Harvest Right: Freeze drying produce

Today marks the second week that I’ve had my Harvest Right freeze dryer, and I must say that I’m enjoying it immensely.

Freeze Dried Vegetables

I will admit that there can be a learning curve. It’s still a relatively new technology for homeowners; the first home freeze dryer sales began in 2013. The units are pricey. I spent a little over $3,000 on mine. Also, it’s food preservation. I see fewer people actively preserving food. Factor all those in, and you might not know anyone who owns what. I have one friend who owns one. Because of this, I did a lot of research online to learn, educate, and understand what to do if/when encountering problems. I¬†know of one other person who has a freeze dryer. We’ve been friends for several years and have discussed purchasing our freeze dryers for the last few years. They also purchased theirs from Harvest Right about eight months ago.

Portabella Mushrooms and bell peppers about to go in the deep freezer

Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – Slight Learning Curve

I’ve had a few hiccups along the way, all mine were related to vacuum seal error messages, and they were all because of my user error. My main issue was the gasket inside the window, which did not have a proper seal, so I received the dreaded “unable to achieve vacuum seal” error message. In my case, the tray, which sets inside the freeze dryer, was not pushed back far enough, and that is what caused the error. There’s a cord inside the freeze dryer that you need to (gently) place on top of the tray unit. Once that has been done, you can slide the tray into place, and the gasket will fit properly, ensuring a seal.

 

Meal Prep

I have yet to make any meals. Instead, I’ve been freeze-drying vegetables and fruit. Well, now that I think about it. I did manage to freeze dry ice cream in batch #4. It was a little ice cream. It might have taken up 1/4 of one of the trays, and I only added that at my daughter’s request.

Place food in the freezer before using the freeze-dryer.

From my research, I learned that freezing the food will reduce the time needed to freeze dry food. So, since I have a deep freezer, I’ve placed my food in the deep freezer before it goes into the freeze dryer.

Currently, Batch#5 is in the freeze dryer. Initially, I planned to freeze-dry the blueberries, shown above, in batch #5. However, I decided to postpone those to another time. So, instead, I added collards and pinto beans to the freeze-dryer. They should be ready late this evening.

 

Food Preservation: Harvest Right; First and Second Batch

I must say that I’m genuinely enjoying my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer as much as I researched BEFORE I purchased the freeze dryer. I’m finding that my recent research is focused on its maintenance. I want to be prepared in case something happens to my freeze-dryer. I believe the dryer will be getting a lot of use over the next several months. I have plenty of things in my freezer that I want to freeze dry, not to mention harvesting my garden when it starts to produce.

Thus far, I’ve created two videos documenting each batch of food placed in the Harvest Right dehydrator. They’re unlisted, mainly for my reference, and simple raw, unedited footage discussing the process from a beginner.

Harvest Right: First Batch

This was my first successful video with my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. I dried ginger, granny smith apples, and portabella mushrooms.

Harvest Right: Second Batch

The video that I created here was recorded a few hours ago. I was checking on my second batch of food placed in the freeze dryer. This batch contained mangoes, blueberries, and watermelon. The watermelon and blueberries were dehydrated; however, the mangoes needed additional time since at least half were still pliable.

What will I freeze dry next in my Harvest Right? Well, my daughter wants me to freeze-dry more ginger. So when this batch is complete, I’ll take care of that. After that, I will likely add sliced lemons to my third batch.

Edited to add:

7:42 pm EST

Four hours into the additional time, I checked the freeze dryer. There’s no way those mangoes will be done in one more hour. So I added 11 more hours. They’ll be ready when I awaken.

Food Preservation: Harvest Right Freeze Dryer (Medium)

I’m all about food preservation. I meal prep, dehydrate, can… and now I freeze dry!

This past Friday, I purchased the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – medium. Yeah!!! A freeze dryer has been on my want list for several years. Harvest Right had a St. Patrick’s Day sale, and their freeze dryers were reduced by $300. Initially, I was planning on buying it directly from the Harvest Right website; however, a link from their website led me to local retailers that had them in stock, and wouldn’t you know, the Tractor Supply Co., which is about ten minutes away from where I live had two available!

HarvestRight Freeze Dryer

My daughter and I went to the store and used the curbside pickup feature. The freeze dryer was brought to us using a lift.

Harvest Dryer Premier Pump

The machine was about 123 pounds, with the air compressor it’s about 168 pounds. You have three pump choices. After a lot of research, I decided to choose the premier pump. They had an oil-free pump; however, I’d already decided not to go that route when I purchased my VacMaster a few years ago. I still researched to see if there was information that would change my mind; however, everything stayed the same.

A freeze dryer was something I had planned to purchase later this year; however, I planned to acquire it during harvest time. So now? I have a few months to become comfortable with the dryer before preserving my produce.

My daughter and I brought it home and used my heavy-duty wagon to get it to the house. Since I had planned for the freeze dryer to go downstairs in the basement, I grabbed a cotton quilt, placed the freeze dryer in the center, and made handles on the opposite ends. Doing this made it easy for my daughter and me to carry it downstairs. The machine weighs more than we do.

Harvest Right Freeze Dryer – Temporary Set-up

We set it up in the basement, on the floor, with no issues. However, I did order a heavy-duty cart with casters. We’ll place the freeze dryer on it when it arrives this week. The above photo shows its temporary home. I’ll eventually move it to a basement closet; however, there’s no rush for that since that also means I will need to have an electrician come to the home and install an outlet in that closet. Over the past several years, I’ve read a lot about this particular brand of home freeze dryers, so I understand how they operate. Even with the issues that some owners have experienced with their units, I was still determined to purchase this brand.

If you plan to freeze dry food immediately, think again. When you read the Harvest Right owners manual, you’ll quickly learn that it’s recommended to wait 24 hours before using the unit. Why? The explanation is “to facilitate proper settling of the refrigerant within the condensing unit.” But it doesn’t stop there.

Harvest Right – Functional Testing

The next step is to complete the Functional Testing, which should take under an hour to complete if successful.

White bread – burn in period

Finally, before you preserve your food, the owner’s manual has you do a batch burn-in period with white bread.

“New freeze dryers need to have a one batch burn in period. That means, you should fill the freeze dryer with moist bread slices and freeze it dry. After the bread is finished, test it for dryness and throw it away. This way you can make sure your freeze dryer is working properly and it will help remove any manufacturing “new car” type smell.”

I started that test yesterday evening, and it finished in the wee hours of this morning. When I checked on the freeze dryer after awakening. The cycle was complete. The bread was hard, like toast. Awesome!

My first tray of edible freeze-dried food

Finally, I was able to add food that we could eat! What did I add? My daughter loves ginger, and so she requested that this be added. Since we did not have more ginger, we went to the store last evening, and I bought several pounds. We both use freeze-dried ginger in our tea. A friend, who also has a Harvest Right, made some for use a few months ago. We’ve been rationing those ginger slices. What else was added? About five apples would become rotten in a few days. I used my apple slicer to cut them. They took up two Harvest Right Trays. The last tray was set aside for portobello mushrooms. We love mushrooms; however, we sometimes need to eat them more quickly before they get mushy. We won’t have this issue in the future thanks to the freeze dryer.

I’m looking forward to many adventures with my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. Below, I’ve included a few Youtubers with informative Harvest Right videos.

  1. Live Life Simple
  2. Phil at 400 Feet – Scientific
  3. Sophos Survival
  4. Freeze Dryer Repair Support