Pour the brine over the eggs, completely covering them. The eggs must be completely submerged in the brine to remain safe. (A quart-sized jar holds about a dozen eggs.)

5. Let the eggs sit in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks, so they can take on the flavors in the brine. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends eating home pickled eggs within four months.

Pros: Unique taste.

Cons: Uses up refrigerator space; requires electricity.

Preserving Egg Yolks in Salt (4 weeks)
Salt cured egg, courtesy of Practical Self Reliance.

This very old method is similar to curing meat. In it, high amounts of salt inhibit bacterial growth so that other (good) bacteria can release lactic acid (lactobacillus). This method has become all the rage lately, but it's really more about a gourmet treat than storing eggs long term. Once cured, salted eggs should be eaten within four weeks, and for optimal safety, should be stored in the refrigerator. For details on how to salt eggs, see Practical Self Reliance's excellent how-to.

Pros: A gourmet treat.

Cons: Takes up room in the refrigerator; requires electricity to be safest.


This post featured at the Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop.




Jan 2, 2019

Most Popular Posts from 2018

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Another year come and gone. To me, it seems time speeds up each year! But now that Chritmas and New Year's are over, I need to hunker down and get to work. I'm currently finishing up a historical fashion book for Dover Publications. (Years ago, historical fashion books were my mainstay and I've enjoying getting back into that subject.) And as usual, this year I want to try to make this blog better than ever...meaning, I want to hear from you! What do you wish I'd blog more about? Let me know in the comments or through a social media message.

This is also the time of year I look at this blog's stats to see if I can understand my wonderful readers even better. It's always fasncinating to see which posts you like best.

1.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/12/deciding-what-to-plant-in-your.html

2.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/12/23-fun-practcal-ways-to-upcycle-feed.html
3.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/03/how-to-dehydrate-zoodles-other.html
4.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/01/why-and-how-to-prune-blueberries.html
5.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-biggest-lie-about-growing-tomatoes.html

6.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/05/can-you-grow-fruit-trees-from-seed.html

7.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-best-salsbury-steak-recipe-keto-low.html

8.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-ultimate-dandelion-medicine-book-is.html
 9.
10.

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2018/11/his-grace-is-revealed-through-parenting.html


I also look at which posts are all-time favorites:



https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html
4.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html
5.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html
6.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2013/03/best-ideas-for-upcycling-jeans.html
7.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html
8.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-to-clean-really-dirty-stove-top.html
9.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-make-dandelion-wine-recipe-for.html
10.
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2013/08/canning-pickled-green-beans-dilly-beans.html
Happy new year!

Aug 30, 2018

August Homestead Life in Photos

It's been an overwhelming month...but I'm not complaining. Sure, my dad visited from out of state and we held our annual party celebrating my husband's and daughter's birthdays, but most of the overwhelmingness (I made up a word!) has come from our homestead bounty.
When we were homesteading in the suburbs, we dreamed of having every kind of fruit tree, bush, bramble, and vegetable growing on our property, all carefully preserved for the rest of the year. I knew it would be work, but...it's more work than you can imagine if you've never lived it! We still don't have many veggies (because I don't have an actual vegetable garden yet and the deer have been feasting on all the veggies I've planted here and there), but we are actually considering cutting down some of our fruit trees! What??? Yes!!! Because nobody can eat and preserve the fruit from, say, 5 Italian plum trees, all the same variety, that all ripen at the same time of year! Ha!

Anyway, we are plum wore out (both literally and figuratively), but so blessed. We've never given away so very many pounds of fruit as we have this year. Plus, I've been canning, dehydrating, freezing, and freeze drying. (Not sure what the difference between dehydrating and freezing is? Click here.)

I'm too tired to write a proper article this week, so I'm doing something a little different: A photo essay of August life on our mountaintop homestead.

This hasn't been a great year for tomatoes...too weirdly cool, even for the greenhouse tomatoes. So I've been tossing fresh tomatoes into a freezer bag as they become available, and come winter I'll can them. The tomatoes growing outside the greenhouse have lots of green fruit, so I imagine I'll have to ripen them indoors (learn how here). But this is the first year we've had more than two or three pears, so that's a happy thing!


