Freeze drying your harvest - is it for you?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 - 10:18pm

I've not bought or used a freeze dryer but a friend just did, and she's very happy with it. Has anyone here bought or used a freeze dryer?

Here's the one she bought.  

And they have a page on preserving your harvest. I might note that it does not have to be YOUR harvest, which might make this ideal for urban preppers. And it might be good for quantities: if I go to my local SC State farmer's market, I can get produce 1/4 the cost of supermarket food.  What is holding me back from doing more of that the the insane quantities you have to buy to get that literally was more than I could can before some of it went bad. 

It's also a way to preserve meat and pressure canning that is a bear. 

Please chime in with your experiences, even if it's just you eating freeze dried food or a neighbor or friend having one of these. 



jdsfrisco's picture
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Keep it simple

I'm in no way oppossed to having a personal freeze dryer. But these units are expensive and complex. If you have a large volume of material that you wish to preserve - or if you're part of a larger community that preserves things collectively - this could work. I can see a Mormon stake invesing in such equiptment. But for most people on the household level... a plain old regular counter top dehydrator and/or pressure canner will do the same basic thing (preserve food) at a radically lower price point with seriously less complexity. That's the approach I've taken.

Also, if you have a large amount of freeze dried food on hand you'll also need an equally large store of potable water to reconstitute it.

jwoff's picture
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I purchased a Harvest Right

I purchased a Harvest Right freeze dryer about 2 years ago.  After using it for 2 years I think its definitely worth the money. I originally wanted the home freeze dryer because I wanted a year supply of food.  When I first started my food storage supply I was buying freeze dried food from Mountain House.  Some things from Mountain House tasted good to my family but some things did not.  One of the things I like about Harvest Right freeze dryer is that it allows me to freeze dry meals that are our own family recipes.  We have four kids at home and some are picky eaters.  I noticed the quality of my food storage was MUCH HIGHER with the freeze dryer.  I only freeze dry food my family will eat.  I love having complete control over what I put in my mouth.  (I think this is a theme shared by many here at Peak Prosperity) 

We like to freeze dry soups. (my wife makes a fantastic minestrone soup)  She always makes a several batches at a time.  We used to put it in large Ziplock bags and then store it in the freezer. It is great for a nutritious, high quality dinner that is quick to make with our busy life style, but it takes up precious space in our freezer.  Now we freeze dry it and make instant soup that is amazing and it doesn't take up any room in the freezer.  We also freeze dry eggs from our chickens. (raw and scrambled) Other family favorites are desserts like ice cream sandwiches(think astronaut ice cream) and cheese cake.  We have 17 different types of fruit trees in our yard.  We also have a home vegetable garden.  The freeze dryer makes sure things don't go to waste.  My wife will buy things at the grocery store when things go on sale and we will freeze dry them.  When you freeze dry food, its my understanding that also helps preserve the nutrients better over other food preservation methods. 

Before I purchased the Harvest Right freeze dryer I heard the rumors about a steep learning curve.  However I was surprised that it wasn't very hard to use.  I watched several YouTube "how-to" videos about using the freeze dryer.  I do recommend changing the oil after every batch. To do this I recommend using the Harvey Filter. (think Big Berkey filter for oil.  Drain the dirty oil out of the vacuum pump and into the top of the Harvey Filter, then clean oil comes out the bottom which you put right back in the machine. It basically cleans the oil after each cycle.) This may sound hard but the Harvey filter makes maintenance easy. (about as hard as using the Big Berkey filter for water)

I have freeze dried food for other members of my extended family that have special diet issues. I have a nephew who has diabetes and other family members that have food allergies.  This helps augment there own food storage. 

Now what I don't like. - It is a large appliance.  When the vacuum pump runs it is noisy, so I don't have it set up in my kitchen, it is setup in our garage.  

In addition to having the Harvest Right freeze drier I own 2 Excalibur dehydrators, an All American pressure canner, and a Masterbuilt smoker.  I don't consider one better than the other, I use them all.

Harvest Right has excellent customer service. (like Nordstrom's") I bought my Harvest Right freeze dryer second hand. They were kind and took time to walk me through any questions I had, even though I didn't purchase it directly from them.

After owning it for 2 years I'm glad I bought it.  It is built like a tank and works great.




Michael_Rudmin's picture
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Couple questions, JWoff:

First, what size freeze dryer did you get (gal)?

Second, does it help reduce the cycle to pre-dry food? Can you dry more at a time if you do?

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I have one. It is another tool in preserving my farm harvest. I do still can, dehydrate, and freeze. I like best that I can set it and walk away.

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Does it help reduce the cycle to pre-dry food?

It helps reduce the cycle to pre-FREEZE your food.  The Harvest Right freeze dryers first step in freeze drying process is to take the temperature down from room temperature to about -40 degrees.  We have a Kenmore Elite chest freezer right next to the freeze dryer.  The temperature on my chest freezer is set to -10 degrees.  I called Harvest Right and bought an extra set of trays. While I am already freeze drying something in the freeze dryer, I will fill up the other set of trays and stick them in the chest freezer.  The chest freezer will take the batch down to -10 degrees.  When I take the batch out of the chest freezer and put it into the freeze dryer it only needs to reduce the temperature of the batch from -10 degrees to -40 degrees.  This reduces the cycle time considerably and makes the whole process more efficient.  (I have the exact freeze dryer shown in the picture above.  My freeze dryer has 4 trays.)

