After a lot of talking it over, and justifying it, we picked up a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer awhile back.
When at home freeze-dryer units started showing up a few years back I really questioned if it was worth buying one. I’d think to myself “for the initial cost we could buy a lot of already freeze-dried food“. And I DO buy a lot of freeze-dried ingredients for recipe development.
I wasn’t wrong though. A freeze-dryer is a big investment. It’s not like buying a dehydrator for your counter, where you might spend $65 to $500 dollars. The home freeze-dryer units are not affordable – at all. They range from $2,600 to $3,600 depending on the sales offered. I am often asked if it is worth getting one. And that is a loaded question. If you have the money, the time and the products to freeze-dry, then it can be worth it. Do you enjoy/want to put up items for prepping on a large scale? Do you have a very limited diet due to allergies or you follow a strict diet such as keto? Then it can be worth it. But if all you want to do is get out a few times a year, then buying the ingredients might just be a better investment (and no shame in that!).
Being busy, we only got it set up recently, which was timed with the harvest on our homestead. Suddenly we needed to get it ready to use. The crops were ready to be put up. This time of year I am often canning food in mason jars a couple times a week, if not daily.
When we bought ours, we went for the largest home unit….and be forewarned: This is not a small unit. At all. I didn’t quite realize how big it was, till it showed up. But Kirk was right: We needed the biggest due to growing food.
The freeze dryer dimensions are 20.25″ W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H. Harvest Right would tell you this is “perfect for the countertop, I’d say no, it isn’t. It’s massive. Put it on a sturdy cart, or table. And not in the kitchen, unless your kitchen is massive. I am sure someone has that big of a kitchen, but mine is not.
It weighs in at 138 pounds, and the detachable vacuum pump that sits outside the freeze dryer. The Oil Pump weighs in at 32 lbs. We did not buy the upgraded oil-free unit as it cost around an additional $1,500. Changing the oil is very easy. So for us, not a huge enough issue to spend the extra money.
The large freeze dryer ships in one package with a total weight of 253 lbs – so yes, that is why we used the tractor to unload it, and carry it up our driveway. If you lived in town, they would put the pallet on your driveway, and you’d need to unpack it to carry it in. And you would need a couple adults to do this (2 at least, 3 is better). Again, the smaller models are far easier to move! So keep that in mind.
It was delivered via FedEx Freight, and we live on a rural road (so they wouldn’t back up to our house down our long driveway – many times freight companies will, but FedEx will never do that). Kirk met them on the road with our tractor, and used the pallet forks we have – as it was delivered on a wood pallet. So keep that in mind should you want the large unit. The small unit won’t be as big, so there is that.
To do the setup, since we bought the largest unit, it required a 110 volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet. A dedicated 20 amp circuit is required. This meant Kirk had to install a new one in the place we have the unit set up. For him, this was easy enough, just a visit to Home Depot to get the items and a few minutes work. But if you are not inclined that way, the Medium and Small units do not need this. They plug in normal. So before you commit to a Large unit, check out your power is right for it in your home, garage or shop. You might need an electrician to add more boom.
Once the unit is setup, Harvest Right recommends doing a first run, of something you can run through cheaply, to pick up any “odors” from manufacturing. We popped in 3 pounds of broccoli florets as I had scored it for $1.99. The recommend bread, because it’s normally cheap, but hey, the broccoli was cheaper!
Put the cycle on, and walk away. It’ll be 24 hours or so.
Process complete. Time to vent, and empty out.
What a shame to throw away! It smelled fine, so the chickens got to enjoy it. No wasting here! It was perfectly freeze-dried. They thought it was good. Their tenders don’t often give them the good parts so even better.
On to the first “real” run of the unit.
Sliced bell peppers and slivered carrots.
24 or so hours later, we pulled it and got it quickly into mason jars and mylar bags. That is definitely where having us work together works well. I pack, he seals them up. I recommend wearing food grade disposable gloves.
Bell peppers done.
Freeze-dried carrots, sealed for storage.
With the mason jars, we use a Food Saver accessory hose and the toppers that pull the air out of the jar. We did put a desiccant packet into each jar before hand. In theory this gives full life storage for the items. The dryer unit does come with a starter amount of desiccant packets as well.
More packed in the mylar bags that are included with the freeze dryer. The sealer comes with the unit, and a desiccant packet was put into each bag before sealing.
For more information, click on the image above.
Zucchini is in the machine right now. Soon we will be running native huckleberries and so much more. And eventually onto making actual trail meals to freeze-dry.
FTC Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links that give us commissions on products purchased. These items are what we used in the recipes.