Freeze Drying · Trail Cooking

Freeze-drying Cheese

This post is part of the Freeze-drying 101 section on TrailCooking. If you have wondered about freeze-drying, and what we are doing on our Harvest Right machine, be sure to click on over for more ideas to get drying with your machine (or to ponder if you might ever want to invest into one). Which…if you haven’t seen one in person, places like Tractor Supply and Coastal Farm have a floor model at most locations now to look at – and to get an idea of size. We run on the Large model for size reference. The Small and Medium machines can plug into a normal wall outlet, and work well for making food for a hiker’s pantry. Since we have a farm, we went with a Large, but also freeze-dry for 6 people and 2 dogs.

So why freeze-dry cheese shreds? 

  • It’s portable and shelf stable. You can carry cheese and not worry about it going bad. Or going greasy and limp in the heat of summer.
  • It melts almost instantly. Just add it your meals, and let it sit on the hot food, or stir it in, and by the time your food is cool enough to eat, it’s melted.
  • It adds so much to recipes. Cheese just hits the spot for me!
  • It’s lightweight. There’s a lot of weight saved between carrying 1 ounce fresh cheese and the equivalent freeze-dried. Less food weight=less pack weight.

While you can buy commercially made freeze-dried cheese relatively easy now, it is limited in the flavors – but also you don’t know what company made the cheese. (For example, Thrive Life only carries cheddar, mozzarella and pepper jack and sometimes parmesan cheese.) Cheese is similar to meat for pricing, and will be the most expensive things you purchase commercially in cans.

I highly suggest visiting a restaurant/food service store for the best choice/prices with cheese. You will be able to source large bags of already grated for a fraction of the cost at a grocery store. They also sell large blocks of cheese for grating at home. However…I am not a fan of Costco’s mozzarella. It just doesn’t melt well I find. We shop often at Chef’s Store (used to be Cash n’ Carry) on the west coast.

We do not pre-freeze our cheese shreds (many items we pre freeze to speed up the process). It freezes fast using the machine, and then heads into the drying cycle. It took about a day’s worth of time, although almost of it is hands off (loading machine, checking once or twice during cycle, and then unloading and packing up were just a short time period.) You will want to add a couple of extra hours to the cycle since you are freezing the cheese first.

Cheddar cheese on a tray, waiting to go into the machine.

You won’t find freeze-dried Swiss cheese commercially. It is sold in smaller bags versus the more favored cheeses. We find it in 2 pound bags. This will fill one tray on our Large freeze-dryer.

Just think….trail fondue? Or rather, often Swiss cheese is the lowest sodium cheese you can buy!

Freeze-dried mozzarella cheese.

Freeze-dried medium cheddar cheese.

How to store:

When the machine says it is done, take a test out. We look at the food visually, then give it the finger test – does it feel dry, and snappy. Then taste it.

We store most of our freeze-dried product in mylar bags. We use the Wallaby brand bags as they make ones rated for boiling water, and are pleated at the bottom. These they call the “MRE” bags.

We add in 1 pouch each of an oxygen absorber and a silica desiccant one.

Then we seal in an Avid Armor chamber sealer, which pulls all air out. Then we seal the top with the heat sealer that comes with the freeze-dryer unit. Mark the date you made it, and what’s in it and you are done! (As you can see, a chamber sealer pulls the air out, similar to how a Mountain House Pro Pak looks.)

Why do we shoot photos with mason jars? Well, these are my gold standard. Our chamber sealer can seal mason jars (a huge bonus for sure), so we put a portion of everything we freeze-dry into a mason jar and seal it. Then we can watch the food to make sure it was properly dried. I often keep one on hand to use in recipe development as well. The mylar bags we use for more long-term storage and I prefer to not waste the bags. Mason jars are reusable, over and over, but I don’t keep all the food in them as we live in earthquake country.

FTC Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links that give us commissions on products purchased. These items are what we used above.


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