Eating keto to reverse my diabetes, I don't consume potatoes anymore and I try to limit my family's intake of them. But the former owners had a few planted in the ground that I've ignored...and they keep producing! No worries; my family will eat them up. An unusual number of them have bloomed this year, including one with amazing purple flowers. I'm thinking it's from either a red or purple potato.
Because I didn't have a decent place to can last year, I had a lot of things in the freezer, including pounds of tomatoes. I'd wanted to can them before my surgery, but I ran out of time. So this month, I finally turned them into salsa. (I use this recipe.) So much chopping! So many onion tears! And such a mess! But worth it.
Our blueberry bushes were quite productive this year. Last year, I felt fortunate to dehydrate one jelly jar of berries...all the rest we ate fresh. This year, I've been freeze drying many trays of them. I always love the really huge berries we get off one bush. They taste terrific and are the size of a quarter.
We let a second hen hatch some eggs. Call me silly, but I felt sorry for her. It seemed to me she felt sad because she wanted babies, too. So we put her in the maternity ward (a separate cage) with seven eggs. One was a dud - probably never fertilized. She lost three before while they were done hatching. But the other three seem healthy and happy and she's having a blast bossing them around in the nursery (a bigger cage that we keep in the chicken run).

We got a few pounds of early figs this year, and I've mostly been freeze drying them. They turn out amazing; they taste like fresh but are crunchy. This is by far my favorite way to preserve figs, though my family is begging for fig jam. We'll see if the fall crop of figs gets a chance to ripen before the first frost.



One of our spoiled bunnies. Still no babies from them, which is disappointing. (And the female is always making nests as if she's about to give birth.) My son now wants a pet rabbit, too, so we will probably try breeding him or her with one of the existing bunnies.

We are still overwhelmed with Italian plums. These are our least favorite fruit on the homestead. (It's probably just the variety we have; it's not particularly flavorful.) Still, I freeze some in light syrup and use them for baking muffins and such. And this year, I've freeze-dried quite a few, which definitely improves them.


And now it's the beginning of apple season. The first tree to ripen is the oldest fruit tree on the homestead, and we use those apples mostly for applesauce (my recipe and method are here) because they are more tart than my husband cares for. I kicked off applesauce-making with plum applesauce, which combines my favorite red plums (sweet tart) with these apples. The result is divine! Now I'm on to regular applesauce, and soon I'll be canning apple quarters in light syrup (SO good!). I'll also freeze dry and dehydrate apple rings, and put some apple pie filling in the freezer. I might also make some apple juice or apple cider.
Ending with a smile! Our homestead dog has grown up a lot this year. He spent the summer mostly hanging out with us. He's also been herding the new pullets (young chickens) back into their run when they naughtily escape, digging up and killing voles, playing with garter snakes (they fascinate him), playing in the water, and getting stung by wasps. (He now knows the difference between "sky raisins" (flies) and "jalapeno sky raisins" (wasps and bees).

Jul 31, 2018

How To Freeze Kale, Collards, and Other Greens

Preserving Greens
For the first time on our new homestead, I've got too much kale and collard greens to eat fresh. This is amazing considering the deer love greens as much as my family! The abundance is a happy thing, though, because greens are easy to preserve for winter eating.

You may certainly can greens, but I find them mushy and disagreeable when preserved this way. You may also dehydrate greens to use in smoothies or to powder and add to various dishes. You may also freeze dry greens for similar purposes. (Learn more about dehydrating vs. freeze drying here.)

But my preferred method for preserving greens is freezing - because frozen greens are most like fresh, cooked greens. Typically, I defrost frozen greens, pop them into a skillet with a dab of bacon drippings or olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and maybe some onion or garlic powder, and saute until bright green. DEElish! You may also use frozen greens in any cooked dish, like casseroles or enchiladas.

But first, you gotta prepare the greens, which may include:

* collards
* kale
* spinach
* mustard greens
* turnip leaves
* kohlrabi leaves
* radish leaves
* Brussels sprout leaves
* broccoli leaves
* cauliflower leaves
* Swiss chard
* and orach.

But no, it's not quite as simple as popping the greens into a freezer bag and tossing them in the freezer. That, my friends, would result in goopy mush. (But it works well for green beans!)

Preparing Greens for Freezing

1. Wash the leaves, and remove all thick stems. I usually tear the leaves off the stems, but you may cut them if you prefer. The stems are edible, by the way, but they require more cooking than the leaves, and I usually just compost them.

