Do you purchase your fruit in bulk, only for it to spoil after going untouched for a long time? Or perhaps you are seeking for a means to preserve your favorite fruit as an alternative to freezing and thawing. Freeze-drying your fruit is a great option for those who are seeking a healthy alternative to candies and other snacks that are laden with salt and sugar. While many store-bought dried fruit claim to be nutritious, many are filled with preservatives that sometimes destroy and eliminate vital nutrients. For this purpose, freeze-drying is not only more economical but can save you the heartache of consuming so-called healthy snacks.

What Is Freeze-Drying?

Bows of fresh, frozen, and dried strawberries

Freeze drying is an age-old process of preserving fruit that dates back hundreds of years. Freeze drying is cultivated by drying food in the sun. It's a tradition that has been around for quite some time in East Asia, South America, and Northern Europe, where winters were very frigid and altitudes were very high as a means for the fruit to dry very quickly. Today, freeze drying techniques are a bit more cutting edge and many food brands utilize this technique to preserve meals without loss of nutrients.

Unlike the process of dehydration, which entails taking away only a third of moisture which can lead to molds and bacterial growth, the freeze-drying technique completely depletes fruits and vegetables of moisture. However, once water is added, freeze-dried foods can regenerate back to their original form. Because freeze-drying completely depletes a food of moisture, there is very little need to add preservatives to keep bacteria away. Utilizing the proper packaging and storage methods, freeze-dried foods can last for years at a time.

Energy and nutrients are important factors in the drying process. Some additional methods of ensuring optimal quality and taste include:

  • Osmotic dehydration - Partially removes water from plant tissue.
  • Vacuum drying - Moisture is removed by utilizing a vacuum apparatus.
  • Superheated steam drying - Utilizes heat steam beyond its boiling point to as a means to remove water.
  • Heat pump drying - Dehumidifies the and recirculates air. Best for heat-sensitive foods.
  • Spray drying - Rapidly drying with a hot gas to create a powder from food.

How To Freeze-Dry Fruit

The Freezer Method

Dried rasberries

You may freeze-dry your fruit with or without a machine. However, the process involves eliminating any moisture out of the food while it is freezing, therefore, it would be much easier to do with a vacuum chamber utilizing low heat. Foods that contain an ample amount of water are much easier to work with and will maintain their initial shape once the freeze-drying process is complete. It is also best to slice your larger fruit, such as oranges, lemons, or tomatoes before implementing this method.

What You'll Need

  • Fruit of your choice
  • Baking sheet
  • Deep freezer

Instructions

  1. Place all your fruit on a baking sheet, side-by-side.
  2. Place the try into a deep freezer.
  3. After the fruit freezes, take out of the deep freezer then allow to thaw at room temperature.
  4. If the fruit turns black after thawing, then the drying process is incomplete. To improve your chances of freeze-drying fruit successfully, ensure that your fruit has a high water content, such as watermelon, berries, and grapefruit to improve chances of this process being successful. If the freeze-drying method is successful, the fruit will retain its color, so test one piece at a time for best results.
  5. After the drying process is complete, simply seal fruit in a ziplock container and store.

Dry Ice Technique

A bowl of dry ice

Apply this technique when the air is low humidity. Doing so on a rainy day could impede drying time.

What You'll Need

  • Fruit of your choice
  • Insulated gloves
  • Large container, such as a cooler
  • Dry ice (enough to cover food)

Instructions

  1. Completely cover your food with the dry ice. Use the same amount of ice as the fruit you are drying.
  2. As dry ice melts, it will emit gas, so leave the lid up to relieve any pressure.
  3. Once the dry ice is fully melted, take the fruit out (it should be dried) and store in an airtight bag.

Vacuum Method

Dried apricots

What You'll Need

  • Vacuum chamber
  • Sliced fruit

Instructions

  1. Place sliced fruit into a tray and place into a vacuum chamber under low heat. Then allow sublimation to occur.
  2. After the water crystals on the fruit has completely dried, inspect to see if all the moisture is completely gone from the fruit.
  3. Place into an airtight container or ziplock bag and store.
  4. When you are ready to use your fruit, simply add a little water to retain its original color, appearance, and taste.

Best Fruit To Use For Freeze-Drying

Dried kiwi slice

Pretty much any fruit can be freeze-dried and then brought back to life when it is ready for use. When it comes to large fruit with thick hulls, such as cantaloupe or watermelon, it's best to cube them into smaller pieces to get all the water out and for easy storage. No fruit is off-limits when it comes to this technique and all you need is about a cup of water to bring them back to their original structure. The easiest fruit to freeze-dry includes:

  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit

Because some fruit contains more water than others, more or less drying times may be required. However, most fruits take between 24-36 hours.

Freeze-dried foods are wonderful to have on hand, whether for an extended camping trip or an emergency event. Whatever the need may be, freeze-dried fruits and other types of food are a necessary concept to understand so that you are fully prepared for whatever life throws your way.

Benefits Of Freeze-Drying

Bowl of frozen blueberries

The moisture loss enables freeze-dried food to be used for toppings for a variety of foods. Additionally, although freeze-dried food requires freezing temperatures, it doesn't have to stay frozen and can be preserved for very long amounts of time at room temperature and still keep its flavor and nutrients.

Another key benefit of freeze-dried food is that it doesn't require any additives to keep it fresh. During the freeze-drying process, only the moisture is removed from the food, therefore the nutrients stay intact. Because moisture is the only thing being used, and since freeze-dried fruit isn't being cooked, it also keeps the majority of its flavor. Unlike canning and jarring, which does have a shelf life, freeze-drying is simpler to implement and you can also freeze-dry large meals to pack away for years to come.

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