NickAdams10's picture
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A review

Survivalblog did an extensive review of this freeze dryer a few years ago. I'd love to buy one myself, but it's inherently complex, which, for me, means more chances for stuff to break.

jwoff's picture
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Survivalblog Review: conclusion "I would buy it in a heartbeat"

Survival Blog Review %Spoiler%

Would I Purchase This Freeze Drier?

In a heartbeat! After having played around with it for a month, I can see that in both cost of food storage and quality of food storage, this is the way to go. I will be purchasing one of these units, despite some of the rough edges. I am confident that the company will work out the minor issues that bothered me, and those issues that would affect the bottom line price of the unit can be dealt with by simply managing the unit rather than letting it run as intended. Of course, if you don’t want to bother with it, it will run just fine by loading it and pushing the button.


I would like to point out that the Survivalblog review was done in 2014.  Like I said before Harvest Right is a good company.  In a follow up review "Survivablog" mentioned that Harvest Right listened to all of the gripes in the original Survivalblog review and addressed all of the issues he had with it.  At the time of the review in 2014 the cost of a Harvest Right 4 tray freeze dryer was $3899.  The cost has come down considerably.  I checked their website today (1/10/18) and now they are selling it for $2295.  Remember he said he would buy it "in a heartbeat."  I just want to point out, that was at the higher price!

somky's picture
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New Freeze Dryer Owner

I've had my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer one week.  Ran 4 batches.  So far I'm tickled with it.

I got the large size.  The picture at the top of this thread is the medium.  I ordered at the end of January.  Took 3 weeks to ship.  Harvest Right warned me of this when I ordered.

Batch 1: store bought pre-cooked ham 6.5 lbs

Batch 2 and 3: shredded cheese 14 lbs

Batch 4: home grown pecans and a few carrots

These batches were easy to freeze dry, low water content.  They all took the minimal amount of time 21-24 hours.  All these items were completely done (dry) with the exception of some of the largest pieces of carrots.

I was happy some of the carrots were not done.  The documentation and YouTube videos say you'll be able to tell when food isn't completely dry by breaking the thickest pieces in half and see if it feels cold or wet.  Seeing this for myself gave me confidence the other items were indeed thoroughly dry.  Packaged and stored correctly this food should last a very long time.

Harvest Right is now shipping an oil pump branded with their own name instead of the 3rd party pump shown in the picture above.  They also now offer an oil less pump if you are opposed to dealing with oil changes.

Research and initial setup are pretty fresh on my mind if anyone has questions.

Tgrace's picture
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Harvest right freeze dryer

I purchased my freeze dryer about 8 months ago. While I use it every week and feel like I will get my money back from the large investment, there are a couple of limitations. First, when you purchase the freeze dryer you will be faced with a question of which pump you would like to purchase. Harvest right has developed an oil free pump which was not available until January 2018. I have the older freeze dryer pump which uses oil. Here is what you need to know. 

The older oil based pumps require a lot of maintenance and requires you to change the oil frequently. They are also loud. While it works effectively, you will not want to put your pump inside your home due to its noise. We recently moved into a small condo for our city home and I designed the pantry to where I could run the vacuum hose through the wall into an outside storage room. So the freeze dry machine is in the pantry but the pump is outside in a storage room. It reduces the noise and heat from the pump inside the house. As of now I have not noticed any degradation in the efficiency of the machine. I found that due to the noise i was reluctant to use it as frequently, so this setup allows me to utilize it much more often.

HR is now offering an oil free pump. Not only does it eliminate most of the maintenance but it is also much more quiet. So if you want to operate the machine inside the home, I would spend the additional money ($1,200) to get the oil free pump. 

I purchased the mid size freeze dryer and now wish i had purchased the larger one. What you will find in operating this machine is that the cycles take longer than expected. Most cycles take between 24 and 48 hours. Therefore, if you are wanting to process a lot of food for long term storage the larger machine will work better. 

At the end of the day, we love the machine and I think that within 5 years you will begin to see these appliances in most homes. At the moment, it is still early in the development so I doubt the regular world will adopt them until improvements are made in the operation and convenience. 

That being said it is a great addition to your food preservation preps. For the prepper, I think it has its place along side the dehydrator, freezer and canning equipment.The hardest thing is not to eat the food and actually store the food. 

We have done everything from vegetables (corn, peas, okra, broccoli,etc.), fruit and meats. We found that frozen okra freeze dried is now one of our favorite snacks. Soups, chili and other prepared meals work great. I take freeze dried Butternut squash soup to my office for lunch. It is so easy to rehydrate and needs no refrigeration.

The foods that you cannot freeze dry is anything with a lot of fat.The fat does not freeze dry well. I have experimented with meats and most do fine except for bacon and pork due to their fat content.  

At the end of the day, this machine offer another method of food storage. Its expensive but if you are serious about food storage and have the money, I would recommned it. 



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