2. Roll the leaves into a cigar shape and slice into thin strips. The thicker the leaves, the thinner the slice you'll need. For example, collards are pretty thick and tough, so I cut the slices just under 1/4 inch wide or so. Spinach is pretty thin-leaved, so I make the slices about 1/2 inch wide.
Chopping kale in preparation for freezing.
Blanching Greens for Freezing

3. Fill a large pot with hot tap water and place it over high heat.

4. While waiting for the pot to come to a boil, thoroughly wash and sanitize the sink. Pour ice cubes into the cleaned sink and add cold tap water.

5. When the water in the pot comes to a full boil, carefully add the prepared greens. Blanch for an appropriate amount of time:

Collards = 3 min.
Other greens = 1 - 2 mins.

The thicker (tougher) the leaves are, the more blanching time they require.





6. When the greens are done blanching, place a colander over the opposite side of the sink (the one without ice in it) and strain the greens.

7. Quickly transfer the strained greens to the ice water.*

8. When the greens are completely cool to the touch, use a slotted spoon or your hands to transfer them back to the colander. Allow to them to drain for a few minutes.

Freezing Greens

9. Transfer the greens to freezer-safe containers. Use within 1 year.
Greens blanched, bagged, and ready for the freezer.

*NOTE: A more traditional method is to pour the blanched greens directly into the ice water, without putting them into a colander first. However, I find my method cools the greens faster, thereby stopping the cooking faster, which in turn leads to a more nutritious and fresher-tasting end product.





May 8, 2018

Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Food (What's the Difference Between Freeze Drying & Dehydrating?)

Freeze Dried Food vs. Dehydrated Food - what's the difference?This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

At first blush, freeze-dried food and dehydrated food - or using a freeze dryer vs. using a dehydrator to preserve food -  may seem the same. So why would I buy a home freeze dryer when I already have not just one, but two dehydrators on our homestead?

Both methods of food preservation remove moisture from food, which then may be re-hydrated with ordinary water. I've even heard some people say that one method is just as good as the other. But there are several important differences between freeze driers and dehydrators.

How a Food Dehydrator Works

Dehydrating is an ancient practice. During biblical times, people made their food last longer by drying it in the sun. The Romans dried vegetables and fruit in “still houses,” which sped the process through fire. Today, most dehydrated food is made in an electric dehydrator, but the process is essentially the same: hot, dry air hits the food, removing much of its natural liquid, but not fully cooking it.
A home food dehydrator.
* Home dehydration removes about 80% (some sources say only 70%) of the liquid in food.

* Because of the affect of heat, around 60% of the food's nutritional value remains after dehydration. (Learn more about the nutritional value of dehydrated food here.)

How my plums went into the dehydrator...
...and how they came out of the dehydrator.
* Dehydrated food is shriveled and chewy. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional), the food is still quite different from fresh.

* With a few minor exceptions, only fruits and vegetables can be safely dehydrated. Low-fat meats may also be dehydrated, but without added preservatives, must be kept frozen.

* Home dehydrated food lasts a couple of years, under the right cool and dry conditions. Commercially dehydrated food often has preservatives, which can make it last up to 8 years. (In addition, commercial dehydrators remove more moisture from food, making it last longer in storage.)

* Home food dehydrators come at many price points, but the least expensive (yet still quality enough to do the job - click here for tips on choosing a good dehydrator) costs about $75.

How a Freeze Dryer Works

Freeze drying is a relatively modern technique, first reliably used during World War II to preserve medicine and blood plasma. Food is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the temperature is lowered to below freezing. Once the food reaches -40 degrees F., the machine raises the temperature until the ice (formerly liquid in the food) goes from a solid state to a gaseous state. (This is called "sublimation.") Finally, the machine removes the vaporized ice from the vacuum chamber. This process keeps the structure of the food intact. Despite what some internet sources claim, you cannot freeze dry food without a freeze drying machine.
A home freeze dryer.
* Home and commercial freeze drying removes 98 - 99% of the food's moisture.

* Freeze dried food retains about 97% of its nutritional value.

* Properly freeze dried food is not shriveled; it closely resembles fresh food.

* Freeze dried food is crisp. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional, unless we're talking about raw meat), it's very similar to fresh food. (In most cases, you're unlikely to know the food was ever freeze-dried.)
Strawberries fresh out of my home freeze dryer.
* Vegetables, fruit, meat, and some dairy can be freeze-dried. Only very fatty foods (like butter) do not freeze-dry well. Some surprising foods that can be freeze-dried include milk, cheese, and ice cream.

* Freeze dried food lasts 20 - 30 years.

* Only one manufacturer sells freeze dryers made for home use; a small unit costs just under $2,000.